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Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Data Center Improvements

Comprehensive engineering analysis provides solutions for resolving HVAC and electrical issues.
  • Rows of data center equipment racks on top of tile floors with air circulation vents - Gannett Fleming.

    Vents in the floor plenum circulate cool air around the data center equipment racks.

  • Thermal imaging scan of data center equipment cabinets using colors to represent temperature differences - Gannett Fleming.

    An infrared thermograph shows the differences in air temperature surrounding the computer equipment cabinets.

  • New ductwork between the cooling unit and the ceiling - Gannett Fleming.

    New return air ductwork from the ceiling plenum to the cooling unit improves air flow and system efficiency.

  • One-story brown brick building with no walls and a single door - Gannett Fleming.

    A thermal scan checked for radiant energy differences across the facility’s exterior brick walls.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Princeton, New Jersey

Our Role
Mechanical, Electrical

10,000 sq. feet
Construction Cost
6 months
  • A detailed report identified the root causes of HVAC and electrical problems
  • Engineers provided cost-effective solutions to address short- and long-term facility needs
  • Modifications to the HVAC system resolved cooling issues and made existing systems more efficient.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) facility in Princeton, New Jersey, was experiencing problems with temperature regulation, humidity control, and the electrical systems serving its data center. After computer systems were upgraded, electrical loads increased by approximately 300 kilovolt-amperes, causing temperatures to rise and triggering automatic shutdowns of equipment. Gannett Fleming mechanical and electrical engineers were engaged to evaluate the facility's systems and find solutions. 

The team conducted a detailed survey of the building and held meetings with facility personnel to identify problems and assess future needs. Investigations included air flow, temperature and humidity measurements, and infrared thermography to identify cooling short-circuiting. Engineers prepared a detailed report that identified root causes of the HVAC and electrical shortcomings and provided short and long term solutions that would be least disruptive to the center’s operations. The team implemented a cost-effective short term strategy that helped NOAA to use its existing cooling capacity more efficiently to better control temperature and humidity levels within the computer room.

What We Did

Mechanical engineers used infrared technology to measure the air temperatures surrounding the IT equipment. They identified uncontrolled supply air distribution points and determined that the existing configuration of vents in the floor plenum was resulting in a detrimental mixing of hot and cool air. The team modified ductwork and provided new air returns in the ceiling plenum to circulate the rising hot air back into the computer room air handling units. This created better air flow and allowed the air to be cooled more efficiently before returning through the floor vents to the cold aisles of the data center. 

Electrical engineers carefully analyzed electrical loads and the existing power distribution system to assess its ability to support current equipment demands and planned upgrades. Electrical recommendations included reducing the load on the transformer by moving the power source for the computer room to the main building and adding monitoring systems for each of the unit substations. Long-term solutions included installing a new unit substation, improvements to the UPS system, and the addition of an emergency generator.

Key Features

  • An infrared thermographic scan identified temperature differences and areas of suspected air infiltration/exfiltration
  • Engineers provided recommend ways to improve the efficiency of the existing chilled water piping system
  • The study identified solutions for meeting long-term power demands as new equipment is added.

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