Below is an article by Nicole Hemsoth from HPCwire. A full version of this article can be found here
Purdue University made waves last year with its selection of HP’s POD containerized datacenter, which was hauled in to help them cope with a power inefficiencies stemming from an existing brick and mortar datacenter on campus.
The university set the proof point for cost and efficiency of modular datacenters, with their associate VP of Academic Technologies, John Campbell claiming that for 60% of the cost of a collocation facility the university could install a POD.
The selling point for containerized datacenters in general is that they come fully configured (although customizations can be made) with all the cables, power, cooling and racks in place and ready to roll. For Purdue, the savings mounted in the arenas of colo leasing, cutting back on staff to man datacenters, extension of on-campus networks, reduced power costs—which came, in part, because of the university’s own power plant.
UCLA announced this week that it has climbed aboard the containerized datacenter bandwagon with its head of academic technology services and managing director for the Institute of Digital Research and Education, Bill Labate, extolling the benefits of containerized HPC.
Labate’s group is responsible for providing university research cyberinfrastructure via its shared cluster system, which allows researchers who want to build their own clusters to instead buy compute nodes that Labate’s team integrates into the shared cluster. This allows the team to make the cycles available for over 170 research projects, from particle physics to genomcis and beyond.
As the need for cycles grew steadily, Labate saw a need for new equipment. He said that they had an existing datacenter that was a target for retrofitting, but when the team examined the possibility, it was clear there would be power and cooling limitations even though the space itself would have allowed room for growth. Labate’s team was able to secure $4.4 million to retrofit the existing data center, but when they received their final estimate for $7.2 million for the project, the shortfall led Labate down a different path.
Since it was not possible to scale down the potential retrofitted datacenter to remain within budget constraints, the possibilities of modular datacenters entered the picture. Labate said that to scale down to the level needed to suit the allotted funding would not have served even intermediate needs. Furthermore, since the goal of this undertaking was to enhance growth potential for the shared cluster resources, the retrofit would have been a waste of effort and money.
Labate approached UC San Diego for opinions about their experiences with a Sun-Oracle Black Box containerized solution, but found that they faced challenges with the U-shaped layout. UCSD told him that one thing they did not like was that the Black Box required specialized equipment and brought logistical challenges when it came to replacing and maintaining hardware since entire sections needed to be pulled out for fixes. This would not suit UCLA’s needs since, again, their system of buying new hardware was based on price-performance options among vendors, thus requiring flexibility to swap components based on what individual vendors offered. Besides, the Black Box solution was only a 20-foot container, and Labate knew that he needed to be able to power more cycles than the smaller Sun-Oracle solution could provide.
Labate’s team eventually settled on HP due to its high density, which was a good fit for what they were trying to accomplish in terms of providing as many cycles as possible. Other vendors they evaluated offered attractive density but Labate said there was not enough flexibility–that they needed to be able to grow with solutions that weren’t specialized for a particular container environment.
Before choosing the high-density, 40×8 feet POD container from HP, the team also looked at options from Dell, Rackable and as noted previously, the Sun-Oracle Black Box, which Labate says was the first to be struck from the list due to the size and shape limitations. He did not go into detail about the reasons behind abandoning the Dell and Rackable solutions, other than to say that for their specific needs, density was the deciding factor. Still, he noted that there were many similarities between the HP, Dell, IBM, and Rackable solutions—the choice simply came down to price, performance, flexibility of equipment solutions, and density.
The site preparations for the container began in October 2010 and moved swiftly until ending in mid-April of 2011. This entailed extending the university’s existing chilled water, power systems and pumps, fiber networks and laying the solid foundation required to support 110,00 pounds of steel and equipment.
Many modular datacenter makers emphasize the quick installation and set-up of their containers, claiming that it can be humming away in a few short weeks. As Labate says, however, anyone who knows anything about datacenters knows that you “can’t just plunk down a datacenter in your backyard and hook into your garden hose.” All told, from site prep to shared cluster bootup the team was looking at several months.
The shared cluster is distributed across campus with one building housing around 300 nodes, another with roughly 500 and now the POD, which packs in over 1500 nodes. His team ran a wide area InfiniBand network throughout, pulling all the nodes onto the same fabric for efficient management. They connected the Ethernet network for storage traffic, creating what he describes as a “geographic spread out single cluster.”
The team chose to keep the storage resources outside of the POD, in part to protect the valuable applications and results of long runs, but also because the POD has been optimized for compute nodes according to his team’s purpose to deliver shared cluster resources as if it was a single system. He emphasized repeatedly that their needs are specific—they wanted to be able to maximize the number of cycles available for university research.
