Building the largest data centers

Demand for data center capacity has grown exponentially in recent years. While the scale, speed of delivery and technological advancements have progressed significantly, the principles of how we work remain unchanged. We adhere steadfastly to Kirby’s core values of People, Safety, Quality, Delivery and Value. These priorities have guided us since the company’s foundation and inspired us to learn and grow as an organization. As we take on more ambitious projects, we refine and hone the skills we’ve developed to take us this far and use them as a foundation for the next level.

Prefabrication and modularisation have been gamechangers for Kirby since we began investing in this area about twenty years ago. We now review each new project through the lens of maximising off-site fabrication in advance. Early collaboration with the project team is key to this, which can bring multiple benefits:

  • Reduced on-site construction duration
  • Reduced management costs and risk
  • Higher quality of final product is more efficiently achieved in factory environment specifically set up for fabrication
  • Lean manufacturing in factory can generate additional cost savings
  • Reduced duration of on-site commissioning

For example, when a confidential client in Dublin awarded Kirby the contract to deliver the full electrical and mechanical installation for a 60MW Hyperscale Data Center, one of the first tasks we undertook was to examine the plans to see how we could implement modularization to the benefit of the project and client.

We soon realized that the internal electrical switchrooms were the perfect option for this type of construction. Working with the other parties involved in the contract, we agreed to prepare fully modularized Data Center switchrooms that could fully integrate the equipment and be prepared off-site.

Our digitalized services came into their own as we used them to maximize the space available for racks while ensuring appropriate space was available for features and services like maintenance, access to equipment, and circulation.

The modularization approach also meant tasks could be completed independently of progress on the site itself – there was no need for the crews on the ground to reach a certain point before our teams could get to work on the switchrooms.

From there, our focus on collaboration and communication became absolutely critical, to eliminate waste, promote a safe environment and build right first time. Each contractor had to be on board with the process and get regular updates on the project. To manage this, Kirby took on the role of Lead Coordinator to bring the various moving parts together. We hosted all data around the plans and 3D modeling online so every tiny detail was accessible to anyone who needed it in real-time.
Construction within the controlled manufacturing facility we used eliminated the issues that can crop up on building sites, which meant we were able to deliver products that had already undergone extremely thorough quality testing.

That delivery process was a hugely exciting part of the project. Each component weighed over 20 tonnes, was 26 meters long and nearly 5 meters wide. Working closely once again with our partners on the job, we successfully transported them from Derry to Dublin for installation.

Once again, the information we hosted online and shared with each contractor served us well. We were even able to upload any data about on-site variance onto our cloud-based hub which helped us to install entire electrical switchrooms in just a matter of days. 20,000 labor hours on this project were completed off-site. It is essential that the procurement strategy around the capital equipment is aligned to this off-site manufacturing philosophy, if not, the benefits in terms of schedule and overall efficiency can be limited.

Kirby Group Engineering is fully committed to this kind of manufacturing process for the future, which is why we have been investing heavily in establishing our own prefabrication facilities in the Irish midlands. These are integral parts of our offering, which give us the edge in giving clients more efficient, safer, and better quality results.

It also works in tandem with another element of our vision for the future. During a multi-million euro upgrade to our company headquarters in Limerick, recently we installed a state-of-the-art Digitization Lab where we really bring our projects to life at every stage using an impressive augmented reality platform. The combined potential of these forward-thinking steps and the benefit of almost 60 years’ experience will stand Kirby in good stead for the exciting years to come.

Download the complete DCD Construction Supplement – Building the future of data centers here.

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