Supporting Resilient Tenant IT Systems

October 29, 2021

During COVID-19 many buildings experienced a significant reduction in the number of occupants and with the move to remote working, the reliance on tenant IT systems, often supported by base building electrical and cooling systems and fire protection infrastructure, has become fundamental for business continuity.

To provide an overview of the main considerations for base building services infrastructure to support IT systems, it is important to understand some key terminology:

Reliability: The ability of a system to perform consistently as required.

Resilience: The ability of a system to maintain its reliability in response to abnormal events including failure of components.

Redundancy: The duplication of critical system components or functions to eliminate single-points-of-failure and increase resilience.

Availability: The extent to which a system is available for operation when and as required.

Maintainability: The ease with which a system and its components can be maintained or repaired.

What are the requirements for base building Electrical, Cooling System and Fire Protection Infrastructure to support stable and reliable tenancy IT networks?

Electrical Infrastructure:

To assure the reliability of the electrical supply, alternate sources to grid supply should be in place. Ideally this is a combination of a battery supported Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) and a diesel or gas powered emergency backup generator.

  • A UPS system provides an emergency power supply virtually instantaneously on failure of base building grid sourced supply for a limited period of time based on the quantity of batteries installed. UPS units can also be configured to provide continuous improvement of power quality, protecting expensive IT equipment against voltage spikes and voltage dips.
  • Emergency generators take a short period of time to activate, typically coming into play after the UPS to provide backup power for an extended time limited by fuel availability.

The failure of any individual elements in backup power supply systems can increase the risk of failure to the IT services it supports.

The resilience of these systems can be improved with the duplication of critical components or functions providing system redundancy.

This will also improve the availability of the system, helping to ensure that it can operate if required when key components or functions may be out of service for repair or maintenance.

In addition, the maintainability or the ability to repair or service a critical element of function in a timely way also contributes to the systems availability.

It is important as a tenant to understand what electrical infrastructure is in place, including the emergency power systems.

HVAC Infrastructure:

Cooling is also typically required to support tenancy IT equipment, removing the heat generated by servers. Often, cooling units in a tenancy are cooled with the cooling water provided by a Tenants Condenser Water (TCW) system. These systems usually feature cooling towers or process coolers to reject the heat to atmosphere. They should operate continuously and key system elements should be duplicated to provide system redundancy. Alternatively, back-up cooling options should be considered including exhaust fans, air cooled air-conditioning units, or access to temporary portable cooling units.

Fire Protection Infrastructure:

Tenancy fire detection and suppression systems are also connected to and dependant on the base building infrastructure. These systems and their resilience should be reviewed and understood. If required, supplementary systems to provide redundancy should be considered to assure adequate fire protection for tenancy IT systems. These may include early fire detection systems and gas suppression systems. 

The physical security of the room and the network infrastructure should also be considered.

The reliability of tenancy IT systems is dependent on the resilience of base building electrical and cooling systems and fire protection infrastructure. The design and operation of these systems should be well understood and where appropriate these systems should be modified or supplemented to provide adequate resilience.

For more information on Supporting Resilient Tenant IT systems please contact:

John Topouzakis
Senior Engineer (Electrical), A.G. Coombs Advisory
P: +61 3 9248 2700 | E:

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