[bldg-sim] "computer rooms" not what they used to be

Chuck Kollars chuck at ckollars.org
Wed May 10 13:14:05 PDT 2006

It seems to me that HVAC professionals and IT professionals don't at all mean the same thing when they talk about a "computer room." A couple decades ago computer rooms still had interior glassed windows, one locked door, a raised floor, held a "mainframe" computer, and had their own A/C. But computers have gotten a whole lot smaller and "big iron" is rare now.

Nowadays when an elevation plan says "computer room," that room will commonly have few or no windows, no special doors, no hollow floor, hold a whole bunch of "minicomputers" and "PC"s and "network hubs" and "UPS"s on shelves or racks, and rely on the building A/C. Unfortunately the computer equipment still generates a _huge_ amount of heat (even more than the "mainframe" it replaced), which must be carried away (or neutralized) immediately.

Overheated computer equipment becomes unreliable and has its lifespan shortened significantly. But it seldom fails right away, so both HVAC professionals and facility managers can easily be completely unaware of the problem. It's all too common for a computer technician to arrive at the office Monday morning only to find the "computer room" is 115 degrees; costly equipment had its life shortened before anyone even knew there was a problem. There should at minimum be a temperature alarm in the "computer room."

After complaining about the difference between common sense and what building simulation programs recommend, I was told this disconnect is due to "standard ASHRAE methodology" and not a flaw in any particular building simulation tool. I feel it's time for the heating and cooling profession to catch up with the reality of current "computer rooms."

This is just my two cents; what do other people think?
Chuck Kollars - principal Kollars Informatics

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