July 16, 2024

Friorida Home Design

Innovative Spaces, Timeless Designs

The Importance of Exterior Design in the Data Centre

3 min read

The evolution of data centre design has, to date, been focused on optimising the inside of these facilities. This includes adapting to innovations in efficiency and cooling, as well as larger market forces. These forces, like the increasing adoption of AI across all industries, will require changes to the structure and functionality of data centres.

However, attention must be paid to the exterior design of data centres as well. Moving away from the football-field-sized cement blocks that are common today might have a positive impact on brand image, environmental impact, and community relations.

Brand image

Data centres are an important part of business operations and are a reflection of the companies that use them. A sleek and modern design can help convey a sense of professionalism and competence to stakeholders, providing the impression of technological capability and reliability.

A data centre campus that integrates an eco-friendly exterior design can also showcase a commitment by the company to improve its environmental impact, and a thoughtful design provides competitive differentiation for businesses that want to stand out from the crowd.

Environmental impact

Sustainable design practices are increasingly important in all types of construction, but especially in data centres. Exterior design elements that improve the environmental impact of data centres include:

  • Green roofs
  • Solar panels
  • Natural ventilation
  • Reflective surfaces
  • Living walls
  • Energy-efficient landscaping

A Stack data centre in Milan took the green data centre even further when they adopted three hives comprising 200,000 bees, housed on facility rooftops.

Community relations

A beautiful exterior design may help a business to overcome local opposition to these projects. For example, the data centre corridor in Northern Virginia has been home to several protests by local citizens.

In response, the local regulators included design requirements for new developments in the Digital Gateway Zone.

For example, businesses must prioritise context-sensitive design considerations, substations must be screened from view, and ‘architectural treatments such as variations in building materials, patterns, and texture, and other design elements are recommended to provide visual interest … or to blend into the surrounding area,’ depending on the specific requirements of the site.

Some examples of data centres with a more appealing exterior include Centurylink, Goswell Road, London. This large data centre blends into the surrounding neighbourhood, having maintained the building’s original 1950s brick exterior facade and disguising its new purpose.

Green Mountain’s SVG1 in Norway, was made to blend into the Norwegian countryside. It is located inside a mountain in a former NATO ammunition storage facility.

If blending in isn’t an option, there are still opportunities for innovative exterior design. Take, for example, the Switch Pyramid located outside Grand Rapids, Michigan.

While interior design for data centres continues to evolve, expect continued innovation in exterior design as well. Not only can breakthroughs in exterior design help to reinforce brand image, but they can also support ESG initiatives, and help data centre projects overcome resistance from local communities.

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