When asked about usability or performance tradeoffs, Labate was adamant that containers are more efficient and perform for their needs, which again, are focused on providing more compute for the shared HPC cluster. He said that in many ways, the container streamlines their HPC operations by shedding the maintenance and efficiency hassles of brick and mortar. As he noted, “there are no other people in the POD, in fact, we limit our time in there since we want to keep it buttoned up as tight as possible. It’s been freeing, no operators in the pod, no need for anyone to sit in there and monitor—it’s all automated with all the tools we need for monitoring, powering on and off and so forth.”
According to Labate, there were no power and energy consumption problems with their use of POD. He said that compared to one of their brick and mortar datacenters which was operating at 1.5 PUE, the POD was running a steady 1.17 PUE. He claims that this translates into roughly a $200,000 difference in power costs, which represented a secondary but very important consideration as they looked at the POD capabilities.
Despite the lack of wide user adoption of modular datacenters, it was nearly impossible to get Labate to remark on any drawbacks to such solutions. He said that outside of the obvious negative factors, which include working inside small boxes with 36 raging blowers and tight quarters (which his team overcomes by saving fixes inside for once-weekly missions) and the aesthetic problem of having an giant, ugly shipping container fitting in with an artful sense of campus uniformity (an issue he said gave the campus aesthetics folk a few gripes) he can’t imagine traditional datacenters to address growth ever again.
When pressed about what he might warn others about when considering such solutions, Labate said environmental conditions were critical. First, in terms of making sure it is possible to locate the container close to needed power and cooling resources. Also, in terms of actually environment—he said that during a recent conversation with someone in an snow-bound region, he suggested that to avoid preventing access to the container they might need to consider building enclosures or renting indoor space.
Snow might not be a problem for UCLA, but earthquakes certainly are. Labate said this is another important distinction between brick and mortar and containers—while he notes he hasn’t researched his hunch, these massive, solid steel, windowless shipping containers were far likely more structurally sound than any existing traditional datacenter on his campus. Let’s hope he never gets a chance to prove that theory.
Prevost Construction is proud to participate with Modular Building Institute. A brief history can be found on their website: www.modular.org. Founded in 1983, the Modular Building Institute (MBI) is the international non-profit trade association serving non-residential modular construction. Members are manufacturers, contractors, and dealers in two distinct segments of the industry – permanent modular construction (PMC) and relocatable buildings (RB). Associate members are companies supplying building components, services, and financing.
This is a great association to be a part of to get the latest information on modular buildings as well as discuss information with other contractors, manufacturers or dealers. Being that Prevost is a big part of school and modular buildings, education is a big part of this association. Below find an article that can be found here, to learn more about the school system’s involvement with modular buildings.
From single classrooms to complete campuses, permanent modular construction offers public, private, and charter schools what other construction methods cannot: accelerated project timelines, more economical pricing, and less disruption. Permanent modular schools are indistinguishable from other schools and can be constructed to any architectural and customer specifications. MBI members design and build schools of all types and sizes using traditional building materials like wood, steel, and concrete. Virtually any size permanent school can be built, installed, and ready for occupancy, some in as little as 90 days. Perhaps most importantly, by using off-site technology, open construction sites are eliminated while school is in session. Students are safer and teachers compete with less disruption.
High Tech High in Chula Vista, CA by Williams Scotsman. Find case study here.
Millmont School, Reding, PA by Triumph Modular & NRB Inc. Find case study here.
Relocatable buildings have become a critical factor in managing student demographics and increasing enrollments. Relocatable classrooms are also ideal for use during new construction or renovation. Convenient, flexible, cost-effective buildings can be delivered and operational in as little as 24 hours. Relocatable classrooms are measured for quality and code-compliance by state or third-pary agencies through routine and random inspections, testing, and certification services. Single classrooms or multiple buildings can be arranged in clusters to create a campus feel. MBI members supply steps, decks, ramps, and even furniture. Members also offer lease, purchase, and lease-to-purchase financing for a variety of public and private school needs.
Harvard University, Child Care Center by Triumph Modular.
Performance IQ, High Performance Green Modular Classroom design by M Space Holdings LLC.
Dearcroft Montessori School, Oakville, ON by Provincial Partitions Ltd.
Modular classroom design by Perkins+Will.
Case Study-North Andover Early Childhood Center:
Check out this great article that identifies how modular units were used to help schools!
Royal Concrete uses “Legos on Steroids” to build modular classrooms
By: Nadia Sorocka firstname.lastname@example.org
Royal Palm Beach-based Royal Concrete Concepts is using innovative construction technology to help the School District of Palm Beach County and Palm Beach State College expand facilities and meet the demands of their students.
For the Crestwood Middle School expansion in Royal Palm Beach and the college’s new fire tower, Royal Concrete Concepts used its modular concrete components to create vertical designs that can withstand high demands, according to the company’s vice president, John W. Albert III.
