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Photos: The building of a data centre

Mega-volt sub stations and room-sized cooling pumps
By Nick Heath, Contributor
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Mega-volt sub stations and room-sized cooling pumps

As the beating heart of business, data centres store and process the information that keeps UK Plc afloat.

At a secret location north of London, telecommunications company Colt lifted the lid on what it takes to build these powerhouses of industry.

The former supermarket warehouse is being fitted with a double-skin and will house eight data halls inside its cavernous 8,600 square metre interior.

The first two data halls, seen here, will be complete in September, its quick-build modular design allows it to be complete in just months.

Photo credit: Nick Heath



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The two data halls being built fill just a quarter of the available space.

A further six data halls will be built as Colt wins new contracts.

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Energy supplier EDF is building the on-site sub-station, seen here.

The site is plugged into the 'super grid', the base level of the national power grid and during shortages is given the same power priority as a hospital.

Power is channelled through two HV mains feeds to provide back-up in case one goes down.

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If power fails then each pair of data halls will be fed by electricity from a dedicated generators, as seen here.

Space is provided for a total of 16 generators as more data halls are completed inside the building.

To the left of the generator are four chillers that provide the cooling.

The generators are screened by acoustic panelling to stop sound escaping into the surrounding area.

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Here are the under-floor pipes that carry chilled water around the data centre.

The water is pumped into units at the edge of the data halls. The units use the water to cool air that has been warmed by the computers. The cooled air is then pushed back into the data halls through grilles in the floor.

Electronically controlled fans only provide the chilled air to the parts of the data centre that need cooling, reducing energy usage.

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The flow of cold water around the centre will be controlled by this pumping room.

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Special steelwork has been built up from the floor to hang the ceiling of the data halls.

The original warehouse was not built to support the data halls ceiling structure.

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The inside of one of the data halls, with cooling and power distribution units around the edges of the hall and a large space where the racks of computers will eventually go.

Once building work is complete the halls will be hermetically sealed and new flooring will be put in to make sure they remain "as clean as an operating theatre".

The data centre is being used by a large financial company as a backup to its existing IT infrastructure.

Its hardware will be managed and looked after by a mixture of staff employed by the customer and Colt.

Photo credit: Nick Heath



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The centre is fitted with state-of-the-art security and has undergone an array of checks to allow it to process data up to government level.

CCTV cameras are plugged into an intelligent computer system able to recognise and raise alerts about suspicious behaviour such as running or someone fiddling around inside a bag.

Every person entering the centre has an identity check inside its double-gated entrance.

The centre has been sited for maximum peace-of-mind - away from terrorist threats inside the M25, on land that has not flooded in more than 100 years and with neighbours who have been screened for security risk and fire hazards.

The centre is protected by two fire detection systems, the first is an ultra-sensitive system that can pick up on a match being lit and the second is comparable to a home fire detection system that detects heat or smoke.

Once triggered the system will release inert Argon gas that will starve the flames of oxygen and put out the fire.

Photo credit: Colt



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