RESTON, Va. – It’s been said that time is money. In the data center business, space is money. Making the most of every square foot of real estate is critical.
This principle is at work on almost every major data center campus, but comes to life in a distinct fashion on the new CoreSite campus in Northern Virginia. The design includes a four-story infrastructure tower, which centralizes the mechanical and electrical equipment supporting the first two buildings on the campus.
“This is the first time we’re placing infrastructure in its own building,” said Andrew Sall, Vice President of Engineering at CoreSite. “It made sense for this site, just because of the scale of the facility.”
The use of a dedicated infrastructure building is the latest wrinkle in campus-level design, as data center developers deploy capacity at larger scale to keep pace with the growth of cloud computing.
CoreSite says the strategy is unique to its Reston campus, the company’s primary site in Northern Virginia. Placing the chillers, UPS systems, electrical switchgear and cooling towers in their own facility allows CoreSite to create larger data halls in its new buildings, making the most of every square foot of customer space.
CoreSite plans to add more than 50 megawatts of capacity in Reston on a 22-acre property the company acquired in 2016, with the campus eventually slated to reach over 100 megawatts at full build-out.. It’s just down the block from the company’s original Northern Virginia campus, which includes two facilities (VA1 and VA2) totaling over 390,000 square feet of data center capacity, with more than 175 customers, including 35 networks and over 50 cloud and IT service providers.
The campus is key to CoreSite’s ambitions in Northern Virginia, the world’s largest data center market. CoreSite has taken a different approach than many of its competitors with its focus on Reston rather than Ashburn, home to a cluster of facilities in “Data Center Alley” in Loudoun County, where there is still open land for development. It’s a different story in Reston, where CoreSite deploys megawatts of data center space in a busy office and industrial corridor adjacent to Dulles Airport and the Reston Metro station.
CoreSite Shifts into Building Mode
That may seem like a challenge, but it’s part of CoreSite’s DNA. The Denver-based developer is one of the most experienced publicly-held data center REITs (real estate investment trusts). The company builds multi-tenant IT ecosystems in major markets, creating a campus environment with multiple facilities operating as one.
That often involves making the most of infill locations – parcels of land in close proximity to its existing data centers. In major markets with limited development sites, that may mean working with smaller pieces of land and building vertically.
These principles are being applied across CoreSite portfolio in 2019. After several years in which it has had limited inventory in its largest markets, CoreSite is building in Northern Virginia, Chicago and Santa Clara, and laying the groundwork for fresh capacity in Los Angeles.
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“2019 is a transition year for us,” said Paul Szurek, CEO of CoreSite, in the company’s recent earnings call. “We entered the year with leasable capacity at lower levels compared to our historical norms. Our 2019 priorities include translating new construction into more abundant sales, acquiring additional new customer logos, and bringing new connectivity and customer service products online.”
The company has announced several milestones in recent weeks:
- On April 15, CoreSite pre-leased Phases 1 and 2 (108,000 square feet) at its SV8 data center, which is under development in Santa Clara. As a result, the company is accelerating construction of Phases 2 and 3 and targeting completion in late Q4 of 2019 for Phase 2 and the first half of 2020 for Phase 3. CoreSite also closed on the purchase of adjacent land that will house its next facility, dubbed SV9, which is expected to create 200,000 square foot data center space.
- On April 10, CoreSite began construction on its CH2 data center, a purpose-built facility on a two-acre land parcel where the company will invest up to $210 million to accommodate demand in downtown Chicago. It plans a four-story building yielding 18 megawatts of power and 169,000 square feet of capacity.
Optimizing for Every Watt and Square Foot
In Reston, CoreSite is repurposing several existing buildings on the Sunrise Technology Park, an office park that housed four buildings totaling 315,000 square feet. The company initially envisioned creating about 660,000 square feet of space at the new campus, but has since expanded its vision for the site, perhaps prompted by the spectacular growth of cloud computing in Northern Virginia, where data center providers leased a record 270 megawatts of capacity last year.
As it developed a site construction plan using a combination of retrofits and new construction, the CoreSite team sought to maximize the data center capacity on the 22-acre property.
“There was a space between buildings that was too tight to be a data center,” said Sall. “Because there’s so much infrastructure (planned for the site), we thought it was a good idea to use what would have been dead space instead of having equipment occupying what would have been leased space.”
The dedicated building for power and cooling gear is a departure from standard data center design, where this equipment is housed in the same building as the data halls, usually in separate power rooms and cooling plants. Cooling towers are often located in equipment yards at the side or rear of the building.
In Reston, CoreSite sought to make the most of a compact property in a market where capacity maters. The answer was the four-story infrastructure tower. It sits between two data center buildings, with chillers and cooling equipment on the ground floor, UPS (uninterruptible power supply) systems and electrical switchgear spread across the second and third floors, and cooling towers on the fourth story.
“There’s not a lot of real estate outside the buildings,” said Sall. “There’s a small equipment yard for distribution equipment, but not enough room on the property for generator plants or chiller plants. By centralizing the infrastructure, we’re keeping the cabling runs short.”
Designing for Future Growth
The 77,000 square foot infrastructure tower abuts a three-story building that will house 12 megawatts of data center capacity, with data halls on the first two floors, and backup generators on the third floor. One floor houses VA3 Phase 1B, which offers 6 megawatts and 40,000 square feet of space, and will be completed this month. The other floor is pre-wired and plumbed for an additional 6 megawatts of capacity based upon demand.
The central plant on the bottom floor of the infrastructure tower supports 12 1,500-ton chillers, which feed a centralized network of cooling loops, with separate loops for each building. The cooling system is supported by a 380,000-gallon underground water storage tank, which stores rainwater as well as being tied to the local water utility. CoreSite has already laid the 24-inch underground feeders for both buildings, enabling it to deploy space quickly as demand dictates.
“This also allows us to deploy phase 2 more quickly,” said Sall.
Phase 1 of the VA3 campus can support up to 24 megawatts, with phase 2 slated for a potential 27 additional megawatts. The campus currently includes several office buildings that are holdovers from the Sunrise Technology Park. CoreSite’s long-term site plan includes converting that space to data center use.
In the short term, the progress on VA3 provides CoreSite with needed capacity in the world’s most competitive data center market. It’s good to have capacity, but CoreSite is also seeking the right anchor tenant for its interconnection-focused ecosystem in Reston.
“The VA3 campus is off and running and to a good start,” said Steve Smith, Chief Revenue Officer at CoreSite, in last week’s earnings call. “We continue to see a robust pipeline there and are having active conversations with customers. We are disciplined on how we approach these larger leases to ensure that they either contribute to or value our ecosystem, and are also a good return for our investors. So, it’s a balance of all those things to ensure it’s a good fit.”