Photo courtesy of Schneider Electric
A new data center was built on a parking garage roof because of a space shortage on the UTHSC campus. .

The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC), Houston, solved a time and space crunch for its new 7,000-square-foot data center by building it on the roof of a parking garage on the campus.

The location was made possible in large part because of the design of the new data center and technology that enabled it to utilize the somewhat unorthodox location.

UTHSC was facing an immediate — and dire — need when owners of the building where the data center previously was located announced their intent to tear down the existing facility to construct two new towers in its place.

Challenged with an extreme lack of space throughout the campus, the UTHSC data center operations team determined that their best option was the roof of a nearby parking garage.

To make sure the roof could support the load created by the data center and its housing, the structural engineer reinforced the roof joist. For additional reinforcement, the engineering team added additional joists in the roofing itself at the point of the install.

The structure that housed the data center was constructed with reinforced cinder blocks so that it could withstand 150-mph winds in the event of a hurricane or other severe weather event and also hot summer days that reach an average high of 94 degrees F.

InfraStruXure, the system from APC by Schneider Electric, Andover, Mass., chosen for the project, was a critical component of the data center design.

The system provides monitoring of cooling, power and humidity and enables easier preventive maintenance, according to the UTHSC information technology (IT) operations team that worked on the project. It also features a rack-based, integrated, uninterrupted power supply.

The system was considered such an integral part of the project that it needed to be planned, configured and approved before the building and data center design could be completed to ensure that it met the university’s expectations.

“The central IT operations group felt that the InfraStruXure solution would help to address the power management and cooling-related issues. The InfraStruXure configuration was also critical to the overall design of the building,” says Kevin Granhold, executive director and chief technology officer, data center operations and services, at UTHSC, in a report on the project.

Because the system features a modular, scalable, uninterrupted power supply and cooling architecture, the IT operations team was not confronted with the issue of having to purchase excess data capacity up front to meet long-term needs.

The design flexibility allowed extra floor space to be built into the data center so that additional data racks and related cooling and power capacity could be added later when needed.