“Think Legos on steroids,” he said. “The concrete components are built in a controlled environment and assembled on site, allowing the customer to have complete control of their design, making the build custom and not ridged.”
Royal Concrete Concepts has been using modular concrete in custom design for about 12 years here in Florida. Albert said this type of construction is popular in Europe and is starting to become popular here in the states.
“With this type of construction what took months in the past to build now only takes weeks,” he added, which was the case with the Palm Beach State College Fire Tower.
Royal Concrete Concepts was able to use modular design and pre-cast stairs to create a durable tower that the college could use for years.
Each project is customized, Albert said. Royal Concrete Concepts use a variety of integrated building systems like concrete modular building units, pre-cast panels, tilt wall and concrete masonry.
For example in the Crestwood Middle School expansion Royal Concrete Concepts used existing modular classrooms that the district already had to create a two-level wing.
“The Crestwood project is really unique,” Albert said. “No one had ever moved modular classrooms and to create a two-story wing.”
According to Royal Concrete Concepts, the district began purchasing the individual units in 1998. The concrete modular classrooms can withstand hurricane-force winds and more importantly are relocatable, according to Albert.
“They [the district] had the foresight to design the modular classrooms to be relocatable and stackable,” he said.
Using modular classrooms has also saved the district money in construction; they were able to save 50 percent of the cost to expand Jupiter Middle School, Albert said.
The district also saved money with the Crestwood expansion, according to Jim Cartmill, general manager of Capital Projects Group, which is building the addition.
“The district was able to reuse existing modular buildings, which reduced the building construction cost by approximately 25 percent,” he said.
Albert said this type of construction not only cuts costs but it also reduces the project’s carbon footprint. In traditional construction all supplies are sent to the site before construction begins. With custom concrete building the components are assembled in a controlled environment and assembled on site.
“This also creates a cleaner construction site,” Albert said. “Onsite injuries are also reduced.”
For more information visit royalconcreteconcepts.com
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What Is A Modular Home?
A modular home is highly engineered. It is constructed in sections and put together by a builder on your building site.Modular homes are designed, engineered and built in a factory controlled environment.
How Are Modular Homes Built?
The building process begins at the design phase. Most modular producers use state of the art computer aided design programs which aid them in customizing floor plans and producing drawings and material requirement lists. Once designed, the building process begins. This process is similar to what you’ve seen during the construction of houses in your neighborhood. The quality materials and care for detail, and the same building codes and standards are observed. As you can see, today’s modular homes are models of efficiency and quality assurance.
How Long Does The Building Process Take?
Speed and consistent quality are two of the many advantages for choosing to choose modular housing. On the average, a home consisting of two sections will be built in the factory within a couple of weeks. Once the manufacturing process is complete, typically with interior finish right down to carpets and wall finish, the unit must he transported to your home site and placed on the foundation. Final completion is usually handled by a local builder or general contractor and includes connection of utilities to the home, and a short list of finish work. Normally the home is completed in two or three weeks. For more information on the site work phase, and a slide show of a house being set, click here.
What’s The Difference Between a “Modular Home” and a “Manufactured Home”?
Manufactured homes, sometimes referred to as mobile homes, are constructed to a different building code. This code, the Federal Construction Safety Standards Act (HUD/CODE), unlike conventional building codes, requires manufactured homes to be constructed on a non-removable steel chassis. Many communities have restrictions on where manufactured homes can be located. Modular and site-built homes on the other hand, are constructed to the same building code required by your state, county and specific locality and therefore are not restricted by building or zoning regulations. Your new modular home is inspected at the assembly plant during each phase of construction. Evidence of this inspection is normally shown by the application of a State or inspection agency label of approval.
What Do Modular Homes Look Like?
Modular homes look like any other home. Today’s building technology has allowed modular manufacturers to build most any style of home from a simple ranch to a highly customized contemporary. And, it doesn’t stop with houses. Modular producers are busy building banks, schools, office buildings, motels and hotels. Chances are you’ve been in many modular structures and probably never realized it.
Can I Design My Own Modular Home?
Yes. Most modular companies allow the customer complete design flexibility. But remember every manufacturer is different. Engineering capabilities and product specifications will vary from company to company.
Is A Modular Home Better Than A Site Built Home?
The decision is clear. With a modular home you get efficiency and quality control. Efficiency begins with modern factory assembly line techniques. Your home travels to workstations, with all the building trades represented. Work is never delayed by weather, subcontractor no-shows or missing material. Quality engineering and modular construction techniques significantly increase the energy efficiency of your modular home. A quality control process provides 100% assurance that your home has been inspected for code compliance and workmanship. In-plant inspectors as well as independent inspection agencies inspect the home on behalf of your state & local government. Click here to learn more about modular home construction methods.
Are Modular Homes Difficult To Finance or Insure?
