Upgrading a Landmark Data Center Hub

60 Hudson Street, which has a grand history as a cornerstone in the development of America's communications infrastructure, is undergoing a complex upgrade of its power and cooling infrastructure to expand the data center space in the building.

Rich Miller

January 24, 2012

4 Min Read
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The entrance to 60 Hudson Street, the Manhattan data center hub that previously served as the headquarters for Western Union. (Source: 60 Hudson)

How do you expand the power and cooling capacity for an 80-year-old building with historic landmark status and limited roof space, located in the middle of a noise-sensitive neighborhood in the middle of New York City? All those challenges come together at one of the most familiar addresses in the telecom industry - 60 Hudson Street.

So how does a building like 60 Hudson, which has a grand history as a cornerstone in the development of America's communications infrastructure, remain relevant as the data center world shifts to high-density server deployments? That was the question facing Peter Feldman, CEO of DataGryd, as the company occupied four floors of space in the 23-story building (see DataGryd: Major New Player at 60 Hudson Street).

“One of the main problems with 60 Hudson is that it's an 80-year-old building," said Feldman. "It wasn't designed for the (computing) workloads we see today. This became the ‘ship in the bottle’ problem - how to get the infrastructure into the building. We had to change the guts. I started with my engineers, as we had to redesign the structure of the space."

Expanding A Complex Ecosystem

The historic art-deco facade of the former Western Union headquarters will remain unaltered. But behind the walls, there are major changes underway to the building's mechanical systems, which will allow 60 Hudson to add 240,000 square feet of high-density data center space on floors that previously housed offices.

The DataGryd team worked with the owners of 60 Hudson Street to develop a plan that will expand the power and cooling capacity of the building without disturbing the current tenants - many of whom run mission-critical data center and telecom operations - or the building's TriBeca neighborhood, where residents have complained about noise from generators and other mechanical equipment.

Feldman has experience in both the data center and energy industries. He was a co-founder of Telx, which operates a major interconnection facility at 60 Hudson, and has also worked with cogeneration technologies. He said the choices for expanding the building's power included three options - microturbines, large-scale fuel cells, or full-size turbines. After an extensive engineering review, the answer was full-size turbines.

The transformation has four major components:

  • The addition of a combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) system featuring Caterpillar turbines, which burn natural gas and generate electricity. The turbines will be installed on the newly-reinforced top floor of  the building, immediately below the roof.  Each turbine will generate 4.5 megawatts of medium-voltage (13,800V) power, as well as 900 degree exhaust  that can be captured and used to power the cooling system (via an absorption chiller providing 1500 tons of chilled water capacity) and assist in heating the building. The turbines were the only cogeneration solution that provided the necessary capacity and performance, and could run quietly enough to not disturb the building's neighbors.

  • Installing multiple 3-megawatt diesel backup generators in a sub-basement of the building, which currently houses boilers that burn No. 6 heating oil. The use of No. 6 heating oil is being phased out by the city. The storage tanks used for heating oil will be repurposed to hold diesel fuel. The big challenge: the new generators will need to be disassembled, lowered into the sub-basement in pieces, and then reassembled.

  • The creation of a microgrid, managed by primary power bus fed by the turbines, generators and the Con Edison utility feed. This design allows any of the the systems to carry the load for DataGryd customers in a failover scenario. "It is designed like a utility grade grid," said Feldman. "In my configuration, we have three sets of primary power (the utility grade, Caterpillar generators, diesel backup generators ). Any one piece can take over from another piece at any time. "

  • The installation of modular cooling towers on the roof, which will support 8,500 tons of condenser water.  “We are restructuring some of the steel of the building, and making a stronger roof.”

DataGryd has been working on the solution for two years, since the NY Department of Corrections would vacate floors 5 through 8 of the building. DataGryd is in the final stages of lining up permits for the work in the sub-basements.  Work will commence as soon as the permits are issued. The cogeneration plant is currently in the approval stage, and DataGryd estimates it will be 12 to 14 months before the turbines are installed and operational. In the meantime, initial tenants will be supported by utility power.

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