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by RAFFE KHAZADIAN, Principal, Director of Life Sciences & Mission Critical | MICHAEL KLATECKI, Associate, Project Architect | SEAN CULLEN, Associate, Senior Project Designer | JOHN HUBBARD, Associate, Senior Project Designer

Data centers are a critical component of the ever-growing data-oriented world that we live in. As technology progresses, data centers are needed to house the massive quantities of information that companies need to store, analyze, and make decisions upon.

Programming, Design and Construction

Developing a concept that can translate into an operational facility is a core driver of design and construction decisions in the data center market. Establishing a cooperative atmosphere between the owner, contractor and design team is a necessity to optimize communication.

By exchanging feedback on constructability, scheduling and cost throughout the design process, the owner, contractor and design team can resolve issues before they become problems in the field. This relationship can be even more beneficial when the team engages in prototyping to create a standardized facility design.


Prototyping is an essential tool utilized by design teams for large-scale clients. It consists of incorporating the client’s program requirements into a design that is vetted by a partner contractor. This prototype then provides a jump-start to the execution of site-specific projects by reducing initial project design time and increasing predictability and familiarity. If local site conditions and codes require design revisions, these can be evaluated early in the project’s due diligence phase, identified to the owner, and then incorporated into the local design. An ideal prototype not only accommodates local conditions but also includes flexibility to incorporate the needs of changing technology. By understanding these market trends, the prototyping team is able to create a flexible design that anticipates potential future technologies and provides the space or means to include the owner’s evolving equipment and business needs.


Incorporating modularity into the facility design can significantly shorten the construction schedule. Repetitive building components can be modularized and built off-site in a controlled environment, allowing for higher quality and more predictable outcomes. Meanwhile, work can proceed on-site without being otherwise hindered by multiple trades jockeying to work in the same area concurrently. Having completed modular components available also speeds up the overall project installation.

Material Flexibility

Finally, design teams should work with contractors to incorporate more material flexibility into their prototypes to adapt to market changes in the availability of materials. Building envelopes often incorporate systems that can be built anywhere in the country, and, when necessary, materials with long lead times are preordered or alternatives can be incorporated with minimal redesign.

The Wrap Up

Data centers are inherently complex buildings. Building the full project team early on can help preemptively identify issues and collaborate to find solutions. Owner input on the direction of future technologies and contractor input on constructability and scheduling can influence the design to create an efficient but flexible space. While architects may not be privy to the future trends in the tech industry, our role is crucial in designing for evolving data center requirements and adapting designs to meet changing client demands and new challenges.

Interested in learning more about our Missional Critical Practice? Contact our team to learn how we can help your next data center.


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