What are the costs associated with the additional square footage necessary to maintain an on-site data center?




The short answer is it will cost around $1,200 per square foot to build out additional data center or data closet – though the cost will vary based on equipment and security features implemented. The final figure will depend on the specified fault tolerance and power and cooling capacity of the data center.

In real estate, they say price is determined by location, location, location. A building located in downtown San Francisco is worth many times more than one in rural Kansas. For data centers, cost is determined by the installed electrical and mechanical systems. Well, this may not be as catchy as the real estate phrase, but it is just as true.

Actual building space is a small part of data center costs. Electrical and mechanical systems, including power distribution and cooling, represent about 70% of the construction cost. Since data centers consume 100 to 200 times as much power as typical office spaces, they require significant infrastructure to deliver power and remove the heat.

The other factor is availability. Data centers are rated Tier I, II, III or IV according to the level of built-in redundancy and expected availability. Tier 1 provides a single path for power and cooling distribution, no redundant components and 99.671% availability or 28.8 hours of downtime per year. Tiers II, III and IV offer increasing of redundancy and uptime. At the high end, Tier IV provides multiple, active power and cooling paths, redundant components, fault tolerance and 99.995% availability or less than a half hour of annual downtime.

However, availability comes at a price. Tier IV infrastructure costs more than twice as much as Tier 1.

Start by specifying data center racks, power capacity and availability

Rather than specifying square footage, begin the cost analysis for your data center design by specifying the number of racks or cabinets, power capacity/density per rack and the Tier level. The rack quantity will be based on the number of servers and other IT equipment you want to host. Power density is typically 5 or 10 kW per rack, depending on equipment hosted. The amount of floor space and overall construction costs will flow out of these specifications.

Note that a standard 42U rack consumes about 8 square feet of floor space. As a rule of thumb, the total space rises to 42 square feet per rack after accounting for hot/cold aisles, access corridors, and power and cooling systems.

Data center build costs include:

  • Engineering design, permitting and installation labor
  • HVAC systems
  • Power distribution units and switchgear
  • UPS (N+1)
  • Backup generator
  • Fire suppression systems
  • Building floor space

Data center operating costs include:

  • Utility electricity
  • Facility and system maintenance
  • IT staff

Use guidelines from the Uptime Institute for a rough cost estimate

Once you have a Tier designation and a figure for the total power capacity, you can generate a “back-of-the-envelope” cost estimate using guidelines provided by the Uptime Institute.

Cost per kW of redundant UPS capacity for IT:

  • Tier I - $11,500
  • Tier II - $12,500
  • Tier III - $23,000
  • Tier IV - $25,000

COST ESTIMATE = (Total power capacity x Tier cost/kW) + (Computer room square footage x $300/square feet)

If you decide to pursue a data center build-out, we recommend conducting a detailed design and cost analysis. Professional design consultants can assist with this effort.

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