Bohler’s Megan Baird Offers Insight Into Data Center Development

12 August, 2021

“The [data center] market is both expensive and competitive … you need to move quickly, and you want someone who knows the process,” Bohler Associate Megan Baird, PE recently told REBusinessOnline.

While the need for data centers is permanent, finding a suitable property with the right zoning, utilities, and timeline can be challenging. In an interview with REBusinessOnline, Megan outlines three major factors that can help an owner or developer determine whether a site is a prime data center opportunity.

1. Utilities

Power and fiber are essential to data center operations. Generally, a large site needs its own substation to supply current. If an end user can control the variable of power by adding substations, it can help them get to market more quickly. Interest in green initiatives is rising, and using reclaimed water is a great option that can save up to millions of dollars over potable or domestic water.

2. Zoning

Many local land development codes lack clarity regarding data centers, which can slow a project’s progress. However, a property can be rezoned – in as little as three months in some locations – to a zone that allows data centers. Another option is to apply for a special exception to allow data centers. The key is to work with a civil engineering consultant who can help you determine your zoning needs and keep you moving to hit your end delivery date.

3. Space

Data center tenants generally need to build two buildings on a site to take advantage of efficiencies in utilities and security. This means a feasible site size is approximately 40 acres at a minimum, though some developers and tenants could be interested in much more. Without the need for access to major roadways, data center developers may consider non-traditional locations, but Megan warns data centers have less tolerance for flooding and must be designed to cope with the unexpected.

Tools for Developers

Through each of these factors, there are several things that are available to developers to help move data center projects forward. Taking advantage of these benefits could save you time and money.

  • Tax incentives  are available that vary by state.
  • Overlay districts  specify additional restrictions or allowances that can make approvals easier.
  • Fast-track programs  offer priority reviews for projects likely to significantly impact the tax base. (See related case study: Ashburn Crossing)
  • Advance permits for site clearing can speed up the construction timeline.

Learn more about Megan’s three factors and how to get a facility to market fast.

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