Is a Modular Data Center Structurally Sound and Secure?

Structural integrity is essential to any built structure. But in the case of a modular data center, ensuring structural integrity is really the first – and many might argue, the most important – design consideration. Ensuring integrity means accounting for both internal and external structural requirements during the concept phase.

Consider the internal requirements first. Because it’s scalable, a modular data center is transported on the back of a truck, either to its final destination, or to a place where it will operate for some specified time period. Eventually, it will likely be moved again. That modular data center, therefore, must be built to withstand the weight of itself, in addition to the weight of the support systems and everything else contained within it – and do so while in transit. Conversely, a conventional built data center is usually slab-on-concrete construction with steel columns, joists, insulation, interior trim and other building systems and elements. It stays in one place, so transport-related stresses aren’t relevant.

From an external standpoint, modular data centers are no different than other built structures; they must comply with local building codes and statutes. The structural integrity of a modular data center, therefore, is built to suit the specific application in which it will be used. In other words, it must conform to the code requirements of the jurisdiction in which it will reside. It must exhibit structural performance characteristics to withstand the required wind loading in whatever area it will reside, as well as potential seismic activity in that area, snow loading, winds and other environmental considerations. And it must comply with local codes and regulations to the same degree that conventional built structures in those areas do.

For example, in Dade County, Florida, all buildings must be designed and constructed to withstand maximum sustained winds of 165-mph to 185-mph depending on the building risk category classification. So, in order to be accepted by the local jurisdiction as a suitable structure, a modular data center’s structural integrity in Dade County must conform to that code requirement.

Owing to the fact that modular data centers must comply with strict structural requirements, they primarily are built out of steel, so the components of a modular data center are inherently strong and secure.

Security and Transportation Considerations for Modular Data Centers

One note about transporting modular data centers: If the structure is 8.5 feet or less in width, 11.5 feet or lower in height, and about 40 feet long, it’s likely that structure will conform to most transit size regulations. If those dimensions exceed that envelope in any way, the associated cost of transporting a modular data center can escalate, due primarily to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations that mandate permits and in-transit escorts. In cases of “Super Loads” – a maximum width of 16 feet – a police escort may be required.

Additionally, modular data centers must conform to all applicable weight requirements. As with structural requirements, it’s essential to check local, state and federal regulations up front before planning, designing or transporting a modular data center.

If you’re considering a modular data center for your business, we recommend talking to an established expert during the concept phase to get their perspectives on these and all other relevant modular data center design issues. In our next installment, we will discuss strategies for defining your modular data center needs. For questions about modular data centers, PCX’s modular data center solutions, or all other PCX solutions and services, please call us at 919.550.2800.