The economic crisis has an upside for owners of mission-critical facilities: On average, it currently costs less to construct a new data center than it did in late 2007, according to a study conducted by Environmental Systems Design (ESD).

In the current economy, owners are likely to save significantly on labor, data-center equipment, building materials, and building-material/equipment transportation. Most notably, ESD found that feeder and cable prices have dropped by more than half, major data-center equipment by 12 percent, labor and materials by 19.6 percent overall, and shipping and handling by 15 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to July 15, 2009.

“Our analysis shows that for any company anticipating the need to build or expand a data center there is currently a window of opportunity to realize considerable savings,” Raj Gupta, president and chief executive officer of ESD, said.

ESD compared live project estimates, using as a baseline contractor bids for a 60,000-sq-ft greenfield data center comprising 20,000 sq ft of raised-access-floor area at 150 w per square foot and 10,000 sq ft of office space, with the following criteria for uptime and redundancy: Uptime Tier III for most components, 2N infrastructure for concurrently maintainable operation, dual utility, N+1 generator installation, a 2N centrifugal chiller system, and standard computer-room-air-conditioning- (CRAC-) unit installation.

During the study period, ESD observed significant reductions in the costs of copper cabling (55 percent); feeder, both overall (55 percent) and for copper (48 percent); copper-based utility transformers (19 percent); and steel joists (18 percent).

In contrast, ESD found that the price of uninterruptible-power-supply (UPS) systems, HVAC equipment (e.g., CRAC units and chillers), and pre-case tilt-up concrete building systems are stable and the market for medium-voltage switchgear remains competitive, although prices have dropped slightly (4 percent).

Similarly, the study showed that prices of other equipment have remained stable, while delivery schedules have changed significantly. For example, battery prices fell slightly (3 percent), but delivery schedules remain long. The price of generators has fallen only moderately (8 to 12 percent), but delivery schedules are significantly shorter (40 percent).

The estimates are based on historical data, which are updated continuously based on actual bids on data-center infrastructure equipment. ESD records historical trends for large equipment purchases (generators, UPS systems, switchgear, chillers, etc.), labor costs, and delivery schedules. In addition, the company considers geographical markets for construction materials and labor using figures from RS Means and other industry benchmarks. Since September 2008, ESD has monitored the pricing and delivery of major data center infrastructure components closely in recognition of the need for possible reductions because of the economy.