Construction Challenges in the AI Era

Constructing data centers and HPC facilities that meet the exacting demands of cutting-edge AI is an immense undertaking. Project lead times stretch into multiple years, while rapid technology changes can render projects obsolete halfway through planning. The architectural foresight and modular design of these data centers aim to meet current AI demands and seamlessly embrace the innovations yet to unfold. Procurement challenges abound: long waitlists exist for the highest-end AI chips and switches after facilities are completed. There also needs to be more technical labor and construction materials. Moreover, sustainability is an increasing priority amid surging power demands.

Equipment Procurement

Delayed power delivery by utility companies combined with supply chain challenges consistently impact how and where GPUs are deployed. AI hardware like GPUs, switches and PDUs typically have 12 to more than 18-month lead times from ordering to delivery, delaying project timelines. Advanced pre-planning and strategic sourcing are essential.

Materials Shortages

Building material supply chain issues plague many construction projects currently, especially those on accelerated timeframes that are common in technology. Strong vendor relationships and contingencies are necessary.

Power Limitations

New data centers focused on AI are coming online at 100MW and ramping up significantly in power with plans for a capacity of 500MW to 1GW. Lead times for utility power upgrades can exceed three years, delaying buildouts. On-site power solutions like natural gas turbines are being explored to provide bridging power while utility power is delayed.

Labor Constraints

There is a need for more IT project managers, data center engineers, electricians and other skilled technical labor necessary to implement complex builds. Competitive compensation, training investments and retention initiatives are critical for construction partners.

Technology Risk

AI computing hardware evolves rapidly. Data centers’ lifespans are typically 20 to 30 years. Constant design iterations and modular build-outs help keep facilities adaptable to future technology changes during construction.


AI workload density growth has led to exploding power usage, but environmental responsibility is paramount. Developers utilize sustainable building practices and increasingly deploy on-site renewables or advanced cooling to mitigate energy footprints.

“We’re essentially building data centers for a new computing paradigm,” said Tom Mertz, Chief Operating Officer of T5 Data Centers. “To fully unlock the promise of AI, data center providers need to evolve both their physical facilities and software stacks. With careful planning and flexible designs, we can build next-generation data centers tailored for artificial intelligence.”

Innovation in construction approaches, project management, procurement tactics, workforce development and forward-looking design is essential to overcoming these challenges and keeping infrastructure advancement aligned with the pace of AI progress. A partner like T5 Data Centers can help you keep pace. Download the whitepaper to discover how you can embrace the future of AI.

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