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digital infrastructure construction

The widespread use of the internet and video-conferencing by homeworkers and businesses during the coronavirus crisis will lend new urgency to the programme for digital infrastructure construction.

The government is keen to see more investment in the sector. The 2020 Budget already included an extra £5bn to extend broadband to more remote rural areas. Meanwhile, a series of measures unveiled by Ofcom earlier this year bolstered the case for investment in new, faster fibre broadband to replace the copper network. As well as more investment by BT’s Openreach, it also sought to encourage competition from new networks.

Investments in data capacity

But it is major private sector investments in digital infrastructure construction of new data capacity to meet growing demand from businesses and households which offer some of the most promising opportunities for contractors.

One significant scheme where details have recently been announced, Ark Data Centres’ new £600 million Union Park Data Centre in Hillingdon in west London, involves the construction of a 56,000 sq m facility with a sub-station and office space along with onsite solar generation. Work is set to start on the scheme next spring and continue for 24 months (Glenigan Project ID: 20142828).

Ark has also submitted plans for a separate £38 million data centre at Corsham in Wiltshire covering some 13,100 sq m, where work is set to start this autumn and continue for 17 months (Glenigan Project ID: 19442841).

Meanwhile in neighbouring Berkshire, outline plans have been granted for a £21.6 million development of data centres and industrial units at Bracknell Segro Park. The project is at the pre-tender stage with work pencilled in to start in spring 2021 (Glenigan Project ID: 17435421).

North of the border at Thurso in Scotland, Green Highland Renewables has recently approached the local authority with a screening application for a 100, 000 sq m facility, the Mygen Data Center. Work on the project, which also involves infrastructure work and access roads, could start next spring and continue for eight months (Glenigan Project ID: 20144548).

Investment in data in the education sector is also creating new opportunities for contractors. Construction started earlier this year at the £7.6 million Institute of Technology Digital & Data Centre at Exeter FE College involving a 2,400 sq m facility. Work is set to continue until next spring on the project where Wilmott Dixon Construction is the main contractor (Glenigan Project ID: 19090681).

Significant data projects in Ireland

Some significant data centre construction projects are also in the pipeline in the Republic of Ireland. Detailed plans have recently been submitted by EngineNode for a scheme involving four new data storage buildings with a combined gross floor area of over 92, 000 sq m at a site in Clonee in County Meath.

Work on the project, which is at the pre-tender stage and where Clifton Scannell Emerson Associates is the architect, is set to start in late 2021 and continue for just over three years (Project ID: 20178857).

Meanwhile in Dublin, detailed plans have recently been submitted for a £179 million data centre at Damastown Industrial Park involving four buildings over a floorspace of just over 52,500 sq m. Work on the scheme where Nicholas Webb Architects has drawn up the plans, could start early in 2022 and continue for around three years (Glenigan Project ID: 20154845).

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