A data center in a boiler room. Cool, no?

The Lincoln Board of Education is re-purposing a boiler room to house its data center after a fire devastated an administrative building in May.

Yesterday I wrote about the Altamonte Springs, Fla., city government turning a decommissioned water tower into a data center. Seems like those city officials aren’t the only ones who reuse.

In Nebraska, the Lincoln Board of Education just voted to renovate a boiler room in the city’s old Lincoln High School so it could house the district’s data center. The plan calls for housing servers, routers and other equipment that run the school district’s 139 computer systems and power its 12,000 computers, according to this article in Journalstar.com, Lincoln’s online site for its daily newspaper. The data center had been housed in an office building that was destroyed in a May 30 fire; since then, the school district’s data center has been housed at the University of Nebraska.

The school district considered hiring a local business to house the equipment, and a local company told officials it believed its co-location proposal would save the district money, according to the article. School board members didn’t agree.

Officials based their decision on a report by MSI System Integrators, an Omaha firm now owned by Texas-based Sirius Computer Solutions, that evaluated options for a new data center and concluded the boiler room would be more effective in the long run, the article states. While co-locating the data center offered lower up-front building costs, the district would incur higher operating costs. But because the previous data center was affected by fire, the district is able to tap insurance money and about $1.1 million in capital funds it had already earmarked to renovate the boiler room, the article says.

Retrofitting an existing building to house a data center isn’t always the least expensive option, however. If the facility’s infrastructure is in bad shape or isn’t conducive to housing computer systems, fixing it up may cost as much as new build. Construction features to consider include ceiling heights , flooring, where generators can be located, and how utilities serve the facility.

But more and more companies are retrofitting and re-using old buildings for new data centers. Last year, Yahoo announced plans to open a new data center in Avenches, Switzerland, which will come online in 2012, by converting an existing facility built in the 1960s. In 2010, Telus, a Canadian telecommunications company, opened doors to Telus House, a building that formerly served as a post office in Quebec City but has been retrofitted to house a new Internet data center as well as 145,000 square feet of office space, a wellness facility, a roof-top patio, indoor and outdoor parking and 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Back in 2008, Intel re-used a wafer fabrication facility, and it now is a three-story design housing several distinct data centers within it.

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