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As-builts in Data Center Construction

Heather McDanielVirtual Design and Construction Leave a Comment

The data center construction industry shows very little sign of slowing down anytime soon. Large data center projects are getting announced all across the world almost on a weekly basis.

It’s no wonder when data is everything in the business world. Every minute, we’re generating data on our phones, computers, and a myriad of other connected devices.

That data needs to live somewhere.

Since they house the critical infrastructure that powers everything and anything, from online communication to cloud computing, their efficient operations must be a high priority.

Constructing these massive facilities requires meticulous planning and execution, and accurate documentation is key to ensuring their long-term functionality and success throughout the lifecycle of the project.

This is where as-builts in data center construction come into play. They can provide so much to everyone involved in the process, from all of the contractors to facility managers, and data center owners.

Are you ready to find out more about as-builts and how to leverage them in your next project?

Keep reading to learn what you need to know about as-builts for data centers.

What Are As-Builts?

As-builts are the record of construction as the data center was actually built. You might ask yourself, “wouldn’t blueprints or pre-planning models help with that?”

No.

You know how most projects go. It’s hardly ever according to plan. For a data center construction project, a project at that scale will never go exactly to plan.

There are going to be deviations between the shop drawings and the final product.

These are just a few examples of how deviations and modifications occur:

  • Shop drawing changes: Modifications might be required during the fabrication of specific components based on site conditions or unforeseen challenges.
  • Design changes: As construction progresses, unforeseen issues or the need for optimization can necessitate adjustments to the initial design. Building Information Modeling (BIM) software can identify potential clashes during the design phase, prompting necessary changes.
  • Site conditions: Unexpected conditions encountered during excavation or foundation work may necessitate adjustments to the original plan.
  • Modifications for optimization: During construction, opportunities for layout or component placement improvements may arise, leading to on-site modifications.

As-builts capture these deviations and discrepancies between the original design and the final built environment. This detailed record becomes an invaluable resource for everyone involved in the data center’s lifecycle.

The Importance of As-Builts (and Why They’re Often Overlooked)

Since there’s such a big difference between how a data center was planned and the final result, as-builts are critical for all stakeholders to have on a data center project.

For contractors, as-builts offer several advantages:

  • Minimize rework and delays: Contractors capture deviations early on. Rather than having the deviations turn into expensive reworks and project delays, they’re handled on the spot.
  • Improve project handover: As-builts have complete and accurate documentation for the facility management team, ensuring a smooth transition and avoiding confusion.
  • Accurate future bids: With precise data on the actual construction, contractors can create more accurate cost estimations for future projects, improving bid competitiveness.
  • Building code compliance: It’s much easier to demonstrate compliance with regulations and building codes during inspections. They can also speed up the inspection process because inspectors can use the visual documentation.
  • Safety of Assets and People: We cannot stress enough how critical asbuilt documentation can be to save assets from damage or destruction and people on site from injury or worse. Knowing where assets are located such as underground pipes, gas lines, power lines, and other hot items will ensure that owner infrastructure is safe and construction workers get home to their families.

Data center owners also reap significant benefits from as-builts:

  • Streamline facility management: With accurate as-builts, facility managers can efficiently locate and maintain critical infrastructure, saving time and resources.
  • Facilitate future renovations and upgrades: As-builts provide a clear understanding of the existing layout and systems, enabling informed decision-making and smoother execution of future renovations and upgrades.
  • Enhance compliance and safety: As-builts can help ensure adherence to regulations and provide accurate records for audits, promoting overall safety and compliance.

You can see that as-builts offer plenty of advantages for both data center project owners, contractors, and other stakeholders like facility managers. So why are as-builts often overlooked?

There’s a general lack of awareness in that stakeholders don’t often fully understand the long-term value of as-builts.

A misperception exists when it comes to as-builts. Industry professionals often think that as-builts are complicated and costly, so it’s easier to skip them. The fact is that data center construction projects can’t afford not to have as-builts.

Implementing As-builts in Data Center Construction

It’s a lot easier to create and maintain as-builts, thanks to technology. Technology makes the process faster, more efficient, and cost-effective. Here’s some of the technologies we’ve used at ToPa 3D as an example:

  • 3D Scanning: This technology captures the precise geometry and spatial relationships of the built environment, creating highly detailed and accurate as-built models.
  • Drone Mapping: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to capture high-resolution images of the data center from various angles.  These images are then processed using photogrammetry software to create accurate 2D orthomosaics and 3D point clouds of the entire facility.
  • 360° Capture:  360° captures immersive panoramic views, which provides a comprehensive visual record of the data center, offering valuable context for as-built documentation. This can be particularly useful for capturing details like equipment labeling and color coding.
  • Laser Scanning: This method efficiently captures large areas with high accuracy, making it ideal for creating precise layout plans and capturing intricate details of piping, cabling, and other infrastructure elements.
  • Robotics: Integrating robotics with these data capture methods allows for faster and more automated scanning processes, particularly in large-scale data centers.

These reality capture methods can be seamlessly integrated with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. BIM software allows for advanced data management and improved collaboration throughout the construction lifecycle.

By incorporating as-built data into BIM models, stakeholders can identify potential challenges for future projects and improve design efficiency during the planning phase.

Additionally, utilizing this data within Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) workflows can further optimize future projects. VDC workflows involve creating a virtual replica of the data center, allowing stakeholders to simulate construction processes, identify potential clashes, and optimize construction sequencing before any physical work begins.

Benefits for Data Center Facility Management

Data center facility management focuses on a few key areas: energy efficiency, power management, physical security and building maintenance, and capacity planning as the business needs of the data center change.

It all comes down to limited downtime and optimal performance. Believe it or not, as-builts can help ensure that data centers are operating at optimal levels long after the project was completed.

Once implemented, as-builts empower facility management teams in several ways:

  • Improved Space Utilization: With accurate measurements and layouts, facility managers can optimize space usage for efficient equipment placement and future expansion.
  • Enhanced Maintenance Efficiency: As-builts enable quicker and easier identification and access to critical infrastructure, minimizing downtime during maintenance or repairs.
  • Simplified Change Management: As-builts serve as a central source of truth, allowing facility managers to track modifications and updates with ease, ensuring consistent and accurate information.
  • Increased Safety and Security: By providing a clear picture of the facility layout, as-builts aid in identifying potential safety hazards and planning effective security measures.
  • Asset Tagging and Equipment Maintenance: As-builts provide a visual reference for asset tagging, ensuring comprehensive tracking of all equipment within the data center. This facilitates preventative maintenance scheduling, streamlines troubleshooting efforts, and simplifies replacement procedures. Ultimately, as-builts promote optimal equipment performance and lifespan.

Don’t Skip As-Builts on Your Next Data Center Construction Project

As-builts are critical for both contractors and data center owners, ensuring the smooth construction, efficient operation, and future success of these vital facilities.

Modern reality capture solutions, like 3D scanning and laser scanning, offer a cost-effective and efficient way to generate and maintain accurate as-builts.

By investing in this valuable documentation, stakeholders can achieve greater operational efficiency, optimize future planning, and ensure the long-term success of their data center.

Ready to of as-builts for your data center project? At ToPa 3D, we offer comprehensive reality capture services, including 3D scanning, drone mapping, robotics, and much more. Contact us today for a consultation.

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