Rise of Modular Switchrooms


September 10, 2021

Modular Switchrooms

The modular style of switchrooms is fast becoming the industry’s favourite way to construct data centres. This is because of its speed of install, reduced costs and overall efficiency.

The value of Modular Data Centre construction market was $17.67bn in 2019, to reach a value of $73.53bn by 2025.

With the data centre market growing drastically, it’s obvious that supply must keep up with demand. This is why switchrooms are quickly becoming the market’s new favourite critical power solution.

And with multiple modular skids making up one switchroom - sometimes as many as 17 - it's imperative construction and installation runs smoothly!

Project Commissioning Explained

Before we highlight the benefits of modular based engineering, we will first explain commissioning levels used in projects.

Commissioning Levels are a useful categorisation of the stages of completed modular switchrooms. Find a quick breakdown and explanation here:

Project Commissioning (Cx) tags:

  • Cx Level 1 - Purple tag – All FWT are complete
  • Cx Level 1 – Pink Tag – Ensure D+FAT docs are against equipment
  • Cx Level 2 – Red Tag – Ready for energisation; all docs complete
  • Cx Level 3 – Yellow Tag - Site Acceptance Testing Cx complete – ready for Cx A Level 4
  • Cx Level 4 – Blue Tag – Functional Performance Testing (CxA)
  • Cx Level 5 – Green Tag – Integrated systems Testing (IST)
 
As much as possible is completed offsite, drastically reducing potentially months of work on-site and all while the building itself is being constructed.

Iain Clark, Senior Project Manager  - Anord Mardix

 

Time savings

A modular build is primarily known for its ability to reduce project lead times and result in overall project time-savings. Key statistics from industry leading sources inform us that modular switchrooms result in:

  • 84% reduction in on-site man hours during installation phase.
  • 75% reduction in on-site program from delivery to ‘Yellow Tag’ milestone.

Essentially Level 3/Yellow Tag would mean that the equipment is FWT tested and ready to be energised (once integrated i.e. cables connected) when delivered to site.

  • 75% reduction in on site assembly and testing, saving time and labour costs.

In addition, the modular pod can take place simultaneously to the infrastructure build, radically reducing the overall project duration.

Efficiency

As well as saving the project time, modular swichrooms are also extremely efficient in comparison to a traditional site build.

Modular switchrooms are easily replicated, therefore if a project should need to upscale in the future, to keep up with demand, then a modular design would facilitate this.

In addition, after installation, the usual 'deep clean', a prerequisite to completing a site build, is no longer required.

In a traditional-style build, cleaning all switchgear on the modular skids to remove contractor install debris  is essential to ensure that all equipment is functioning as it should.

But, because the modular skids would arrive on-site in factory condition, cleaned, and ready to go, the level of site interconnection is significantly reduced when compared to traditional modular builds.

Cost

Cost is often considered the crux of project decisions and trumps many other key considerations, aside from safety, during the construction phase.

Modular projects are cost-saving solutions, often because of its ability to reduce the labour required on-site throughout installation. The majority of the work is completed within a factory-controlled environment, eradicating the need for on-site duplication.

As a direct result of less time required to install the modular skids, the travel and accommodation costs for a team of Fitting Engineers become irrelevant - as the majority of the installation work is completed prior to the skids' delivery.

Lastly, using interconnecting busbar to power a modular switchroom, as opposed to using cable, has a significantly lower installation and lifetime maintenance cost.

Installation, testing, pre-testing and safety

Prefabricated modular switchrooms, are exactly that; fully-constructed, tested and integrated switchrooms that are built off-site, in factory settings, shipped to location and arrive ready for installation.

When built off-site, these switchrooms usually have a higher quality install due to the clean conditions within a factory, and lead to a significant reduction in installation issues – as they are fully tested and ready to be used.

The impact on safety is a key motivator for implementing a modular design, as it significantly reduces the need for lifting large electrical products (such as PDU’s, switchgear, busbars etc.) and therefore reduces risks to the on-site team. With a 77% reduction in lifting operations on site, this has a positive impact on project safety and the time needed to complete installation.

One of our Senior Project Managers in the UK, Iain Clark, explains the increase in popularity of modular switchrooms in the industry:

Ultimately, the end client receives a finished product that’s been manufactured, installed and tested off-site, then just needing minimal installation and commissioning on-site. This off-site modular prefabrication method is quickly becoming the normal way of building critical facilities and Data Centres, and can be deployed in large blocks of power, in a matter of just days. It also results in less waste and little or no fault finding once on site.

Skids and Power Pods can contain HV & LV Switchgear, UPS and Air Conditioning equipment, all pre-installed and pre-tested, ready to create new Power Rooms or Power Streams on-site, with full scalability. They can also give a level of standardisation across a customer’s portfolio, where Skids and Power Pods can be deployed with the same equipment, almost anywhere.”

Overall, modular switchrooms are fast becoming the obvious choice in data centre construction. The speed of deployment, it’s cost efficiency, the ability to construct them off-site, safely, whilst simultaneously completing other aspects of the data centre build, makes a modular switchrooms a clear winner for data centre projects with a tight deadline. With data centres expanding at a colossal rate, it’s an exciting time for those within the Critical Power Sector and we at Anord Mardix can’t wait to see what the future holds.

 

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