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OK City Data Center Built To Withstand Winds Up To 310 MPH, Says Contractor 139

Posted by timothy
from the I'll-huff-and-I'll-puff-and-I'll-wheeze dept.
dcblogs writes "The area around and to the southwest of Oklahoma City, where more tornadoes were striking Friday night, 'has perhaps the greatest frequency of tornadoes in the U.S.,' said John Snow, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma. About 95% of all tornadoes are below EF3 intensity, and only 0.1% achieve EF5, which is what hit Moore earlier this month. To build a data center capable of surviving an EF3, Perimeter Technology in Oklahoma City surrounded the raised floor portion of the data center with 8.5-in. reinforced concrete walls. The data center is in the middle of the building, and around it are offices protected by another 8.5-in. exterior wall. But there's another data center in Oklahoma City that may be able survive 310 MPH winds. The company, Devon Energy, isn't talking about its data center or even confirming that it has one capable of handling these winds. But a contractor has disclosed details."
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OK City Data Center Built To Withstand Winds Up To 310 MPH, Says Contractor

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  • It seems (Score:2, Insightful)

    At last you yankees finally got the tale of the three little pigs right.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      At last you yankees finally got the tale of the three little pigs right.

      Just because a private company was smart enough to protect its own business by investing in appropriate infrastructure for its chosen location doesn't mean the rest of the area (let alone all us yankees) will follow suit. It's all risk assessment and budgeting, and most municipalities are always willing to short change the future residents and politicians for the sake of not being the ones who spent "all that money on something that will probably never ever be used or even adequately tested". If they don't

      • Just because a private company was smart enough to protect its own business by investing in appropriate infrastructure for its chosen location doesn't mean the rest of the area (let alone all us yankees) will follow suit.

        Power, Internet connections, food, water. They've built a castle (complete with inner walls!) and a tornado is providing the siege. How long can they last?

    • Did you Europeans finally discover air conditioning? Or are another 20,000 some thousand people going to die in another summer heat wave?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They die in heat waves because european countries think that decomissioning perfectly good nuclear power plants is a good idea, and don't get the coal plants required to replace the capacity built in time (we can buy our shortfall from our neighbor's excess. What do you mean their demand peaks the same time as ours...)

        I can only assume that the coal lobby has enormous power in Europe (as they apparently have in the US, since we only installed a handful of nuclear plants.)

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by Luckyo (1726890)

          It's a mix of coal lobby and a runaway trainwreck that is Green ideology. Now that most north and central European countries have basically implemented most of the things that Greens set out to originally do, they had to progress the ideology to sometimes absurd levels and branch out to other policies. This is one of the most absurd bases, where they are so stuck on "nuclear is bad" that they are willing to subsidize coal building. They have some good sides as well, as Greens are generally the "progressive

      • by Anonymous Coward

        We discovered insulation first.

        It works both ways you know?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1. Oklahomans don't really appreciate being called Yankees.

      2. Otherwise, yep. It looks like 310 MPH is the new normal.

    • by tlambert (566799)

      At last you yankees finally got the tale of the three little pigs right.

      You are, of course, aware that Oklahoma was not a state during the US Civil War, it was "Indian Territory", and that it was therefore neither Confederate ("Rebs") nor Union ("Yankee"), right?

      • by fuzzywig (208937)
        "Yank" is British shorthand for any US citizen. The fact that it rhymes with 'wank' just makes it more amusing.
  • by flyneye (84093)

    Domes fit the bill for tornado/hurricane resistant structures. I will accept nothing less than that or an underground facility or both. Don't build in a flood zone either.

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I will accept nothing less than that or an underground facility or both.

      Forget domes, what's so hard about building underground? If you're going to design a building for 310mph winds, wouldn't it be easier to just build the thing underground? We have underground parking garages in many places, so cost shouldn't be that large an issue if we can afford to do it just for parking, which isn't exactly a high-value real estate item. Tornadoes don't bother with underground structures at all.

