NEXTDC M2 Data Centre, Melbourne, Australia

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NEXTDC M2 Data Centre, Melbourne, Australia

Aurecon contributes design skills to NEXTDC’s industry-leading M2 data centre


  • Aurecon’s role: Mechanical, electrical, fire protection, hydraulic, acoustics, communications, security, diesel fuel and structural design
  • Client: NEXTDC

Australia’s largest constructed Tier IV data centre, M2 data centre, showcases the latest engineering and design innovations, surpassing industry standards for energy efficiency, performance, security and reliability.

NEXTDC had a mission to build a resilient Tier IV certified data centre, offering unprecedented levels of power, security and connectivity to service the increasing demand of its customers. Tier certification from the independent Uptime Institute is a globally accepted standard for the design and build of data centres and can be a reason why clients choose a particular data centre. M2 is the only data centre in the state to achieve Uptime Institute Tier IV Gold Certification for Operational Sustainability.

Aurecon’s extensive expertise in the latest technologies and systems commonly used in data centres was the reason NEXTDC chose the company as its design partner.

Close collaboration was the key

The design phase of the original project included mechanical, electrical, fire protection, hydraulic, acoustics, communications, security, diesel fuel and structural design. Aurecon worked closely with NEXTDC’s engineering and operations teams, project architect and civil engineer, to ensure that best-practice design was achieved.

This collaboration was recognised at the Data Center Dynamics global awards, with NEXTDC and Aurecon awarded Design Team of the Year.

M2 was initially sized to 25 MW, however during the project it was expanded to 40 MW of IT load (fully built) in response to the projected growth of NEXTDC.

The electrical system uses high voltage switchgear and transformers on site to facilitate the high-energy usage. Aurecon applied its knowledge of power usage effectiveness (PUE) to meet the challenge of designing such a system to both seamlessly interface with the electricity grid and operate at the required level of energy efficiency.

Specialist design considerations

Aurecon designed more than 20 outdoor generators, and 50 outdoor mechanical air handling units, to stringent acoustic restrictions and requirements to respect the surrounding residential properties.

We understood that it was essential for NEXTDC to be able to respond quickly to the needs of their clients for additional technical floor space and IT load without incurring substantial upfront capital costs. The speed of construction and modularity of design was therefore key, so the facility was built in stages to allow the IT load to grow according to the needs of NEXTDC’s customers.

Digital engineering helped the design process as the 3D modelling of all services, architecture and structure gave Aurecon an accurate and more thorough understanding of the building and services to better plan and sequence construction works.

The benefit of modular and flexible design has provided NEXTDC with additional floor space to accommodate growing security and connectivity requirements.

Achieving a top tier performance rating

The Tier IV performance rating was achieved with the contribution of Aurecon’s extensive understanding of how to design high-capacity data centre infrastructure.

The success of projects such as M2 is due to complex engineering systems working together as one and being underpinned by teams working collaboratively.

Aurecon’s ability to build relationships with NEXTDC, the installing contractors, architects and other designers, was the reason we were able to fully understand the client’s requirements and appreciate their big picture for the project.

Stage 4 upgrade of M2

With rapidly increasing data storage demand in Australia, NEXTDC engaged Aurecon to engineer an expansion to the original M2.

Challenged to make the facility operational as soon as possible, Aurecon used its knowledge of bridge design to inspire the structural solution for column-free spaces. Super-T girders (precast prestressed concrete box girders), traditionally used in bridge construction, were used to create an instant flooring deck by spanning the 19-metre width of the data hall to accommodate the heavy floor loads, and ensure complete openness of the interior.

This is believed to be the first use of Super-T girders in data centre construction in Australia. A total of 84 Super-Ts were prefabricated and installed on site for the three-storeys that house six data halls.

Column free, the data halls have flexibility in the layout and arrangement of data racks, which also allows the maximum number of racks within the built floor area.

Owing to its smart design and highly calibrated construction schedule, the superstructure was completed in 18 weeks, 50 per cent faster than if conventionally formed.

With extremely large and heavy floor beams, construction systems were designed to allow multiple trades to work concurrently under an overlapping programme. Once each flooring deck was assembled and finished, NEXTDC could begin commissioning the data halls while the higher floors were still under construction.

Stage 4 was designed and constructed at Building Importance Level 4 – which means the building can maintain ongoing operational capacity immediately after extreme magnitude earthquakes or other disastrous events.

The robust use of concrete provides the building with a highly controlled environment in terms of temperature and humidity and enables the hanging of critical building services equipment in a flexible arrangement.

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