Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Data Center Design: Codes and Standards

Data center is a dedicated space where it houses the most important information and it being safe and accessible. Best practices ensure that you are doing everything possible to keep it that way.

Best practices mean different things to different people and organizations. We are going to focus on the major best practices - codes, design standards, and operational standards -  applicable across all types of data centers, including enterprise, colocation, and internet facilities. We will explore the best practices with respect to facility conceptual design, space planning, building construction, and physical security, as well as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection. Facility operations, maintenance, and procedures will be the final topics for the series.




Following suitable codes and standards would seem to be an obvious direction when designing new or upgrading an existing data center. Data center design and infrastructure standards can range from national codes, like the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), to local codes, like the New York State Energy Conservation Construction Code, and performance standards, like the Uptime Institute’s Tier Standard. Green certifications, such as LEED and Energy Star are also considered but optional.




Codes must be followed when designing, building, and operating your data center, but “code” is the minimum performance requirement to ensure life safety and energy efficiency in most cases. A data center is probably the most expensive facility your company ever builds or operates. Should it have the minimum requirement by code? It is clear from past history that minimum code requirement is not the best practice. Minimum requirement for fire suppression would involve having wet pipe sprinklers in your data center. However, it is definitely not a best practice for your critical facilities.



Major Data Center Standards

The major data center design and infrastructure standards developed for the industry include :-


Uptime Institute’s Tier Standard




This standard develops a performance-based methodology for the data center during the design, construction, and commissioning phases to determine the resiliency of the facility with respect to four Tiers or levels of redundancy/reliability. The Tiers are compared in our previous post below and can be also found in greater definition in the "Tier Classifications Define Site Infrastructure Performance". The origins of the Uptime Institute (UI) as a data center users group established it as the first group to measure and compare a data center’s reliability. It is a for-profit entity that will certify a facility to its standard, for which the standard is often criticized.

(1) Data Center Tier Levels and Uptime
(2) More about Data Center Tier Levels


ANSI/BICSI 002-2014


Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices by BICSI - The standard covers the major aspects of planning, design, construction, and commissioning of the MEP (Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) building trades, as well as fire protection, IT installation and maintenance. It is arranged as a guide for data center design, construction, and operation. Ratings / Reliability is defined by Class 0 to 4 and certified by BICSI-trained and certified professionals.


TIA Standard



Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA) for Data Center Infrastructure Design Standards: This standard is more IT cable and network oriented and has various infrastructure redundancy and reliability concepts based on the Uptime Institute’s Tier Standard. In 2013, Uptime Institute requested that TIA stop using the Tier system to describe reliability levels, and TIA switched to using the word “Rated” instead of “Tiers”, defined as Rated 1-4. TIA uses tables within the standard to easily identify the ratings for telecommunications, architectural, electrical, and mechanical systems.


TIA has a certification system in place with dedicated vendors that can be retained to provide facility certification.


EN 50600 International Standard

The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) develops European standards for electrical engineering. The committee represents the interests of 33 member countries and 13 affiliate member countries for the European marketplace. Their standards pattern with those developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

The New European Standard for Data Center Facilities and Infrastructure Design is the EN 50600-X series. Many aspects of this standard reflect the UI, TIA, and BCSI standards. Facility ratings are based on Availability Classes, from 1 to 4. Approved CENELEC Standards include




EN 50173 series: Information technology - Generic cabling systems

EN 50173-1: General requirements
EN 50173-2: Office premises
EN 50173-3: Industrial premises
EN 50173-4: Homes
EN 50173-5: Data centers
EN 50173-6: Distributed building services

EN 50174 series: Information technology - Cabling installation

EN 50174-1: Installation specification and quality assurance
EN 50174-2: Installation planning and practices inside buildings
EN 50174-3: Installation planning and practices outside buildings
TR 50174-99-1: Remote powering

EN 50600 series: Information technology - Data center facilities and infrastructures design

EN 50600-1: General concepts
EN 50600-2-1: Building construction
EN 50600-2-2: Power distribution
EN 50600-2-3: Environmental control
EN 50600-2-4: Telecommunications cabling infrastructure
EN 50600-2-5: Physical security
EN 50600-3-1: Management and operational information



Regulatory Standards

Government regulations for data centers will depend on the nature of the business and can include HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), SOX (Sarbanes Oxley) 2002, SAS 70 Type I or II, GLBA (Gramm-Leach Bliley Act), as well as new regulations that may be implemented depending on the nature of your business and the present security situation.



Operational Standards

There are also many operational standards to choose from. These are standards that guide your day-to-day processes and procedures once the data center is built:


Uptime Institute : Operational Sustainability (with and without Tier certification)
ISO 9000 – Quality System
ISO 14000 – Environmental Management System
ISO 27001 – Information Security
PCI – Payment Card Industry Security Standard
SOC, SAS70 & ISAE 3402 or SSAE16, FFIEC (USA) – Assurance Controls
AMS-IX – Amsterdam Internet Exchange – Data Center Business Continuity Standard


These standards will also vary based on the nature of the business and include guidelines associated with detailed operations and maintenance procedures for all of the equipment in the data center.



Consistency and Documentation are Key

The nature of your business will determine which standards are appropriate for your facility. If you have multiple facilities across the US, then the US standards may apply. For those with international facilities or a mix of both, an international standard may be more appropriate. The key is to choose a standard and follow it. If deviations are necessary because of site limitations, financial limitations, or availability limitations, they should be documented and accepted by all stakeholders of the facility.

Regardless of the standard followed, documentation and record keeping of your operation and maintenance activities is one of the most important parts of the process. Software management tools such as DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management), CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System), EPMS (Electrical Power Monitoring System), and DMS (Document Management System) for operations and maintenance can provide a “single pane of glass” to view all required procedures, infrastructure assets, maintenance activities, and operational issues.

Your critical facilities must meet the business mission. Data center design, construction, and operational standards should be chosen based on definition of that mission. Not all facilities supporting your specific industry will meet your defined mission, so your facility may not look or operate like another, even in the same industry.



About us


Strategic Media Asia (SMA) is one of the approved CPD course providers of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) UK. The team exists to provide an interactive environment and opportunities for members of ICT industry and facilities' engineers to exchange professional views and experience.

SMA connects IT, Facilities and Design. For the Data Center Design Consideration, please visit 


(1) Site Selection,
(2) Space Planning,
(3) Cooling,
(4) Redundancy,
(5) Fire Suppression,
(6) Meet Me Rooms,
(7) UPS Selection, and
(8) Raised Floor

All topics focus on key components and provide technical advice and recommendations for designing a data center and critical facilities.