      • by flyneye (84093)

        I'll take a dome w/a basement. I did say both. I want some windows. I've lived in a basement. It's dismal, radon is a reality around here, anyway. Need a good strong house to go to. There are Papercrete monolithic domes for the maximum tornado/hurricane protection as well. I'll settle for Geodesic. I like the architecture.The triangle is the strongest shape to build with.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          We're talking about a data center here, not a house. Who cares if living in a basement is dismal? There usually aren't that many employees working at data centers, and and underground data center can't be any more dismal than working at a warehouse.

    • by ISoldat53 (977164)
      Why not build it underground?
    • by certsoft (442059)
      At the very least schools should be built tornado proof in tornado alley. http://www.monolithic.com/topics/schools [monolithic.com]
  • Pfft (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This [wikipedia.org] data center can survive 3100 mph winds. [wikipedia.org]

  • "The company, Devon Energy, isn't talking about its data center or even confirming that it has one capable of handling these winds...."

    I'm all for keeping things confidential to avoid disclosing vulnerabilities due to more traditional attacks, but this barely makes any sense whatsoever.

    Why would you not want to advertise you have a data center with these capabilities, smack in the middle of tornado alley...

    • by melonman (608440)

      Maybe to avoid Titanic Syndrome ("A boat even God couldn't sink"). Not that I think God goes around sinking boats and blowing down data centres to win arguments. But if your data centre does get damaged in a storm, and you haven't claimed that it's indestructible, you don't end up being used as a moral cautionary tale about the perils of pride for the next 100 years.

    • Perhaps because they realize that advertising they can withstand an F3 tornado a week after an F5 hit is a bit silly....

    • Devon makes business management software (accounting, shipping, employee training, etc.), but for a specific market segment only: nuclear power plants.
    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      You know its not un common to run non branded DC's I worked for a telco and our DC was not marked with any corporate logos for security purporses - our carpark passes until recently did not indicate which company they applied for.
  • by tippe (1136385) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @07:44AM (#43881971)

    Due to a misunderstanding with European contractors, Oklahoma City's new data centre was only designed to handle very light breezes of up to 310 meters per hour (m/h), and collapsed moments after construction was completed. When asked how they could confuse "MPH" with "m/h", the response was "wast ist eine 'mile'?". Full story at 11...

    • Due to a misunderstanding with European contractors, Oklahoma City's new data centre was only designed to handle very light breezes of up to 310 meters per hour (m/h), and collapsed moments after construction was completed. When asked how they could confuse "MPH" with "m/h", the response was "wast ist eine 'mile'?". Full story at 11...

      Was heißt "meile"? Fragen Sie bitte seine Grosßvater!

      • by etash (1907284)
        last i heard esset ist now kaput! ss i the new norm!
        • last i heard esset ist now kaput! ss i the new norm!

          Give grandpa a break! Old habits die hard.

          Actually, I was told the rules for ß are now reduced, but it isn't dead yet. And what's the good of an international keyboard if you can't exploit all the extra letters, anyway? I think English should bring back "thorn". Not only is it more convenient for writing ye definite article, it collates better phonetically!

    • by UttBuggly (871776)

      Due to a misunderstanding with European contractors, Oklahoma City's new data centre was only designed to handle very light breezes of up to 310 meters per hour (m/h), and collapsed moments after construction was completed. When asked how they could confuse "MPH" with "m/h", the response was "wast ist eine 'mile'?". Full story at 11...

      Well besides the 'super' Data Center, Devon built a 900+ high glass tower in downtown OKC. The building took a near miss last night.

      The funny thing about the Tower is that when driving in from the airport, it looks like downtown is giving you the finger. This thing dominates the skyline and also engineered to deal with tornadoes. Almost got a pop quiz Friday night. I wonder how much damage the acres of glass the thing is covered with would do if it were hit. "The building is still standing although everythi

  • You know nothing, Jon Snow.

    On a more serious note, I'm not sure they should be worried about the wind. Is 8.5in of reinforced concrete really going to stop a station wagon full of tapes hurtling through the sky at 310mph?

    Something tells me that their tornado budget would be better spent on insurance and remote data backups.
    • excellent pont (Score:5, Insightful)

      by decora (1710862) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @08:57AM (#43882241) Journal

      if you have ever seen tornado damage in person, you stop coming up with these stupid ideas about windproof houses etc.

      would your building survive a nuclear bomb blast? no? then it probably wont survive a direct tornado hit.

