Data Center Construction Process: Building Efficiency Into Everything We Do

Data center construction process: A person is using a laptop displaying holographic icons related to sustainability: solar panels, energy efficiency, electricity, money, and CO2 emissions.

Compass is known for its fast-paced data center construction process. We’re a hyper-speed developer in a hyperscale environment. 

But we know we can’t lead if we’re standing still. To continue building agility and creating advantages for customers we constantly examine how we do what we do to find ways to work smarter.

Having a fine-tuned prototype is the key. Beyond that, as we upturn every stone in search of opportunities to work smarter and meet the demand for additional data center capacity, one avenue of opportunity we found is streamlining our contractor submittal processes.  

Using a standardized design means many aspects of the prototype share the same parts, construction processes and products.  While each facility is tailored to the customer and site, the core elements of each remain the same and are executed in a repeatable manner. Repetition creates opportunity to streamline and prioritize contractor submittals and reviews for Compass hyperscaler, enterprise, and edgepoint data center platforms.

Standardizing specs

As part of the effort to bring uniformity to specs, we grouped required system components by sub-contractor – architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical. For each group, we assessed every submittal type and determined whether it requires full, limited or is no review…meaning it’s pre-approved and a boilerplate specification that will be the same from project to project. 

While time consuming on the front end, this process revealed that almost half of the more than 800 submittals required for one facility fall into the pre-approved or boilerplate category. These are pieces of the puzzle that don’t change from project to project and, therefore, don’t require re-submittal and review with each new build. 

In addition to significantly narrowing down the volume of required submittals, this overhaul has eliminated conflicts, duplications and ambiguity on the specification. Grouping and uniformity also helped organize the submittal and review process, paving the way for submittals to be provided in the manner that projects are constructed. That linear presentation further expedites review.

Going forward

A prepopulated list of submittals for all of Compass’s data center designs will be included on the front-end.  Key items conveyed to the general contractor are: 

  • How the submittal will be reviewed – whether it’s pre-approved or subject to limited or full review  
  • Product/assembly sourcing requirements
  • Substitution parameters
  • Due dates

The submittal matrix gives the general contractor a jump-start on the submittal process. It also identifies long-lead-time items to assist the contractor in scheduling submittals and ensuring that all products are ordered on time and delivered to the architect for a timely review. The submittal matrix will also distinguish between the core and shell effort or interior fit-up.

Data center construction process tiered review

Tiering the submittal review process creates less paperwork and administrative headache for both Compass and its contractors. Preapproving, prioritizing, and structuring reviews creates huge efficiency gains.

Based on past projects, Compass has landed on the following review actions.

  • Boilerplate. These are pre-approved materials that are standard from one project to the next. These will live in the Compass Submittal Database as approved and not requiring review.  
  • Limited Review. Pre-packaged and approved submittals that require minor revisions, such as a change in color, will be subject to limited review of changed items indicated by the contractor. These don’t require calculation or onsite measurement but are important to review from a coordination standpoint.
  • Full Review. These submittals require full review…in the way that all submittals were previously reviewed. Access flooring is one submittal that is dynamic and would be subject to full review.
  • For Record. This category includes warranties and maintenance data…information that needs to be in the record but not reviewed. These submittals that are required for each job but don’t change from one to the next. 

By standardizing specifications and prioritizing what and how submittals are reviewed, Compass is significantly short circuiting the front-end work to bring data center projects to fruition faster. Feedback from contractors has been overwhelmingly positive…they’re thrilled to be able to dive in and get to work with significantly less likelihood of encountering a red light or roadblock.

This streamlined process will be in full effect at the start of 2021. This is just one of a handful of ways Compass is working to improve construction processes to meet the demands of data center operators, and, generally, improve the data center construction process.