In the evolving world of data centers, staying ahead of the curve is crucial for success. At this year’s DCD Connect event in London, Steven Marles, the European business development director representing Equans Data Centers, shared his insights on the future of general contracting in data center construction.

The birth of Equans Data Centers, a new brand formed through the collaboration of Bouygues Energies & Services and Equans, heralds a new era of strategic data center partnerships.

The creation of Equans Data Centers

Equans Data Centers aims to deliver full general contracting services for hyperscaler and colocation requirements, bringing in-house build and engineering, global standardization, and precision localisation.

This strategic alliance ensures the highest quality, speed, and scalability in meeting the growing capacity needs of data centers across Europe. Steven Marles is confident that this partnership is poised to thrive, thanks to the shared knowledge and expertise of both companies.

During the event, the spotlight was on ‘General contractors and sustainable construction’, a topic that has garnered increasing attention in the realm of data center construction. DCD’s George Rockett, host of the talk, engaged Steven in a conversation in a session that lasted over 30 minutes, that shed light on the changing landscape of data center project delivery over the past few decades.

Two key elements of change highlighted by Marles are scale and speed. Data centers are expanding, both in size and importance, and speed has become a critical factor in remaining competitive and responsive to market demands.

Marles emphasized the need for general contractors to exert “significant influence early on in a project”, focusing on the betterment of clients and energy efficiency. Challenges may arise, but maintaining quality and speed is essential. We are facing new regulations in energy efficiency and all players in the industry must step up.

Discussing the international scope of data center projects, Marles acknowledged that influences can be location-dependent, making it vital for a partner to guide clients seamlessly through the process. Differences between the American and European approaches, including build preferences, permits, contractual and cost model variations were highlighted as potential challenges for American companies entering the European market.

Sustainability and AI: Can they work in tandem?

One question that looms large is whether sustainability has taken a backseat to the growing AI conversation. The demands of artificial intelligence have led to increased data generation and energy consumption, posing a challenge to energy efficiency efforts.

Data centers will need to adapt to hotter racks, larger spaces, and different cooling methodologies to meet the demand. In this context, Steven stressed the importance of considering the location and impact on local areas.

Future proofing

In the future, Marles anticipates a shift in the data center landscape due to the rise of AI. As AI drives changes in the market data center construction will adapt to new standards. While continuing to build for cloud and enterprise, there is now a need to address the requirements of higher energy-demanding facilities which will also have implications for legacy sites.

Lessons in energy efficiency and the integration of AI advancements will inform data center construction for the next decade. He highlighted efficient technology and liquid cooling as stand-out themes at the DCD>Connect event, emphasising the need to incorporate these innovations into a flexible and a scalable hybrid model. In the fast-evolving world of data centers, adaptability and futureproofing are key.

Repurposing: The sustainable choice

Sustainability remains a paramount concern, and one strategy to address it is the reuse of existing structures. However, repurposing existing buildings comes with challenges, such as limited room heights, column spacing and external footprint availability.

Marles believes that the market will increasingly drive the redevelopment of existing buildings, particularly in populated areas like London and Paris. Repurposing has its place, but it should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Looking ahead to 2024, Marles predicts that it will be another incredibly busy years for data centers, with challenges including AI integration, site selection, talent acquisition, and keeping up with growing demand.

Data center general contractors will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the industry, ensuring that it remains efficient, sustainable, and adaptable to emerging technologies and trends.

In the rapidly evolving world of data centers, it’s clear that sustainability and adaptability are essential for success. With experts like Steven Marles leading the way, the future of data center construction is in capable hands.

To watch the live talk in full and learn more about data center GCs and sustainable construction, click here.