    • A better solution would be an earth-sheltered design. Still not perfect, but much better protection, plus huge energy savings to boot.

      Actually, I remember reading about an earth-sheltered school in Oklahoma back in the 80s while doing a research project on energy efficient architecture. Not sure if it was ever built or if it was just a design. (And I couldn't find it in 30 seconds of googling.) As I recall, it had a large central atrium to maximize natural lighting, but had large, sloping berms on all sides

      • plus huge energy savings to boot.

        Afaict that depends hugely on the climate.

        For a building with significant waste heat generated inside such that it needs cooling even in winter whether you want insulation depends on how the outside and desired inside tempreatures compare.

        If the outside temperature is generally hotter than the inside temperature then insulation is blocking heat leaking in so you want as much of it as possible.

        OTOH if the outside temperature if generally colder than the inside tempreature then insulation is blocking heat lea

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          We're talking about OK here...it is a southern state in the USA, it is hot on average.

    • Re:Flying Cars (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mlts (1038732) * on Saturday June 01, 2013 @11:56AM (#43883283)

      One concern of mine:

      310 mph winds != 310 mph debris slamming into the building.

  • ... to build schools that way, I guess.
  • Perhaps not as space efficient, but I'm thinking a dome-shaped building with strong anchoring would be excellent. The winds would just caress over it, with nothing to grab hold of.
  • Apparently John Snow DOES know something!
    • by lazlo (15906)

      I know! I mean, he's a professor of meteorology, so I'd guess he probably as some idea of when winter is coming.

  • Why aren't the building codes in that area either requiring that or at least storm shelters? That school falling over was just bizarre. I am willing to bet that they have spent much time and money training for school shootings while ignoring the giant storms that rush by quite often.
    • because the statistics dont justify it ??

      more people die from drownings than tornados.

      • by Shavano (2541114)
        Tell it to these people: http://weather.aol.com/2013/05/21/photos-devastating-tornado-strikes-moore-okla/ [aol.com]
        In Oklahoma, weather comes to YOU.
        In Oklahoma city 149 tornadoes had come to town since 1890 as of last fall. With this spring's new crop, it now stands at 151 or maybe 152. So tornadoes-near-you in Oklahoma are pretty much an annual event. A direct hit where you are is a little less likely. But dangerous weather and seriously damaged buildings don't require a direct hit. Evidence suggests that b
        • by LDAPMAN (930041)

          All new schools here have been built with storm shelters for many years. The schools that were just destroyed were built in the 60s.

          • by Shavano (2541114)
            I can't find dates of construction to verify that but:
            • Are you thinking people in the 1960s in Oklahoma didn't understand the risk of tornadoes?
            • Are you thinking that retrofitting storm shelters in or at older schools isn't possible?
            • by Holi (250190)

              Im thinking it is very hard to get the funding to retrofit the schools when education funding is being slashed.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Yes, but that's only in OK. If you look at the statistics nationwide, not many people die of tornadoes. Because of this, we can't build tornado-resistant things, even in OK where tornadoes are concentrated, because we Americans aren't smart enough to realize that different localities have to do things differently.

          • more people die of drowning during tornado wetaher than die of tornados.

            ergo we should spend more money on preventing flood deaths than tornado deaths.

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Sorry, didn't realize that statistic was OK-specific.

              But when you say "drowning", do you mean from floods, or from pool accidents, or both? You can do something about flooding, but there's not much you can do about pool accidents beyond either education or banning swimming pools. You could mandate fences around pools to try to keep kids out, but that's not something for government tax dollars to be spent on (the pool owner has to pay for things like that).

        • they built a house using their bare hands during the great depression. and they had a storm cellar. not enough spare income from their website gigs to build 8 inch concrete walls i guess.

          but hey, thanks for the judgemental lecture. very helpful.

          • by Shavano (2541114)

            they built a house using their bare hands during the great depression. and they had a storm cellar. not enough spare income from their website gigs to build 8 inch concrete walls i guess.

            but hey, thanks for the judgemental lecture. very helpful.

            You just told me that your grandparents built a safer house than present day builders typically build and sell in Oklahoma and most other tornado-prone places. Why are commercial home builders allowed to make and sell houses that wouldn't have been considered safe enough by 1920s Oklahoma residents?

