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Critical Facilities Team Newsletter

October 2008

Simplicity Is Eloquence

By Christopher Johnston, PE

Chris Johnston, PE

In 1936 the world’s Best Airplane Engineer was listening to his Best Test Pilot confess that he felt technically inadequate for his job. The Best Test Pilot said that, when he asked a question of one of the other engineers, he couldn’t understand the reply. The Best Airplane Engineer’s answer was simple and direct, “Jeffrey, if anyone tries to tell you something about an airplane which is so damn complicated that you can't understand it, you can take it from me it's all balls.” While we use different words today, R.J. Mitchell’s reply is timeless and speaks to today’s critical facilities design.

 During the same time the renowned physicist Albert Einstein said, “Everything in life should be as simple as possible, but not more simple.”  While he was not speaking about critical facilities, his advice is something that we all should take to heart.

Critical facilities by their nature are complex.  They are designed by technical people (you and me) who are trying to make the facility as reliable as possible, given (or, in spite of) the available construction budget.  Every designer yearns to add an additional redundant component or tie circuit to prove that he/she is the sharpest kid on the block and can get closer to 100% availability than anyone else. Resist this impulse! Adding that redundant component or tie circuit:

  • Reduces the availability of the necessary parts. 
  • Increases construction cost.
  • Increases operating expense.
  • Reduces availability because those who must operate and maintain the critical facility are often not as technically astute as the designer.

Let’s face it: facilities operators don’t have the luxury of sitting at their desks, sipping a cup of coffee and reviewing the drawings for the fourth time. They must react to failures at a moment’s notice (often with a manager nipping at their heels) and don’t have the luxury of leisurely contemplation.

Our goal should be to make the critical facility as simple as possible. We should resist the siren call to add just one more redundant component, tie circuit or another backup to the backup to the backup. The truly eloquent solution is one that, when we see it, makes us want to slap our head and cry, “That’s so simple – why didn’t I think of it?”



7x24 Exchange 2008 Fall Conference
November 16-19, 2008
JW Marriott Desert Springs
74855 Country Club Drive
Palm Desert, CA 92260

Lonnie Alexander, PE, Senior Associate, Syska Hennessy Group

Vali Sorell, PE, Associate Partner, Syska Hennessy Group

Carlos Herrera, Vice President, Technology

Lonnie Alexander, PE and Vali Sorell, PE of Syska Hennessy Group, along with Carlos Herrera, will be presenting, “Performance & Cost Comparison of High Density Cabinet Solutions.”

Presenting: Monday, November 17th at 1:30 PM

Join representatives from Syska Hennessy Group’s National Critical Facilities Team, along with Carlos Herrera, as they compare several vendor high density cabinet solutions against a baseline open rack in both total cost of ownership and general performance. Third-Party testing was performed in a specialized lab environment where each solution was measured and assessed for temperature stability, energy efficiency, fault tolerance and concurrent maintainability, and comprehensive solution cost. The results were normalized for deployment in a typical Tier-4 1MW IT load data center and the associated TCO's calculated. The presentation describes the test methodology and scope, performance pros & cons, and concludes with a summary of the findings.

If you would like to have an informal discussion regarding this topic with the presenters, please join their Exchange Table session taking place on Tuesday, November 18th at 7:00 AM.


James Coe, PE

Syska Hennessy Group has been invited to participate in the Vendor Knowledge Exchange session.

Presenting: Tuesday, November 18th at 3:15 PM

James Coe, PE, RCDD, Senior Vice President, will be presenting, “Syska Hennessy Group’s Complete Data Center Offering of Services.” He will discuss the numerous offerings that we provide to new or existing data centers, including:

  • Critical Facilities Balance Sheet Assessments
  • Energy Improvement Audits
  • Development of Design and Construction Programs (Including Cost Estimates)
  • MEP/FP Design
  • IT Cabling Design, Security Design, and/or Audio Visual Design
  • Design of Upgrades or Replacements
    Peer Reviews
  • Commissioning
  • LEED® Certifications
  • Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Audits
  • Writing O&M Manuals
  • Training O&M Staff
  • Construction New Data Centers or Upgrades to Existing Data Centers (<$20M)
  • Writing “Methods of Procedure” (MOPs) for Construction and Maintenance Activities
  • Managing Circuit Additions

Check out other upcoming events where Syska will be presenting on our website >>

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