Now that we’ve faced down the crises from our various storms these last two weeks, the team can again turn attention to the final elements of planning around the NCTD data center project.  Our current data center has an elevated floor and a standard office dropped ceiling; however, the physical constraints of the room prevented installing either of these at their recommended heights.  The raised floor is very shallow, and does not provide enough space to be utilized for air handling.  In fact, the primary original purpose of the raised floor was to allow for piping for the fire suppression system.

 

The floor has no routing or conduit for cabling, resulting in a haphazard approach to cabling in the room:  some racks have cabling in ad-hoc runs constructed above racks, while other systems have random cables under the floor.  This resulted in a relative rats’ nest of cables discovered as we temporarily relocated some of the systems this month.

 

Originally we investigated re-using the raised floor; however, to accomnmodate the growth in equipment we desired to extend the room by 2.5 feet resulting in the need to procure raised flooring for another 50 sq ft.  The original manufacturer does not exist anymore, and the product was not something we were able to find on the open market.  I am frankly happy that we were unable to locate a suitable product to go with this system, as it is simply not ideal for our situation.

 

This work resulted in the team deciding to remove both the existing ceiling and flooring systems.  Our installation approach now is to instead install electrostatic dissipative (ESD) tiles on the subfloor, and a new dropped ceiling system that will provide for a more logical approach to cabling, air handling, and fire suppression.

 

My first stop in researching materials was again the US Green Building Council website, which described a program from the Resilient Floor Covering Institute(RFCI) called FloorScore.  Much like the scores provided around sustainable forestry processes, the RFCI FloorScore provides guidelines and a mechanism for an independent assessment (through Scientific Certification Systems) of the volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from the materials.  Similar to the VOCs from paints, floor and ceiling tiles – and other industrial products – can come with a large VOC emissions load.  From both sustainability and worker comfort perspectives, choosing products with low VOCs are preferable where possible.

 

In addition to low VOC, we’re requiring that the selected products contain a substantial percentage of recycled or renewable materials.  We also would like to work with a company that will allow us to recycle all of the flooring and ceiling material from the existing room.

 

Surprisingly, there are now a wide variety of products on the market that will meet all of our needs, from ESD, to material composition, to recycling services.  My original fear that was in requiring the additional environmental criteria, we would be facing a substantial increase in the project cost.  However, that has not proven to be the case.  Instead we’ve discovered a wide array of companies that have embraced the need for these products and who are delivering a variety of choices to the marketplace.

 

We have selected a flooring product manufactured by Armstrong for our project.  Not only do these products meet all of the above criteria, but one of their manufacturing facilities is within 500 miles of the NCTD project site.

 

The purpose of this posting isn’t to market the specific product we’ve selected, but to instead point out that it was possible for us to impose additional purchasing criteria on the project, find products that met the criteria, and to do so in a manner that did not substantially increase our costs.

 

Our purchasing criteria included:

  • Must meet all anti-static or static dissipative requirements for a data center
  • Must contain at least 15% recycled materials (would prefer higher percentage)
  • Must be FloorScore certified
  • Desirable to be sourced within 500 miles of the project site
  • Must have low VOC emissions

Dig Deeper

 

There are a wide array of manufacturers who provide flooring and ceiling products designed specifically to address both the needs of a data center and the environmental purchasing criteria we selected.  Rather than providing product links, instead I would encourage that people review the RFCI and USGBC sites for information about establishing the appropriate criteria for your project.