Answer

What factors into a typical data center construction costs?

What goes into a typical data center build cost? For example, what percentage of data center construction costs are for the shell, fit-up, mechanical, electrical, etc.? Is there a simple formula or a simple percentage breakout that is industry accepted?

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The majority of a data center construction budget is still the power and cooling. Even if you are located where you can take advantage of year-round free cooling, these will still be your biggest capital items. The Uptime Institute published an excellent paper on this in 2010, which is available to subscribers on their website; anything from the Uptime Institute has a pretty high level of industry credibility. 

Their guideline gives you a formula for calculating cost in two parts: the size of your data center for core and shell construction; and a cost per kilowatt of backup power.

The cost per kilowatt is given for each Uptime Tier Level that takes into account the redundancy that each increased level of reliability requires. If you are in higher cost cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or San Francisco, you will need to add a factor for costs in those major cities. Gartner later suggested that costs had risen about 10% since the Uptime paper was published. But in today's economy, depending on your location, you may even get by for less than the original Uptime figures.

The important thing when developing a data center project budget is that it not be too low, and that it is defensible. The Uptime Institute approach will accomplish that for you. Getting a more accurate figure will require an actual design and the services of an experienced cost estimator.

This was first published in April 2013

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