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Ask ChatGPT, “How many data centers are there in the world?” and you will find out there were more than 8,000 such facilities as of 2021. Society is in a time where everyone relies on technology—and the computing power required to support it—in order to live and work. The demand on technology appears to be growing exponentially, and that growth will require more and more data centers.

An Increasing Demand for Complex Projects

Ask anyone who has worked on a data-center project and they will tell you that it’s one of the most complex projects to build—right up there with hospitals, pharmaceutical plants and stadiums. Data centers are massive structures with evolving and increasing demands being placed on their facilities.

The data centers being built today are megaprojects. They are multistory structures consisting of thousands of servers and storage units. Managing a data-center project requires intricate design and meticulous planning to ensure that everything is built to plan, on schedule and within budget. Delays in getting data centers online on time can cost up to thousands of dollars each day, with experts estimating an average cost of $5,600 per minute of downtime.

Data centers consume a lot of energy, and forward-thinking approaches to environmental concerns require new and intricate designs in advanced cooling technologies, energy-efficient hardware and renewable energy integration. All of these components further complicate data-center construction. 

As the demand for additional data centers continues to rise, the next challenge will be to build a more—and more complex—data centers with while increasing the efficiency and output of the construction process.

Managing Complexity with Augmented Reality

Mission-critical projects like data centers are helping drive technology adoption and innovation in the construction industry. As budgets increase and projects become more complex to build, there’s a clear need and big opportunity for new technology to help meet the demands of advancing construction.

The construction industry has become accustomed to relying on 2D drawings to build 3D structures, and the reliance has negatively impacted project budgets and schedules. Despite the fact that millions of dollars are invested into the creation of a 3D model to coordinate the pre-construction phase of data centers, there’s a sizable gap between that creation and getting 3D models into the hands of the builders.

Companies are working toward closing that gap by providing builders with a way to accurately build from holograms of 3D models—moving away from a reliance on 2D drawings and toward a future where accuracy is everything. Research from McKinsey has revealed that 98% of megaprojects suffer cost overruns of more than 30% and that 77% are at least 40% late. Research from XYZ Reality showed that 99% of projects are delivered past their originally scheduled delivery dates.

What if you could build a complex project right, the first time, without any errors? The ability to visualize holograms of 3D models to millimeter accuracy enables all stakeholders on a megaproject to get closer to the build process and correct potential mistakes before they happen and before the cost has been incurred.

Today we’re seeing construction teams and data-center clients use augmented reality technology to identify errors before they become costly. Take Georg Fischer for example. While working on a hyperscale data-center project, the team at GF was able to bring the site concept to its fabrication facility through the use of AR technology. This allowed GF to fabricate the data center’s plant rooms to their exact specifications, show the work to their client and have complete confidence that the work was done right before shipping it out to the site to be installed. As of today, the largest developers of data centers have implemented AR on projects totaling over $9 billion.

While AR has had a positive impact on large-scale projects like data centers, the day where all stakeholders in construction move beyond 2D drawings and use AR on every project is not far away.

As data continues to play a pivotal role in the digital age, the construction of data centers will remain a challenging yet vital endeavor to support the world's evolving technological landscape. The technology adopted by innovative builders and owners during this current moment in time will push the construction industry forward.


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