Data Center, Digital Infrastructure, Digital Innovation, Latin America, Technology

In this Digital Infrastructure blog series, we’re highlighting our data center design, delivery and construction experts and how they are accelerating our clients’ digital journey in the market sector.

Luis Lopez is our technology market sector lead for Latin America. Luis has a wealth of experience in the construction and delivery of data centers across South America for some of the technology sector’s leading organizations. He worked on the first hyperscale data center in Mexico and the region’s Global Crossing Network — a complex project encompassing both undersea and land-based cables spanning the United States, Mexico, Panama, and various other South American countries.

Tell us a bit about yourself – your role and career journey  

I began my career in the telecoms industry in 1991 helping to build Mexico’s first fiber optic network for long-distance services. I started working at AECOM three years ago, as a senior data center project manager, where I managed third-party projects and served as a client account manager for one of AECOM’s major clients in the technology sector.

For the last year and a half, I have been working in-house for one of our clients managing their construction projects and as a technical consultant on the design of data centers. Over the last three years, I’ve worked on a total of nine data center projects in Mexico — three as a technical advisor focusing on design and construction administration and six as a construction manager and customer representative.

Talk to us about a project that has impacted or been a major highlight of your career. How is it solving the challenges and issues many tech companies and communities are facing today?

A significant project that has been a highlight of my career is the recent hyperscale data center deployment in Queretaro, Mexico.

The immense scale of these data centers meant I had to manage three construction projects at the same time. Two of the projects were from one lease provider and one was from another, so that was really challenging to handle. Typically, each new data center project holds 4 megawatts as an initial phase, but this project required us to manage a total of 12 megawatts in one go across three different projects.

Another really interesting project I’ve had the opportunity to work on in my career was the Global Crossing Network — a complex project encompassing both undersea and land-based cables spanning the U.S., Mexico, Panama, and various other South American countries. I started as the first employee of Global Crossing Mexico and, in just three years, our small team of seven people had handled nearly $4.2 billion of projects across diverse networks, including undersea and terrestrial fiber optic systems.

As the project evolved, I transitioned to oversee the work as the construction and operation director in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, facing significant challenges including requests, negotiations and planning.

What are some of the unique challenges you are facing in designing/managing data center construction and how are you overcoming them?

One of the unique challenges I’ve faced working in the sector in Mexico was when we introduced a new data center facility concept that hadn’t been used country before. When AECOM embarked on the project three years ago, we were pioneering the construction of hyperscale data centers in Mexico, now, there are about 12 of these types of data center projects in the area.

Dealing with new technology to support operations while maintaining a compressed schedule posed significant challenges. AECOM’s role involved project management, which included coordinating, reviewing, and advising on project management and construction management for general contractors, lease providers, and our end client.

I leveraged my extensive experience of major construction projects, including airports, stadiums, and seaports, along with my history of managing large teams to address these challenges. These hyperscale projects involve substantial megawatt capacity, with initial phases ranging from 16 to 64 megawatts, and some will reach up to 70 megawatts. To put that in perspective, the combined power consumption of the upcoming data centers could be nearly twice that of Queretaro city, including the industrial area, which is one of the fastest growing in the country.

How is the digital evolution shaping data center construction management practices?

The digital evolution has significantly shaped construction management in the data center space. Cutting-edge technologies like 360-degree modeling and advanced AutoCAD extensions facilitate 3D modeling of buildings, aiding in project visualization, clash identification, space optimization, and progress tracking. They help us to ensure projects stay on schedule, within budget, and efficiently allocate resources.

In terms of data center construction management practices, the pandemic accelerated data consumption, leading to increased power demands worldwide, including in Mexico. The development of hyperscale data centers will provide better support for various industries and improve real-time processing and efficiency. These data centers are essentially the backbone of cloud services, which encompass the storage and processing of vast amounts of data. They also notably serve as backups for critical equipment, safeguarding businesses from catastrophic events.

Small data centers are strategically placed near industrial and financial hubs, serving as the edge and last-mile connectivity points. These data centers, linked to larger hyperscale facilities through high-speed connections, represent a revolutionary shift in IT processes and automation, extending beyond traditional financial clientele.

Many different clients and applications in real time processing are going to benefit from the development and delivery of these new types of data centers and I’m proud to be a part of bringing them to life.

Originally published Sep 27, 2023

Author: Luis Lopez