M+W Group is a leading, global data center provider, different from the rest because the team designs, constructs, and commissions all under one roof. M+W Group focuses on serving the needs of cloud, colocation, enterprise, high performance compute, and edge clients.
M+W is dedicated to delivering facilities that meet current and future requirements through a collaborative turn-key approach. This approach reduces M+W clients’ costs and schedule risk, increases reliability, and improves resiliency. The bottom line is a fully optimized facility and increased savings throughout the facility life cycle.
Since starting operations in 1912 M+W currently has offices in more than 30 countries around the world. The group is one of the largest EPC solar contractors, and it is still expanding. Ron Vokoun, Director of Data Center Construction Management, explains: "Given our global relationships with a variety of clients, the market growth and viability in general, we decided approximately nine months ago to develop our center of excellence for the world here in the US. We're one of the largest, most innovative, and trusted design builders of data centers across the globe."
Using research done by the Uptime Institute and Green Grid among others, sustainability is a very big part of the company's culture. Rob Sty, Director of Data Center Design, explains: "Data centers are huge energy hogs. We know that from a professional responsibility standpoint we need to design facilities that are energy and water-efficient.
"Every time we go in with a client we sit down and discuss what their goals are," Sty says. "If they don't mention energy efficiency we bring it up and show them the benefits. Not only for operational expenses, but also that it's a good thing to do. Rarely have clients pushed back, they usually understand."
The sites use water and outside air for cooling directly into the cabinets, so the compressor can be turned off, saving huge amounts of energy as well as in cost. During the construction process as much waste as possible is recycled, and materials are sourced locally to further enhance the sustainability aspect.
It is an issue customers are increasingly considering too. "The brand value of sustainability is something you can't overlook," Vokoun says. "In the last several years Greenpeace has been doing name and shame campaigns in the data center market. The biggest names in the industry now use 100% renewable energy. They're setting the stage for the whole industry, sourcing energy, energy efficiency, and everything that really matters from that standpoint."
One of M+W's most important partners is Infrastructure Masons, a trade organization founded in 2016 that focuses on helping and developing individuals in the data center market. Sty explains how important this aim has become: "Partly because of the recession we had a few years ago, there are fewer and fewer architects and engineers coming out of school and going into the industry. As the baby boomer generation starts to retire we're losing an extremely valuable knowledge base.
"What Infrastructure Masons provides is mentorship and discussion on leading edge best practices, where teams and competitors come in with a group of clients and discuss the ways to enhance our trades and skills, and benefit the industry."
M+W has won several awards for its operations around the world, including the British Construction Industry Award for high international standards of engineering and construction, the Workplace Safety and Health Award in Singapore, and the US Occupational Safety and Health Recognition for National Safety Stand Down.
Health and safety recognitions are paramount to the business, and are embedded into the company's culture, to the point where staff meetings begin with briefings about best health and safety practices as frequent reminders to all employees.
A major differentiator between M+W and its competitors is having design, construction and commissioning all under one roof. Another key factor is how preconstruction is addressed. Jim McCarthy, Director of Preconstruction, explains: "We believe the success of any project is directly related to the amount of effort you put into preconstruction. We're especially passionate about that."
Sty adds that construction as a whole has not taken advantage of big data, until now. The Internet of Things (IoT) is something the data center industry should adopt, because of the amount of information it makes it possible to collect. It will enable the company's different departments to communicate seamlessly with each other, collecting data from the various offices, operations, vendors, and subcontractors.
Sty explains: "From the design process to the creation of models, to predicting energy usage and efficiency, once the buildings start operating towards moving into occupancy, data is collected to put into the models, and enables us to see whether the predictions were accurate, particularly in terms of the mission critical 24-7 facilities.
"Then we can start noticing trends that would lead to the predictability of failure. It becomes a circle of design, construction and operations, which then influences the next design project.”
Essentially the idea behind it is that every action creates data. Sty continues: "In the construction environment it's about how we're bringing the project to life, executing its delivery and how it lives and breathes. We will become increasingly more active about participating in data collection and creating knowledge with the data we create, becoming better and better.
"The IoT, the question of data and how it ties into safety on the job is already happening, and we're going to see it even more. Everything is hugely connected. Virtual construction is here for sure.”
"The cloud is really the nervous system of the planet," McCarthy adds. "Helping developing nations develop even faster, that's a lot of fun. When you describe the nature of the internet, the cloud, in general, you're talking about infrastructure that's being developed along with the lines of the electric grid for example. When it's fully developed it will be the biggest connected entity ever built. To be a part of that is really cool."
M=W’s thought leaders inspire the industry to look at things differently instead of enabling the status quo. The data center industry has historically taken an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, resulting in an under-imagined solution. M+W aspires to a higher level of thinking to inspire the next generation of data centers.