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          and whether building standards for homes and other places where people spend a lot of time (such as schools) ought to include a tornado shelter.

          Municipal buildings, especially Schools, have traditionally done double duty as shelters. Elementary schools are particularly good for this - you don't want the youngest kids getting hurt, and they're traditionally the most dispersed/closest to most people.

          So you do some things - build it to commercial+ standards. Stronger walls, windows, and doors. Higher fire protection. On high ground so it doesn't flood, etc...

      • by careysub (976506)

        Weather related fatalities would be a more apt standard of comparison, don't you think?

        Tornadoes come in number one as the cause of weather-related death over the last 10 years. And Oklahoma's tornado fatality rate is the highest in the country, three times the national average.

  • ... or maybe they could just build a regular data center somewhere else?
    • by rgmoore (133276)

      Yeah, because nowhere else in the USA is subject to natural disasters, and there's no cost to locating your data center a long way from the business it's supposed to be serving.

      • by trparky (846769)
        There are parts of upper north east of the United States, places like Michigan and Ohio that haven't seen a tornado in years. That's where I live, North East Ohio. The nastiest thing we normally see in North East Ohio is a massive snow storm. Big deal.
  • Sabre built a data center in tulsa that's tornado proof. to all outward appearances, it's an empty field surrounded by chain link fencing and razor wire. then they sold it to eds. *shakes head*

  • "The area around and to the southwest of Oklahoma City, where more tornadoes were striking Friday night, 'has perhaps the greatest frequency of tornadoes in the U.S.,' said John Snow, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

    Hurricane season is coming.

  • 8.5 inches? Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bradley13 (1118935) on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:10AM (#43882317) Homepage

    Are we supposed to be impressed with 8.5 inches of concrete in the walls? In much of Europe, that's pretty close to normal residential construction, nothing special. Ok, maybe they are including more steel - I surely hope so - but it's still nothing special.

    In Moore, the school where children were trapped under rubble and drowned because they couldn't escape the flooding: This school had no designated safe room from burst water mains. This is "tornado alley" we're talking about - the last time that Moore was flattened was just 15 years ago! What kind of idiot builds a school in that area that cannot stand up to tornados and has no shelter to retreat to? In this area, tinkertoy construction ought to be forbidden in government buildings, and utterly uninsurable in private ones.

    • Europeans make private residences with 8.5 inch thick concrete walls? Ugh, concrete is so soulless. I prefer natural materials.
    • Even before this latest rash of storms, it was common to find insurance companies not writing new policies in OK. Premiums are noticeably more then elsewhere for single family homes.

    • by LDAPMAN (930041)

      The schools that were destroyed were built in the 60s. All new schools have been built with storm shelters for many years now. Also, the "died by flooding" turned out to be inaccurate.

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      Unfortunately 8.5 inches of concrete is not going to withstand 300 MPH winds. Why? Because those 300MPH winds are also carrying things like trees, cars, trucks, chunks of asphalt, girders, cows, and other debris which will grind those 8.5 concrete walls into rubble. Look at the aftermath photos from any EF4 or EF5 tornado and see what's left standing. Even buildings made to withstand tornadoes are total losses.

      If they really wanted to make their data center "tornado proof" then they should have built it und

    • by KGIII (973947)

      Given their propensity to bombing one another into rubble every few generations I'm not surprised at the desire for quick, simple, ruggedized construction.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      8.5 inch reinforced concrete. "Reinforced" means it has steel bars embedded inside. Concrete is very strong in compression, but very weak in tension. The rebar gives it tensile strength. The plain concrete and brick construction (without rebar) common in parts of Europe and in developing nations is notoriously weak against lateral forces for this reason. In most regions it's not a problem because the only significant force they experience is gravity, and gravity always pulls in one direction - down. A
      • Europe is very fortunate that most of it is a very stable environment, so they can build using unreinforced concrete and brick with abandon.

        Northern Europe specifically - south of Austria the place is known to dance a bit.

        We don't learn in the States either, though - living in Boston's Back Bay is trendy, but also only popular among those who never heard of the Cape Ann earthquake or what one does to fill or brick and stone buildings on fill.

