The Nature of Mission Critical Facilities


Mission critical facilities support computing resources that have no tolerance for downtime caused by system failures. The unique nature of these facilities requires close coordination between the building design team and information technology equipment providers so that resources can be put in place to provide cooling, power, and connectivity that best suit the equipment while allowing for planned equipment maintenance as well as equipment failures, while maintaining operation.


Appropriate security will vary from facility to facility and is dependent upon the specific characteristics of the facility. A comprehensive risk assessment should be performed periodically to determine where the facility is vulnerable and the appropriate countermeasures that need to be deployed to reduce or mitigate the risk associated with each vulnerability. A comprehensive security protection program will balance physical security components with appropriate security staffing, policies, and procedures. The security system should include elements that provide detection, delay, assessment, response and recovery.


Power distribution systems in mission critical facilities are evolving, as computing infrastructure becomes more efficient and as owners attempt to reduce the impact such facilities have on the surrounding environment. In order to reduce impact, the desired level of system reliability must first be determined and then systems can be designed to achieve optimal performance while minimizing regional effects. For example, large facilities could employ the use of medium voltage generators, thus mimicking utility service during power outages and also reducing the amount of equipment required for an equivalent low voltage generation facility. Another approach uses rack-mounted UPS functionality in which a central UPS system is not required and large quantities of environmentally harmful batteries are eliminated.


Prior to real time operation, the commissioning process exposes mission critical facilities to scrutiny and rigorous testing. Commissioning is performed at a time when problems can be addressed without lost time and money. With the reliance upon controls to keep a facility online during a possible loss-time event, the controls and logic are thoroughly vetted during the acceptance testing. As the maintenance staff accepts the building operation responsibility from the contractor, the commissioning activities empower the operations staff with the appropriate knowledge to handle the unexpected. The commissioning process is complete when the operations staff is fully capable of understanding the limits and capabilities of the facility.

Environmental Conditions

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is the ratio of total power used relative to the power used for the computing equipment. Traditional data centers can use as much energy to run HVAC and lighting systems as is used to actually power the servers, producing a PUE of 2.0. With advanced design, the most efficient data centers now operate with a PUE around 1.15.

Modern computing equipment can operate within wider temperature and humidity limits. Higher temperatures and humidity limits reduce cooling energy use as well as enabling the use of related energy reducing strategies such as evaporative cooling and airside economizers. Other design strategies such as site selection (to take advantage of colder climates), air distribution options for racks including advanced hot aisle cold aisle with physical barriers, low resistance air distribution design, and in-rack cooling can be used to further reduce PUE.

Recent Experience

FORSCOM/United States Army Reserve Headquarters
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Fentress Architects, Architect
Giuliani Associates Architects, Inc., Associate Architect
Security, communications, audio-visual and fire alarm systems for a complex including a command headquarters building, a data center, a network enterprise center, a disaster recovery center and an energy plant. These facilities house command suites, classified meeting/videoconferencing rooms, a FORSCOM Operations Center and classified and unclassified meeting rooms. All buildings have raised floor systems.
690,000 square feet

International Confidential Client
Multiple Locations, United States
Commissioning, quality assurance and quality control for multiple 200,000 square foot data centers. Commissioning activities include the creation and dynamic execution of functional performance tests, and working with various subcontractors in resolving functional issues. Quality assurance and control activities include creation of checklists and document tracking software, and simultaneously assisting the owner and contractors with the verification of intricate static tests prior to the energization of the equipment.
1,800,000 square feet

North Decatur Building
Atlanta, Georgia
Emory University, Client
This building provides data center capacity for both the university and Emory Healthcare. After designing the original building, which included 11,700 square feet of raised floor, several studies and projects have been executed to increase data center capacity and reliability to obtain and then maintain the owner’s reliability criteria as loads have been increased. This has resulted in tripling the UPS capacity, doubling the generator capacity and adding a clean agent fire suppression system.
136,000 square feet

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