The 4 most complex weathering details for data centres

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When it comes to data centres, continuity is key – they need to keep running no matter what’s happening outside. Heavy snow, heatwaves, driving rain or hurricane-force winds, it doesn’t matter: data centres can’t stop, or the results could be terrible for the businesses and services that rely on them. That’s why ensuring reliable and durable weathering for data centres is so important.

So, what needs to be done to keep the British weather outside so the servers inside can keep running? Let’s look at the four most complex waterproofing details for data centres.

Weatherproofing of vertical penetrations installed on a data centre
Weatherproofing of external cable trays installed on a data centre
Weatherproofing of cable trays installed on data centre
Weatherproofing of external structure installed on data centre

1. Roof penetrations for cable trays

Between electrical distribution and data, there are a lot of wires and cables that go into and come out of a data centre. These are typically run on cable trays and often enter the building through a roof penetration.

Due to the open nature of them, weatherproofing cable trays can be tricky. It usually requires a combination of upstands and access risers, along with careful waterproofing and expert knowledge to ensure that wind uplift does not become a problem.

2. Vertical wall penetrations for cable trays

If the cable trays don’t enter the building through the roof, they probably enter through a vertical wall penetration. As mentioned above, weatherproofing cable trays is difficult, since the trays are open and the bundles of cables they hold can be oddly shaped.

Depending on project requirements, the penetration can be protected using weatherstop units – these are box-like structures on the outside of the building that create a protected entrance for the cable trays. In other situations, a weatherproof seal may be applied to the area around the cables to prevent any rain or wind ingress.

3. Service risers for HVAC equipment

Cooling and climate control are hugely important for data centres – all those servers are pumping out a lot of heat and keeping everything cool requires a lot of HVAC equipment and ductwork, as well as ventilation terminals. That equipment is typically found on the data centre roof, using service risers to connect them to the building below.

HVAC plant for data centres is usually very large and heavy, so the roof penetrations will need to be structurally sound. Custom-made upstands can provide support and improve drainage around the machinery. Reliable seals around the ductwork and vents are also essential to prevent leaks or potential damage caused by rainwater ingress or heavy winds.

Safe access to the HVAC must also be carefully considered, and any weatherproofing should be durable enough to withstand foot traffic.

4. Roof access hatches

Speaking of access, roof access hatches are another important area of consideration for data centre weatherproofing. These hatches make it easy for workers to access the roof, either to attend to the HVAC equipment and other machinery found up there, or to carry out other maintenance.

The complex detailing around access hatches typically involves an upstand for structural support, as well as weatherproofing where the upstand and roof surface come together. The roof access hatch must also be structurally sound and reliable, as workers will be passing through it, with the added hazard of them working at height. This means that the overall structure and its weatherproofing should be free from trip hazards, and, again, capable of withstanding foot traffic.

Complex detailing for data centres: Jones and Woolman UK

At Jones and Woolman UK, our team has extensive experience in carrying out all sorts of building penetration and roof weatherproofing projects, including several data centres. We can provide a comprehensive range of services, from site surveys to design, build, installation and maintenance, and we can also carry out commercial roof repairs where required.

To learn more about complex detailing for data centres, and how we can help ensure your facility is fully weatherproofed, please get in touch here or call us on 01922 712111.

Why is effective weatherproofing crucial for cable tray installation?

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In today’s highly connected and electrified world, cable trays play a hugely important role in how we power our buildings and share information, so protecting them with effective weatherproofing is key to mitigating risk and keeping operations running smoothly.

What is a cable tray?

From data centres to factories, shopping centres to office buildings, cable trays are everywhere. Often, they go unnoticed, but as soon as you start looking for them, cable trays are easy to spot on the walls and roofs of buildings. They are also likely to be hidden from view, weaving their ways through interior walls and roof spaces.