  • Not that impressive. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 01, 2013 @09:21AM (#43882357)

    Go google for FEMA P-361 or P-320 and you'll get all the data and construction drawings.

    There are two aspects of design here: the first, particularly for smaller structures like safe rooms in houses, is resistance to projectiles. The standard projectile for testing is a 15 lb 2x4 going 100 mi/hr. Texas Tech has a cannon that shoots them for testing. They've done a lot of analysis and review of actual tornadoes and have determined that this is the appropriate projectile: resist that, and you'll resist almost anything else from storms bigger than any actual recorded. Big stuff goes slower, small stuff goes faster, but it's all about momentum and impact pressure, and just like medieval knights, a heavy long skinny thing going fast is an effective projectile.

    the second aspect is the force of the wind pushing the wall over, which is a big deal for larger structures (think gymnasiums, auditoriums, etc.). There, you design for the 250/300/350 mi/hr wind or whatever. 250 mi/hr = 160 lb/square foot. Note that in states like California, you probably already have this for free, because you have to design for seismic loads, which are comparable.

    As to the school that was destroyed. It was built a long time ago. Retrofits of big structures are expensive. It takes a series of disasters to motivate compliance. In California, the Long Beach quake of 33 resulted in the Field Act (no unreinforced masonry in schools) but still, Sylmar in the 71 resulted in several catastrophic failures of things like hospitals. So the laws were updated to apply to more things. Loma Prieta and Whittier prompted even more.. in fact, I think Whittier is when they really started cracking down on reinforcing masonry, and not allowing existing structures to be grandfathered. Northridge in 94 also resulted in some changes, particularly for things like bolting houses to foundations.

    But the point here is that it took 80 years from the first laws about earthquake resistance to the present day, where most stuff is just built to take it. A Civil Engineer being interviewed in Joplin MO commented that making a new hospital tornado resistant only added about 3% to the cost. Doing it as a retrofit is a lot more expensive. Consider an elementary school with 500 students: their annual budget is around $3.7M (http://www2.census.gov/govs/school/11f33pub.pdf, $7600/student) A very tiny fraction of that is available for construction projects, I'd be surprised if it's 1%. You're not going to retrofit a school built in the 60s out of concrete blocks and no rebar for $40k, or even $400k. FEMA estimates that a single family shelter would cost about $5000 to build. Building something to hold 500 students plus 60 staff is a big project: at 5 square feet/person, that's several thousand square feet, and you need to have enough doors for getting those 600 people in and out. And that's 3000 square feet that has to be kept fairly open: no using it for storage. (multipurpose rooms and cafeterias are popular). The other problem is that safe rooms are, by nature, kind of depressing places to be in: they have no windows and limited doors.

    • It's possible to have windows or skylights, but they must have steel shutters that slide into place over the top of them...
  • It might be able to withstand the wind, but what about flying cows and other debris carried by the wind?
  • Design builder here with tornado and snow load experience, SO that tilt-up concrete structure with flat roof can NOT withstand an uplift load on 10,000 sq. ft. of roof structure. That's the primary design flaw on first principles. Exterior mechanicals, chillers, solar arrays and electrical gear only survive IF nothing crashes into them during a category EF5 tornado.

    What are the chances?

  • "In Oklahoma, storm chases YOU".

  • Ok, maybe I'm missing the point, but isn't it a lot easier to build stuff to survive a hurricane or tornado if it's underground? That would be my assumption based on the notion of a storm cellar or other type of "bunker" being constructed underground. So, why not just build datacenters 10-20 feet underground? Essentially you would treat it like a basement, but without a building on top of it. I could see flooding as being an issue, but couldn't you just excavate another 30-40 feet below the floor of the
  • The biggest problem in OK is not wind... it's all the crap that got picked up by the wind, and is being slammed into your specially designed structure at 300MPH.

    Just like the biggest problem for structures in hurricanes is not actually the wind, it's the water and debris that's getting slammed into them by the hurricane.

  • by pellik (193063)
    If an OK data center can withstand 300MPh winds, what can a good data center withstand?
  • Sure it may be able to handle 310 mph winds, but can it handle a house (or car or bus) being blown by 310 mph winds?

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