By Alex Dick, Fire Protection Business Development Manager, Data Centres, Victaulic.
We live in a modern world; fast-paced, heavily reliant on digital technology, and consistently expanding. Behind this all, the very backbone of the technological age, sits data centres. From streaming Netflix to mediating natural disasters, data centres are integral. Which is why it’s so important that data centres operate at high speed and are completely reliable. We cannot afford for them to go down, in any circumstance.
It’s the hyper-important nature of data centres which still excites Alex – after 30 years in the industry – as he enters his new role as Fire Protection Business Development Manager for Data Centres across Europe at Victaulic, one of the leading producers of mechanical pipe joining, flow control and fire protection solutions. Along with his peers from across the industry, Alex plays an important role in ensuring that data centres operate to their fullest potential, backed up by systems which are fast to install, reliable, and flexible – much like the data centres themselves.
Saving time on the
Just as the world’s population relies on data centres to
operate at the highest speed possible, data centre owners are equally reliant on
fire protection systems that are quick and easy to install. It’s no great
secret – in fact its widely known across construction more generally – that one
of the keys to keeping projects within budget is to mitigate labour risk
wherever possible. That’s where you’ll make those crucial savings.
Mitigating labour risk can be achieved through several ways, but within fire protection, across the years Alex has been working in the industry, three buzzwords have always held the most weight: ‘reliability’, ‘ease’ and ‘flexibility’.
The power to be
Flexibility isn’t always easy to achieve, especially in data
centres. Server rooms can get expanded, new server rooms can get started up, roof
dimensions can often differ from one area of the building to the next and fire
protection piping must compete with a plethora of other wire-runs and
applications. Additionally, traditional fire protection systems use dry pendant
drops to protect sever rooms, hard pipes requiring varying lengths – to
accommodate for different roof heights – with a dry sprinkler head at the
bottom of the pipe. They must be installed very precisely to perfectly fit the dimensions
and designs of the existing building. During installation, these systems
require numerous trips to the jobsite for measurement, design and installation
coordination between different trades. These added steps often result in
redesign. Inherent installation difficulties, such as complex measurements and
insulation requirements, can lead to errors, delays and additional expenses –
all of which will result in negative effects on a project’s budget and timeline.
What data centre managers can really benefit from is a more flexible system. This is where it’s on suppliers to innovate, investing in new products which can offer improved solutions for our customers. Alex is particularly excited to bring the Style VS1 flexible dry drop to market: a flexible braided hose, ranging from 50” to 58” in length, in combination with a dry sprinkler. The product comes to site ready to install as one single piece and eliminates the need for hard pipe systems. It provides designers and owners the freedom to seamlessly move the water farther into away from the servers and the flexible nature of the hose ensures it can be positioned according to the building’s constraints or can easily be readjusted if servers in the room are added or moved.
In Alex’s previous role as business development manager within UK and Ireland, he spoke regularly and in depth to project managers across the market about the issues and challenges they faced. Naturally, reliability was always top of the agenda; the word they would keep coming back to. Fire protection systems must be reliable.
It’s always been up to the industry to provide that reliability. Alex believes in working with the customer right from the design stage, using software to draw virtual sketches (Victaulic has its in-house VDC team), through to overseeing installation on-site or off-site during the modulisation phase. It’s those reassuring touches that give customers confidence in the system they’re using.
In fact, modulisation is a trend Alex sees continuing to grow. Where 10 years ago prefabrication was rarely used, now nearly 70% of projects are built using this method. The benefits are undeniable: from limiting labour risks on site to saving money due to faster construction and installation. At an early stage of the project, he recommends approaching customers with a modulised offer to understand their openness to constructing FP systems off-site.
A bright future ahead
Undoubtedly, the data centre industry is set to keep growing. We have never been so reliant on technology; in fact our reliance is increasing. As Alex enters his new European remit, his goal is to get out there, meet people from the industry, and understand the challenges they are facing and provide solutions that impact their bottom line. Alex completely believes, as manufacturer, the best we can do is listen to our customers and prospective clients.
Alex has a vision for Victaulic to be the number one fire protection solution for data centres in Europe and with new products – such as the Style VS1 flexible Dry Sprinkler – providing customers with ease, reliability and flexibility, he believes the company is on the right path.