New Durham Data Center Wall To Reduce Costs, Increase Efficiency

Feb 08, 2019

Iowa State University’s Durham Data Center is expecting to see significant operational savings moving forward, following recent construction of a new modular wall designed to better control airflow within the facility.  

Every year, the Data Center costs approximately $1 million to operate, with a third of annual funding, $330,000, dedicated to cooling the 11,500 square foot space. Located in the basement of Durham Center, the facility uses 22-ton air conditioners to dissipate the heat produced by over 1,000 computer servers that support central IT services including email and file storage, and high-performance research computing on campus.  

At the end of November 2018, a $30,000 construction project began to build a 10-foot-tall 118-foot-long wall in the Data Center to seal off 3,500 square feet of space and reduce the cost of cooling through better airflow management. The drywall and metal modular wall was finished in about two weeks, and a thermal curtain designed to provide additional airflow control above the wall was installed later. The entire project was completed in early January 2019.  

“Cooling is one of the primary costs of the Durham Data Center,” said Data Center Manager Connor Kuehl. “The new wall will reduce the current cost of cooling and increase the effectiveness of the system we use. What comes out of renovations like this is lowering the facility’s operational cost, making it a more affordable service for campus customers.”

The Durham Data Center's new airflow managing wall while under construction.


With the new wall in place, the Data Center will require fewer air conditioners to maintain a stable 74 degrees around the servers, and 54 degrees in the space under the floorboards. An estimated six percent of the ductwork needed to cool the space will also be eliminated.  

According to Kuehl, the operational cost savings as a result of the new wall and other recent modifications to the Data Center should pay for the wall in less than two years. Future savings will be in the form of utility costs, with less power needed to cool the facility.

“The vision is to closely align the Data Center with commercial sector standards while maintaining a very competitive price,” Kuehl said.   

The newly created space on the opposite side of the wall will be turned into a workshop environment and a staging and reception area for delivered pallets. 

“It just made sense to section that part of the room off from the rest of the Data Center,” said IT Facilities Manager Mark Wyant. “We’re always looking for ways to make the facility run more efficiently and at a lower cost to the university. By cutting down on utilities and increasing efficiency, the university is going to benefit.”