Future-ready: How modular data centers and BIM meet growing market demands

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Rapid deployments of technology and operational resilience often emerge as critical aspects of competitive advantage across many industries today. That’s why modern technological approaches, such as prefabricated modular data centers, now play a crucial role in the data center industry.

According to the analyst firm MarketsandMarkets, the modular data center market was estimated at USD $23 Billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to USD $88.5 Billion by 2030. Unlike traditional construction projects that build data centers on-site, modular data centers are pre-engineered, pre-built, and pre-tested in a factory setting and then delivered to the customer site.

modular data center and BIM planning

These “data center in a box” modules consist of self-enclosed assemblies of IT, software, power, racks, and cooling subsystems. They are designed to be installed outside of a building (in an adjacent parking lot, for example), and often, multiple modules serve as expandable pods of computing power. This solution offers an alternative approach to building a traditional data center that includes unique performance and time-to-market advantages.

The innovation of modular data centers is now being combined with another innovation, Building Information Modeling or BIM, that further enhances both time-to-market and field performance. This collaborative work methodology expedites and simplifies modular data center construction creation and management across the entire project life cycle. The approach uses new 3-D software technologies to create editable and shareable renditions of a complete modular data center, including informational details about all of the sub-components. 

BIM methodology driving faster, more precise modular data centers

Schneider Electric combines the benefits of BIM with prefabricated modular data center design and build methodologies. Here’s how it works behind the scenes:

  1. Cross-discipline integration – Multiple teams work from one modular data center development model that serves as a single source of truth. The coordination, which includes sales/tendering teams (who generate the bill of materials), design engineers (who accommodate and revise designs, and factory personnel (who assemble and test the modular components), minimizes design and construction errors while rapidly accelerating the design/build process. BIM methodology allows various branches to connect and provides structure to a good starting point. 
  • Geographic integration – The teams collaborate across time zones in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. By accessing critical sourcing, design, and factory build data via specialized software and the cloud, the BIM approach helps experts worldwide significantly simplify a complex process – combining racks, cooling, power, and software into a robust, low-risk, high-performance data center.
  • Simplified change management – As the teams work together, the methodology automatically accounts for the traditional constraints of space, aggressive time schedules, and local compliance regulations. Change management is shortened drastically because every team knows what has been updated in real time. The collaborative nature of the methodology minimizes production errors and drastically reduces end-user data center downtime. This impacts everything from tendering to final layout, resulting in improved efficiency.

Whereas a typical data center takes about 36 weeks to build onsite, a prefabricated modular data center can reduce the time onsite to 16 weeks when combined with BIM methodology and advance procurement of long lead equipment early in the process. Also, a company like Schneider Electric manufactures 90% of the equipment and software that resides inside a data center. That includes uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), precision cooling devices, racks, panel boards, humidifiers, power distribution units, and busways.

A customer-centric approach improves the design and build process

The BIM methodology is also designed to seamlessly involve customers in all phases of development. From the initial gathering of specifications and throughout each of the design/build stages, customers can actively provide input and feedback. By accessing the Schneider Electric 3-D model of their “to be” modular data center, customers can also see how their design is evolving, down to the piping and electrical connections level, and exactly how the development and build are progressing.  

Schneider Electric facilities specifically dedicated to building modular data centers are located in North America, Europe, and Asia. The build site is chosen to minimize customer transport costs and shipping times.

Software, augmented reality, and virtual reality play a key role

Schneider Electric integrates essential software products into its BIM process to continually streamline and expedite the modular data center design/build process. One popular tool is a Point Cloud scanner. It uses 3D laser scans to generate data points plotted in 3D space. For example, when scanning a modular data center, each virtual point represents an actual point on a wall, door, server row, electrical or piping infrastructure. Therefore, stakeholders have an incredibly detailed view of the data center module infrastructure.

Using virtual reality, augmented reality tools, and electrical system design tools like the eTap Solution Digital Twin platform enables the tendering, design, and building teams, regardless of where they work on the planet, to move on from having to examine dozens of flat one-line diagrams. Instead, they can use tablets and glasses to access full-blown 3D visions of the entire virtual data center down to the level of electrical and piping connections.

Engineering teams and factory staff can constantly compare how the virtual world of design aligns to the real work of manufacturing assembly. With Schneider Electric’s dedication in building the most optimal data center solution, we create this ecosystem that works extremely well in the background – producing solid, efficient, and sustainable data center designs that focus on the customer’s business needs. In this way, the changes needed are executed more quickly and precisely, leading to a robust data center that can be delivered in record time.

Discover a modernized approach to building a data center

To learn more about how your business can benefit from the fast delivery and robust reliability of BIM-based modular prefab data centers, visit our modular data center web page.  

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