Smart Buildings & Server Cooling
In the complex modern world, technology is a key feature of our built environment and server cooling is crucial to the safe functioning of this technology in buildings. Smart building features are all around us and commonplace, like the lights going on when we use the bathroom in a museum. What seems like a relatively minor feature of modern life is part of a major technological development that is set to expand throughout new buildings and to be integrated into older and listed buildings in the future. But what happens behind the scenes to make this possible and what role do servers and server cooling play in this? It is the purpose of this article to explore the role of server cooling in the functioning of smart features in the built environment and to examine the introduction of smart features into older and listed buildings.
Firstly, we examine the nature and concept of a smart building and then explore how the creation of a smart building occurs from scratch highlighting the role of server cooling within this. Thirdly, we discuss how smart features are introduced into older buildings and the importance of the age of a building in the success of this and then explore how the challenges of working with older buildings are overcome. Finally, we will examine the benefits of bespoke server cooling designs when retrofitting older buildings with server cabinets that ensure smart features that modernise older buildings.
What is a Smart Building?
A smart building uses technology to enable efficient and economical use of resources while creating a safe and comfortable environment for occupants. The nature of smart technology is constantly evolving, but essentially, it’s a system of connected devices that can measure data from your building and transform it into useable insights. These insights are used to automate certain aspects of the building – for example controlling temperature or humidity levels. The inclusion of smart technology is a significant growth area and pre-pandemic (COVID 19) research estimated that the smart building technology market would generate global revenue of $8.5 billion in 2020, up from $4.7 billion in 2016, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 15.9% over the forecast period. The existence and growth of professional organisations creating platforms for discussion and developing industry standards also reflect this development in the built environment.
Server Cooling and Creating Smart Buildings
Creating a smart building relies on connecting data. Applications for specific purposes within buildings, for example, heating, lighting, Wi-Fi, security access, and utility meters, generate data. To create a smart building (a good example is Building Smart https://www.buildingsmart.org/) data must be inter-connected to achieve a working environment. In a traditionally managed building, these systems operate discretely from each other, producing data in isolation on a specific aspect of building performance or operation. Only by connecting this disparate data from multiple systems into one single platform can it then be analysed to create meaningful insights. Data of this nature is collected locally and usually stored on site. Smart building system cooling; servers housed in server cabinets in plant rooms and sometimes discretely, process and store the data. The size of these data sets is significant and therefore, the smooth running and housing of these data sets are imperative to the adequate function of the building.
Servers need to be adequately cooled to prevent overheating and to ensure optimum function and server racks can be cooled in purpose-built server rooms by air conditioning systems that effectively cool the whole room. Server cooling is an essential feature for server cabinets on-site and consequently new buildings are mostly designed to include server rooms. These special smart system cooling rooms for servers and data collection in new buildings are configured to accommodate future expansion and growth as perceived at the time of designing.
Introducing Smart Features & Server Cooling to Older Buildings
Introducing smart features or retrofitting smart systems can be challenging for builders tasked with achieving efficiency and providing a modern workplace where access to data and connectivity is imperative. Retrofitting smart systems and providing adequate server cooling to ensure the good function of the systems can never be a one size fits all process due to the wide range of building types. The structural variations and idiosyncrasies in the buildings still used for important office space mean that smart features need to be subtly and cleverly incorporated on a case-by-case basis. In the UK the planning rules require strict adherence to any structural changes to buildings therefore those facing the upgrading of technological features to listed buildings face many challenges.
Overcoming the Challenges of Retrofitting Smart Features to Historic & Listed Buildings
The challenges of retrofitting smart features to old buildings are mostly overcome by the fact that mostly the latest technology is compact, well designed and light so can be integrated with reasonable ease. Where the building is a complicated structure possibly with many additions and modifications made over long-time standard products are modified to support their use in the space. The signal access issues that comes with a thick wall and multiple rooms occupancy, for example, is supported using repeaters and signal boosters. Patches also boost signals and support software development within existing systems. Server cabinets do not require server rooms and can be independently cooled with neat internal cooling solutions that are integrated into server racks. These micro datacentres can be in unused spaces like stairwells and alcoves.
Importance of a Cooling System that does not Involve Water in Retrofitting.
Where server cabinets become the brains of new and old buildings then the server cooling function must have many features. Reliable, neat, flexible solutions are necessary to provide adequate cooling to maintain server function and accommodate the individual feature of the building in question. Older buildings are both robust and fragile so any retrofitted technology must exploit the robustness and provide solutions that do not compromise the structural integrity of the building. Server cooling systems that do not use water have a role to play within older buildings by reducing the risk of leaks that could compromise the structure of the building itself. Also, non-water-cooling solutions do not require pipework that might be difficult to retrofit in non-linear spaces. These are some examples from our range: Maxicool TM5 Gemini-2021
The creation of smart buildings and the retrofitting of smart features to existing buildings is an essential aspect of the future of building in the UK and an opportunity to support the energy efficiency required in the UK with net-zero targets by 2050. Smart buildings collect data about themselves, and this information can be used to monitor energy usage, improve efficiency, and shape future policy and best practices. Data generated by buildings is often processed and stored on-site in servers housed in server cabinets and locally held data banks. The proximity of the data to the source increases the security and accessibility of information for the day to day running of the building. Additionally, locally available data storage can be used by those working within the building. In new buildings server cabinets and racks are housed in purpose-built server rooms and in older buildings servers are often housed in discrete units in suitable locations around buildings. The cooling of server racks necessary for function creates complications for the built environment, that can be overcome by integrated rack cooling systems. Flexible cooling options that do not use water protect the buildings from leaks and as they are available in flexible units can be located where they are needed. Smart system cooling for servers is crucial to the functioning of smart buildings and smart buildings are a feature of connected modern life.