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"Budget Busters" on Construction and/or Relocation Projects

Aside from fundamental mistakes in per square foot costs for construction, which are not addressed here, there are numerous items that commonly escape notice by the Facilities and/or IT groups which can terrorize your construction and relocation budgets.  Often times, the budgeting is correct but it is the change orders caused by poor IT planning or failure to meet document deadlines that creates the "budget busters".  Our top 16 "budget busters" are listed here.   

  1. Not fully understanding the different budget categories that can be used by IT in a data center move and planning the funding for each.  The following are examples of activities that need funding as part of the move:  

    a.    Design and installation of the communications cabling system.  Includes complex design of computer rooms and labs.  These later activities can be seriously expensive.  A flat dollar cost per square foot for the entire project is often inadequate.  Many projects wait until after construction is underway to finalize the cabling design.  This is a serious mistake. 

    b.    Acquisition of new and/or "seed" equipment that is necessary to provide the initial startup of the new premises prior to the move.  This would include routers, firewalls, data switches, PBX equipment, new data circuits, etc.  It could also include fiber facilities from outside carriers.  Is this activity budgeted under "construction", or does the IT group have to budget separately for these items?  One giant hint here.  Never, never believe that you can move everything as is and provide no new or seed equipment.  Extremely high risk of one or more major components and/or critical data circuits not coming up properly.  

    c.     Upgrading or replacement of computer, network or other IT equipment as part of the move event.  It is common for upgrades and replacements to take place during a move event.  The question is, who budgets for it?  A classic battle here.  As a former VP of Systems, we tried very hard to have the construction budget cover as many of our upgrades as possible.  It was common for Facilities to push back and refuse.  Bottom line, management on both sides must understand how much new acquisition will take place and, which budget must seek the funding.

  2. Not fully developing the architectural and environmental program requirements before preparing the budget.  Later design surprises such as total flooding FM 200, dry sprinkler pipe over the data center, or increased sizing of the environmental sizing will hurt your budget.  Additionally, today's communications cabling systems are much more expensive that 5 years ago; it is often under-budgeted.  
  3. Not clearly understanding the types of electrical and telecommunications entrance facilities (conduits and vaults) that will be required.  Will dual entrances be required for your design?  A second entrance with trench, conduits and vault can add $15K-$40K depending on number of conduits and distance.  In today's design, one cannot assume that two 4" conduits are enough.  Information here would include the size and quantity of vaults, the number of conduits in the trenches, and most importantly, the length of the trench.  Telecom entrance facilities are often overlooked or undersized for the intended purpose by the Electrical Engineers.  Make sure that the telecom entrance facilities are included in the Electrical Engineer's scope of work.  The Telecom or IT group must submit their requirements for conduits and vaults during the schematic design phase to avoid costly changes later.  
  4. Not developing full electrical requirements for the large IT spaces such as computer rooms, server rooms, PBX rooms, NOCs, etc..  This includes conduit work by the electricians for telecom cabling.  Without specific requirements and drawings from the IT group, the Electrical Engineers will simply assign a "watts per square foot" formula, estimate the number of receptacles, distribution panels, breakers, etc. and proceed.  Finalizing these requirements, especially after a bid has been accepted and work is underway, can be costly.     
  5. Not fully budgeting for telecom and network designers and project managers.  This group of professionals is no different from architects, engineers and contractors; they are a significant part of the project.  Use of these professionals has been increasing over the past decade and its difficult to move a large organization without some assistance, especially organizations with large computer rooms, server rooms and/or complex data network organizations.  This is what we do for a living so pardon us for our shameful promotion.  However, we can tell you that many organizations do not budget for our type of work and have to increase their budgets to permit our participation on the project.  On some projects, we can have (and have had) up to six team members on large projects.  To be practical, a one-year participation on a project where we design the cabling system, design the IT spaces and manage the equipment move can range from $20,000 for a 150 person firm to $60,000 for a 1,500-2,000 person firm.  A large variable is the size and extent of the computer rooms, labs and other IT spaces.  At one hi-tech firm in the Silicon Valley, we were badged in for 7 years and our team planned the re-cabling, staff relocations and equipment relocation for 4,000 people and two major data centers.  The firm simply outsourced the entire activity.  
  6. Furniture design, selection and drawings are not ready by the sign-off on Construction Drawings.  Ensure that the furniture design and the communications cabling design is complete for the Construction Drawings.  Proceeding without either being complete can be costly.  One particular costly problem that can develop is to proceed to bid with no final furniture selection or drawings only to find that the selected furniture, with panels, will cover the electrical and telecom outlets - often after they are already in place.  
  7. Not understanding the backbone cabling requirements on either new buildings or on tenant retro-fits.  Again, trying to cover this with a flat per square foot cost is often inadequate.  
  8. Grounding.  Telecommunications and network grounding in IT spaces is a serious affair.  Grounding estimates are often not enough.  Again, this is an area that is often not specified by the Electrical Engineer.  On some projects, this isn't discovered in time and results in a costly change order.   
  9. Planning for the ordering and cutting over voice and data circuits.  Normally up to $1,200 per circuit.  
  10. Numerous change orders due to an incomplete telecommunications and/or IT design.  Contractors will bid your project exactly as described in your RFP knowing full well that what is missing or could be designed more completely.  The objective is getting the contract - not improving the RFP.  Once they get the contract, the change orders will follow.  
  11. Redesigning an IT space after bids are in and the contract has been signed.  Bad news ahead here.  Changing racks and cabinets around in a IT space also has a direct impact on the electrical design.  Their change orders are larger than the ones from the Telecom folks.   
  12. Providing funding for the planning and relocation of staff.  This is different from Item #4 above.  This involves staff and contents only.  Normally, it takes a team of 2-3 professionals to plan the entire relocation of 150-500 staff.  
  13. Providing funding for the physical relocation of IT equipment.  Plan for $75 for each desktop PC and laser printer.  Plan $40 for each fax.  For computer and server rooms, plan $90 for each rack mounted server.  For IBM, DEC, EMC and other large equipment, you will want a quote from the equipment manufacturers.  Do not let organizations other that the manufacturer or manufacturer's authorized representative relocate these large and important items.  
  14. If project includes a raised floor, budget $30 per tile cut.  A safe estimate on quantities is 25 cuts per 1,000 sq.ft. of raised floor.   
  15. $4 sq.ft. for initial cleaning of underfloor area of the computer room.  $4 sq.ft. to clean under the floor a second time.  The General Contractor usually does this the first time just as the raised floor is complete.  By the time the racks and cabling and final electrical changes are installed, the underfloor area is filthy again. 
  16. Labor and materials to replace all computer room A/C filters with 48 hours of startup (unless you cleaned the floor a second time).  If you don't, it is common to get a 'change filter' alarm on most or all units within 24-48 hours.  

Contact us at www.abrconsulting.com  Phone:  925.872.5523  Fax:  916.478.2814