Electrical Engineering
Energy & Sustainability
Mechanical Engineering
Project Size
1,312 sq. ft.
Completion Date
Construction Cost
Client Contact
Mark Klein University of Michigan

The team at IDS has been involved in building data centers for over 20 years. They understand the various challenges inherent in building and maintaining these types of structures in terms of security, redundancy and energy consumption. When the University of Michigan acquired the former Pfizer complex on North Campus and needed a data center, they asked IDS to research the best solution for them.

This was one of the first installations of the Hewlett Packard EcoPOD modular-style data center in the country. IDS Principal-in-Charge Mike Nowicki reflects on this unique opportunity. There is a shift toward efficient and compact data center configuration, he said. This was a project that allowed us to look at the space and operation in an environment that is different for us‚ not bricks and mortar.

The North Campus Research Complex needed a Tier 1 facility that provided cost-effective, high-density research computing. The project included the testing and selection of the final product, the installation of the HP modular unit, new design and construction of a connected warehouse building and the installation of electrical substations. Challenges included extending the utilities under existing wetlands, accommodating freezing temperatures with condensation drainage and creating a weather-tight canopy between the warehouse and the EcoPOD‚ a prefabricated structure designed to stand alone. The design also accommodates anticipated future expansion.

The design team’s thorough understanding of data center energy consumption, including the measurement of how efficiently data centers use energy to operate equipment, proved to be a major benefit to U of M. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers can consume up to 100 times more energy than a standard office building. In 2011, North American data centers showed an average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 2.8 megawatts. Knowing that much of the energy used by traditional data centers is due to cooling systems and redundancy requirements and not from the electricity needed to perform computations, IDS architect David Giroux discusses the efficiency metrics. One of the reasons we went with the modular style for NCRC is the manufacturer’s claim of a PUE of 1.5, he explains. Our goal for this data center is 1.2 and it’s being tested now by the University. If the efficiency metrics are achieved, the University could save up to $50,000 per month in energy savings and provide a new model for IDS to bring to projects in the future!

Project Overview

  • Modular data center installation; new construction of warehouse; utility relocation
  • Connected self-contained unit to new structure; moving utilities under wetlands
  • Cutting-edge manufactured data center design; energy-efficient compact modules assembled onsite
  • PUE testing in-progress with a projected $50,000 per month savings

Project Team

Principal-In-Charge, Electrical Engineer
Project Manager, Project Architect, Construction Administrator
Civil Consultant
Zeimet Wozniak & Associates
Structural Consultant
SDI Structures
Construction Manager
Krull Construction Company