There is no distinction between modular and site built homes as far as appraisal or financing. Banks and lending institutions treat both types of construction the same. Likewise, there is no difference in insuring the modular property.
What Do Modular Homes Cost?
When you add up all the labor, material and time savings inherent in the modular building process, you will find that the price of a modular home is generally lower than a site built home of comparable size. Plus you will keep saving money year after year, as your energy efficient home keeps your heating and cooling bills low.
A Review Of The Benefits Of Modular Construction.
- Highly Engineered
- Constructed In Climate Controlled Environment
- Efficient Building Process & Material Usage
- Energy Efficient
- In-Plant Inspections
- Consistent Quality
- Speed Of Construction
- Design Flexibility
- Constructed To Meet Or Exceed Local Building Codes
Modular construction is a great way to build an addition. You get the quality and price advantage that modern modular homes are known for along with faster build time. Speed is particularly beneficial when building modular home additions, since the construction will temporarily disrupt your family’s life, especially if you remain in your home while the work is being done.
Modular home additions come in two types. The most popular type is attached to the side of a home to create either a separate living unit, such as an in-law apartment, or additional rooms, such as a new kitchen, dining room, and great room. Some customers build an in-law apartment at the same time that they build a new modular home. The second type of modular addition is set on top of a one-story home to make it into a two-story.
Before you spend too much time considering an addition, find out whether or not you can build one, and what will be required if you can. There is any number of issues that can prevent you from going forward. Not surprisingly, several of the issues that affect your ability to build an addition are the same as those that can restrict what you can do with a particular building lot.
Before entering into a contract to build an addition, determine how you will pay for it. If you intend to use a lender to finance the construction, you may have a choice of either an equity or a construction loan. To use an equity loan, you must have sufficient equity in your home, since the lender will only allow you to borrow against that equity. An appraiser hired by your lender will determine the amount of equity in your home. If you have little equity in your home, and need a construction loan, the lender may require a down payment. It will also want an appraisal of your home that includes the proposed addition. Before you spend too much time exploring modular home construction costs, speak with a couple of lenders to see what they can do for you.
If you are able to build an addition, you will need to work with a dealer such as Prevost Construction Inc to help create custom modular home additions plans. You must provide prospective dealers with photographs and approximate measurements of the inside and outside of your home. This will help them create a design that meets your needs and fits your existing home. When you sense that a particular dealer can help you, invite him to see your home and take his own measurements.
When building a modular home, it is imperative to use a general contractor (GC) with modular-home-construction experience. In some respects, this advice is even more important when building custom modular home additions. There are usually a number of surprises when building an addition, regardless of the type of construction. Most of them derive from the fact that you are connecting a new structure to an existing structure that was not specifically designed to accept it. Surprises are typically more frequent and complex with an older existing home. Construction surprises almost always cost money and time, and they can cause personal stress, especially if you remain in your home throughout the project. The best way to manage the challenges of building an addition is to have a professional GC directing the activities.
The GC tasks will be similar to those in building new modular homes. These tasks include completing the site work, foundation, plumbing, electrical, heating, and interior and exterior carpentry. The GC will need to build any site-built structures you need, such as a deck. He will also be responsible for completing some construction tasks that are unique to building an addition.
The speed of modular construction is a tremendous benefit when building an addition, especially a second-story addition, since the addition can be set in place within hours after the roof is removed from your existing home. Once the addition is in place, the inside of your home is protected from a sudden storm. A site builder cannot realistically protect your home as quickly. Another advantage is that the second story can be finished faster. This means your family can use the upstairs more quickly, even if it must wait to enjoy the downstairs until the remodeling is completed. When you build your addition using modular construction, you get the quality and price advantage with faster build time.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, modular homes weren’t really popular in the South. Modulars have been popular until now mainly in Northern states with short building seasons and high labor costs. Now, they are a preferred structure, especially for replacing hurricane-damaged homes.
First, modular homes are perfect for a quick recovery situation. When your home has been destroyed, you don’t want to wait a year or more for a new one! Once the modular units are complete from the factory, the house can be completed within a couple weeks or less. A traditionally stick-built home would take months. A systems-built home arrives on site move-in ready, from carpet to curtains already installed!
Second, the modular homes designed for use in the South are built to withstand wind loads of 160 to 175mph. They are strong, high-quality structures. Additionally, they are perfect for being set on 11ft tall pilings to comply with flood zone requirements.
Third, they are usually less expensive. Many hurricane victims are working with a very limited budget. The structures are generally less expensive and there is not nearly as much labor costs as with a traditional built home.
Modular homes are a quick, high-quality, and a less expensive alternative. And there are so many options available to customize modular homes, the possibilities are endless. Don’t forget to consider modular when it’s time to build your custom home!