“The data center made great choice in using precast concrete to showcase a big box.”

Debra Kunce


Data Centers

SV5 Data Center

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


As data centers grow in importance, bringing them online quickly can play a key role in their success. Given one year from notice to proceed to occupancy, architects used contrasting colors of architectural precast concrete wall panels to clad the building and provide a distinctive, random-looking exterior.

“The data center made a great choice in using precast concrete to showcase a big box,” says Debra Kunce, a member of the buildings awards jury. “It took precast to a different level by creating different forms and using undulations to really showcase the entry and make it different. It’s more than just a big box.”

The building was designed around prototypical planning modules consisting of a one-story computer room, two-story electrical-equipment bar and a series of offices. The precast concrete panels provide durability and the hardened shell required by these high-security facilities.

Two types of panels were used to achieve the distinctive contrasting pattern. Eight × 52 ft  (2.4 × 16 m) tall panels featured formliner finishes, while 10 × 35 ft (3 × 11 m) panels had a solid black integrally colored finish. Panels were 7 or 8.5 in. (180 or 220 mm) thick.

The panels were cast at two plants, with each plant casting one type of panel. The gray form finish and black light-medium sandblast panels required close attention to quality control to ensure uniformity. Metakaolin was used to reduce efflorescence and improve appearance and performance. Weekly skin coordination meetings were held with the precaster, design team, and structural engineer.

Reinforcing bar dowels protruding about 10 in. (250 mm) from the bottom of the panels were used to slide the panels into cast-in-place concrete embeds consisting of a corrugated duct mounted to a thin plate. The precaster used a PVC sleeve on the reinforcing bar to connect to rock even after the duct was grouted.

“This is an example of the designers going the extra mile,” says Tom Brock, a member of buildings awards jury. “Nine times out of ten, it is a box, but they very cleverly broke the mass up and then differentiated between the materials of the resultant masses. It’s quite beautiful the way the whole project comes off. It speaks to the aesthetic versatility of precast.”

Location: San Jose, Calif.
Owner: Equinix, Redwood City, Calif.
Architect: Sheehan Partners Ltd., Chicago, Ill.,
Architect: Alfa Tech, San Francisco, Calif.,
Engineer: Paradigm Structural Engineers, San Francisco, Calif.
Contractor: Turner Construction, San Jose, Calif.
Precaster: Clark Pacific, West Sacramento, Calif.,
Project size: 126,569 ft2 (11,759 m2)