Photo: © J.T. Magen
Photo: © J.T. Magen

Former New Jersey landfill site proves challenging for NY5 data center construction by J.T. Magen

When J.T. Magen was tapped to build the large NY5 data center on a former landfill site in Secaucus, New Jersey, the team had to take a completely different construction approach. “The soil wasn’t good enough to support the structure’s weight, so we analyzed alternatives,” says J.T. Magen senior project manager Doug Consigny.

The solution for the 263,699 sq. ft. NY5 data center built from the ground up in the Meadowlands was deep foundation work and a built-in system to hang the pipes from the bottom of the concrete slab, Consigny explains. The design was meant to mitigate the pipes pulling away in coming years as the loose soil settles.

J.T. Magen drove more than 1,000 pilings 75 feet deep to support the structural slab. “It was like building a structure on stilts over water,” he says.

A practical solution

To keep from excavating into refuse, J.T. Magen poured a working concrete slab three feet below the permanent floor slab to cap the landfill and prepare a clean working surface to lay the conduit with stubs sticking upwards. That area was backfilled with stone, and the permanent floor slab was poured over top with pipe hangers cast into the underside of the slab. The electrical gear was then mounted above the slab in the switch gear rooms.

“We were able to avoid digging trenches in landfill refuse that constantly settles. And it smelled better too,” adds Consigny. The NY5 project earned LEED Silver status.

Erecting 75-foot-tall generator shafts

Due to local noise restrictions, the 33-megawatt NY5 data center incorporated an atypical design for the generator installation. The large, high-tech building required 10 generators with N+1 redundancy, and they can be noisy, explains Consigny. So rather than the normal exterior yard location, the plans specified interior generator rooms with two large shafts to deaden the sound through an acoustical lining as it exhausts upwards.

The challenge was determining the construction logistics since the 75-foot-tall pre-cast concrete shafts were located in the middle of the structure. “We had to put up the generator shafts first and then build the structural steel around it,” says Consigny. He adds that the pre-cast panels were heavy and tough to maneuver into place, requiring an enormous crane on site.

“The shafts demanded an internal bracing system to ensure they would stand in place until the steel was erected and tied into the shafts. It was an unusual change in construction sequencing, but it worked,” says Consigny.

© SkyCamUsa

An expedited schedule

To keep the NY5 project on the tight construction schedule, the J.T. Magen team erected 8.3 million pounds of structural steel in just eight weeks. This phase required two cranes on site, plus orchestrated site deliveries, manpower and logistics, explains Consigny. Once the building was up, the cranes were employed to lift mechanical cooling units to the roof.

Consigny says that among the 20 data centers he has constructed in his career, the NY5 data center in New Jersey was the most demanding to build and the most challenging to complete thanks to the unique design, the landfill location and the sheer size of the structure. He adds: “This building is a showpiece from an aesthetics standpoint. It’s a good-looking data center. The team did a great job.”