Cable trays are support systems, creating a rigid route for cables and wires to travel from one point to another. As an alternative to conduits, cable trays are preferable as their open nature makes it easier to change wiring or install new cables, as they can simply be laid in place, rather than fed through conduit pipes. However, this can also pose a challenge for weatherproofing.

Weatherproofing cable trays

The point where cable trays enter a building can be vulnerable to wind and rainwater ingress, so careful planning and effective weatherproofing of the building penetration are critical.

The effective weatherproofing of cable trays helps to keep weather out, preventing damage to the building envelope, avoiding thermal breaks, maintaining the indoor environment and helping to keep the various cables and wires protected. It can also help to keep out birds, rodents and insects. Fire safety and the preservation of fire walls are also important considerations.

The best method for weatherproofing cable trays will depend on whether the cables are entering the building through a vertical wall penetration or a roof penetration. Other factors such as how the building is constructed, exposure, and how many cables there are. Aesthetics may also play a role in determining the best solution.

In vertical wall penetrations, weatherproofing cable trays is often carried out using a weatherstop sealing system. From the outside, this looks like ductwork or a series of boxes attached to the side of the building. These create a sealed entrance for the cables to make their way inside, and must be carefully weatherproofed. In some cases, sealants such as GRP weathering systems may be used, enabling a cable tray to penetrate a wall without ductwork or other protective structures.

For roof penetrations, service risers are used to ensure a weatherproof seal around cable trays as they enter the building. As well as being waterproof and windproof, these must also be structurally sound. Upstands and other supporting structures may be used, along with products such as GRP sealants, to create a suitable solution.

Cable tray weatherproofing from Jones and Woolman UK

With so much to think about when weatherproofing cable trays, it’s easy to see the benefits of getting expert help when dealing with cable trays and building penetrations.

With more than 40 years of experience, Jones and Woolman UK have extensive experience in weatherproofing roof and wall penetrations. We offer a complete range of services from design and installation through to maintenance, and have worked on a wide range of projects including data centres, offices, shopping centres, airports and factories.

Our GRP weathering system comprises a fibre-reinforced, cold-applied liquid that can be used with any type of cladding and single-ply membrane roofs. The system is versatile and reliable; it can be adjusted to suit penetrations of any size or shape, and it can also be tinted to match the rest of the building design.

To find out more, visit our dedicated page about data centre weatherproofing. You can also contact us to discuss your project in more detail – or call 01922 712111.

What is a cable tray?

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A cable tray is a support system that creates a rigid structure for wires and cables to travel along. An alternative to open wiring or electrical conduit systems, cable trays are easy to install and maintain. Their open designs also make it simple for new cables to be added or for wiring to be changed since the new cables can simply be laid in the trays, rather than fed through conduit pipes.

Cable trays are often used on external walls and roofs, before cables enter the building through a roof penetration or vertical wall penetration – and effective weatherproofing of cable trays is critical to prevent wind or rainwater ingress. They may also be found within ceilings and internal walls, under floors, and they may also be used to support wires and cables as they cross open spans.

Typical uses include supporting electrical distribution cables, control and signal instrumentation and data and telecommunications cables, including both copper and fibre-optic cables. Cable trays are found in all types of buildings, including commercial, office, and retail spaces, as well as factories, schools, hospitals, and leisure facilities. They are also extremely important for data centres, as these applications rely so heavily on the electricity supplies and data that flow through the cables that enter the buildings.

Many different types of cable trays are available. GRP cable trays are a popular choice due to being non-metallic, lightweight, and easy to install. Metallic cable trays are also commonly found; these are usually made from galvanised steel, stainless steel, or aluminium.

Various designs and formats are also available, including channel-type, single rail, ladder-type, trough-type, and mesh/basket types. The right choice will depend on project requirements and client preferences.

As experts in custom GRP mouldings and weatherproofing, we can provide a complete service for all your cable tray and building penetration requirements. You can find out more by visiting our data centre solutions page, or submit an enquiry through the get help with your project form.