bczachura A Data Center by Design: Keeping the Roof Over Our Heads

November 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

I doubt that you spend much of your day thinking about your roof. It’s just sort of there to keep rain and snow off of your head, and as long as it’s not leaking on your desk, it’s rarely a topic of conversation. I agree that most roofs lack the dynamic quality to make them interesting, but that was before I had the pleasure of watching a Tier IV data center being built specifically to protect IT equipment from the excesses of Mother Nature. I’ll talk about some of the other amazing infrastructure components in future blogs, but this is about the roof.

Being located in the Midwest, our primary adversary is tornadoes. They are fascinating to watch on Storm Chasers but are tough on buildings and their contents, so our facility is built specifically to withstand that threat, and a key component is the roof. The roof is approximately 43,000 square feet (bit smaller than a football field) and is constructed of 8” thick concrete reinforced with ½” rebar laid in a 12” grid, covered with a rubber matting which is in turn, covered with gravel. There is nothing located on the roof, and no penetrations. Those are the rather dry statistics, but the cool part is:

It weighs 4.5 million pounds! 2,041,186 kilograms! For those that might relate to numbers differently that is the equivalent of 1,258 average midsize cars (Chevrolet in this case), or 372 African elephants (with intact ivory) or 34 fully loaded Abrams battle tanks, all in a roof that is smaller than an acre! It took over 100 fully loaded concrete trucks just to supply the material, and it was a non-stop process from start to finish. To watch load after load after load of concrete dumped into the hopper of the delivery boom and blown onto the roof in a seemingly endless stream of grey slurry was fascinating. (Authors note: I did shorten the viewing process slightly by actually only watching the first few and last few trucks but the principal holds).

Why did we make it so bloody heavy? Easy for those of you who watch natural disasters on the weather channel; to keep it there if we ever experience a very personal visit from a tornado. Twisters have a tendency to pull off or lift away a roof rather than push it in. We decided to leave the whole Wizard of Oz thing to someone else.

The end result is a roof with no edges for the wind to catch; no equipment on the roof to generate wind resistance, no penetrations through the roof for leak points (doesn’t matter if your roof stays when the wind ripped off your air conditioner and dumped water onto your equipment through the holes) and enough weight to stay put during an EF5 tornado. How many facilities to you know of that are totally secure in a 207 MPH storm? Puts a whole new spin on the humble roof!

Here are some past roof related blog posts we did during the construction process:

Setting Steel for the Roof

Roof Rebar

The Roof

Concrete Pouring Video

Please Contact Us if you would like more information or would like to see what’s under the roof. 

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