Flexible Fire Protection serving the Data Centre Industry

Graeme Leonard, EMEA Division Manager for Fire Protection at Victaulic, tells Data Centre Magazine how fire protection can positively impact data centres

Flexible fire protection can help drive the world’s digital future.

According to Graeme Leonard, EMEA Division Manager for Fire Protection at Victaulic, the data centre industry is one of the fastest growing markets for fire protection systems, where ease of installation, consistency of design, reliability and flexibility are all highly prized.

Leonard speaks to Data Centre Magazine about how the data centre industry is growing, some of the challenges in providing the industry with fire protection and how the company’s new systems are working to help continue the rapid growth of data centres.

How does Victaulic serve the data centre industry? 

With more than 5,500 employees and 55 international facilities, Victaulic helps customers in over 140 countries succeed in the global construction industry. Driven by innovation, the company’s portfolio of more than 100,000 products and patented technologies promote freedom of design, safe and efficient job sites, as well as simplified inspection and maintenance for the life of any system. 

“The data centre industry is expanding rapidly and at Victaulic, we play a crucial role in providing fire protection solutions for this dynamic sector,” says Leonard.

“Currently, our systems safeguard over 1,300 exabytes of data, reflecting the industry's colossal growth. Data centres are pivotal for the global economy and our focus on fire protection aligns with the industry's unique design requirements.” 

Can you provide some statistics to illustrate how the data centre industry is growing and its significance?

“The data centre industry, worth US$187bn globally in 2020, is projected to reach US$517bn by 2030. With over 8,000 data centres worldwide, each spanning an average of 100,000 m2, it is evident that this multi-billion-dollar industry is a major player in today's business landscape. 

Indeed, the global data centre market is currently undergoing substantial growth, which is primarily being propelled by the expanding utilisation of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML). With the growth of unique IT infrastructure requirements, increasing numbers of business leaders are hoping to lead in innovating tailored solutions.

Leonard says: “Our fire protection systems are integral to securing these data havens, ensuring their continuous operation.”

What are the unique design requirements and challenges in providing fire protection to data centres, considering the critical role they play in the global economy?  

“Fires in data centres are rare but carry significant consequences. The challenge lies in developing a fire protection system that not only effectively defends against fires but also minimises collateral damage, particularly water damage, which can harm high-value capital equipment,” says Leonard.

“Additionally, fire protection design must account for the densely populated technology, temperature-controlled equipment, and complex cooling systems within data centres.”  

“Data centre owners, often global technology giants, seek standardised and adaptable fire protection solutions to maintain consistency across their operations. They also look for value for money, emphasising the importance of the lowest possible total cost of ownership. 

“Our approach [at Victaulic] is centred around first-class protection, standardisation, and flexibility, ensuring our systems can adapt to evolving data centre architectures.” 

How does Victaulic address the challenge of flexible data centre design, especially considering the long lifespan of data centres and the ever-changing nature of their usage?  

“Flexibility is indeed a crucial factor in designing fire protection for data centres. Our VicFlexTM Style VS1 UL Listed and FM Approved Flexible Dry Pendent sprinkler is one solution that offers the needed adaptability. Designed for the 30-year lifespan of data centres, it enables easier relocation of outlets as building configurations change. 

“Its unique design ensures that as the architecture evolves, our fire protection system can be easily maintained, providing the required flexibility for the industry's dynamic nature.”

In order to meet the challenges posed by the evolving nature of data centre architectures, Victaulic has the VicFlexTM Style VS1 solution - an industry-first flexible dry sprinkler that aims to increase freeze protection and design flexibility.

Speaking on the product, Leonard says: “The VicFlexTM Style VS1 is a UL Listed and FM Approved Flexible Dry Pendent sprinkler designed with the unique needs of data centres in mind. Its innovative braided pipe ensures up to 10 times faster installation compared to alternative threaded black pipe systems. 

“With standard lengths of 38”, 50”, or 58”, each accommodating four 90 degree bends, this solution allows for maximum versatility. Traditionally, data centres faced challenges with rigid, hard pipe drops that required precise measurements and multiple site visits for installation. 

“The VicFlexTM solution eliminates these challenges by offering complete flexibility. Easy installation and adaptability make it an ideal choice for a rapidly changing data centre environment.”  

How will Victaulic solutions evolve as the industry continues to rapidly expand?

Victaulic solutions aim to contribute to standardised and easy-to-instal systems, particularly when it comes to maintaining consistency across its global operations. 

With this in mind, Leonard is keen to emphasise that the data centre industry will continue to grow and embrace the advancement of new technologies, including edge data centres, IoT networks and AI solutions.

He says: “Standardisation is a key advantage offered by Victaulic solutions. The VicFlexTM, being a 'plug and play' solution, ensures design consistency and reliability in installation. Data centre owners, often operating globally, appreciate the ease of accommodating preferred designs across multiple locations. 

“The efficient installation of Victaulic solutions requires less time on-site, aligning with data centre owners' preferences for maintaining commercial privacy.”  

“The data centre industry is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and our solutions at Victaulic are poised to play a critical role. As the industry embraces edge data centres, localised IoT networks, and the increased popularity of AI solutions, the demand for greater flexibility in fire protection systems will only grow. 

“Victaulic is committed to innovating and adapting our solutions to meet these evolving needs, ensuring that our products continue to play a pivotal role in protecting the precious commodity of data.”

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