Organizations should build their data centers to meet design codes to ensure they’re safe, efficient, reliable, and secure.

Key takeaways

  • Data centers are vital to an organization’s digital infrastructure.
  • All data centers should meet NFPA standards.
  • ANSI/TIA-942, ASHRAE, and Uptime Institute standards are also recommended.
  • These benchmarks ensure your data center remains available and secure.

As companies of all sizes increasingly rely on digital services, the need for data centers is progressing. These centers are essential to digital infrastructure; they host storage systems, servers, routers, and computing equipment organizations use daily and ensure employees can access vital information.

In today’s business climate, constructing scalable data centers is vital. You never know how much your digital needs will evolve. Adhere to at least one set of design standards; it improves uptime and efficiency while minimizing organizational risks. Following data center design standards isn’t mandatory, but you could create problems if you ignore them. Here are examples of data center construction standards, with information about their importance to your organization’s digital infrastructure.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA codes are standards your data center must follow because they minimize fire risks within your building. These standards focus on electrical installations throughout the facility, ensuring they meet NFPA standards. The NFPA continually updates its guidance to reflect evolving technologies. Stay current on the latest guidelines as you expand data centers. Failure to follow these standards could put your facility at risk and lead to significant future data loss.


TIA-942 is a standard specific to data centers’ electrical, cooling, cabling, security, and safety systems. It also covers the room’s architecture, environmental design, pathways, and redundancies, ensuring the space is as safe and efficient as possible. 

TIA-942 ranks data center ratings from 1 to 4: 

  • A Rated-1 data center is the weakest; it won’t have any redundancies and offers limited protection from physical damage. It also operates using single-capacity components. 
  • A Rated-2 data center will have some redundancies, but its distribution path is nonredundant.
  • A Rated-3 data center has redundant distribution and multiple forms of physical security. 
  • A Rated-4 data center, the highest standard, features active redundant distribution and protection against nearly any disruptive event imaginable. 

Building a Rated-4 data center ensures your electrical systems are protected, and the data center isn’t a single event away from destruction.

American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

The ASHRAE standard applies to data center heating, cooling, and refrigeration methods. Keeping your data center cool is essential; computer equipment operates continually and will overheat if poorly designed. You’ll also want to keep the room humidity’s at recommended settings.

Following these ASHRAE guidelines ensures best practices when installing HVAC systems, mini-splits, and chillers in your office building. These standards apply to the installation of cooling devices, including the electrical components that accompany them. The result is an efficient and reliable system that saves money on energy costs, keeps the room cool, and improves overall air quality. 

Uptime Institute

One of the best-known sets of data center standards comes from the Uptime Institute. Like TIA-942, the Uptime Institute can give your data center four different ratings depending on the infrastructure in place. 

Tier 1 data centers have a basic capacity and can support the IT department in an office building. The requirements for a Tier 1 data center include:

  • An uninterruptible power supply
  • A dedicated IT-system area
  • Reliable cooling equipment that runs outside of business hours
  • An engine generator

Tier 2 facilities have additional components that create redundancies within the systems. These items include energy storage, chillers, cooling units, pumps, heat-rejection equipment, fuel tanks, and fuel cells. You can also remove components within a Tier 2 data center without a system shutdown.

A Tier 3 data center has more redundancies than Tier 2; the main difference is the ability to maintain or replace components without shutting it down. This creates fewer disruptions from planned or unplanned events.

Tier 4, the gold standard, adds fault tolerance to Tier 3 standards. Even if there is an interruption in the distribution path, a Tier 4 data center’s IT equipment will continue working. Continual cooling is also necessary to receive Tier 4 certification.

The risks of ignoring these design codes

These data center design standards ensure that organizational IT departments can limit the problems they experience. While following these codes isn’t mandatory, you could experience significant issues with your data center operations if you don’t follow them: increased downtime, security risks, and equipment damage. 

These construction standards for data centers also ensure your IT room is up to code. For example, the National Electrical Code (NEC) has minimum requirements all installations must meet. These standards go beyond those mandates when ensuring safety. 

Meeting your data center needs

Speak with contractors about the design center standards they follow before data center construction to ensure the best outcome. Confirm any electrical contractor you hire understands the importance of maximizing efficiency and safety through these guidelines.

Universal Electrical offers commercial electrical installations and maintenance in South Florida. We can assist with your data center’s construction, ensuring all electrical components are up to code and meet your desired standards. Contact Universal Electrical today to learn more about our data center services.