We have been closely following the construction of a new data centre on Parliament Street just south of Front on the edge of Toronto's Distillery District. Developed by Bresler and Urbacon, construction of the five-storey, WZMH Architects-designed building recently wrapped up, and has now opened as a new International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) Data Centre for Equinix.

Equinix's new TR2 data centre on Parliament Street, image by Jack Landau

The facility, which is known simply as TR2, will be opened up in phases within the completed structure. The now open first phase on the fourth floor of the building offers approximately 34,000 square feet/3,158 square metres of colocation space. Equinix has already invested $42M in the site, and the company is set to invest a total of over $100M to realize the remaining phases in the coming years. At full capacity, TR2 will have approximately 106,000 square feet/9,847 square metres of colocation space.

"There are five phases in this building. There are chunks of capacity we make available. The phase on the fourth floor is roughly 675 computer cabinets worth of space. There are four other phases and when they're all done there's about 2,450 cabinets throughout the building. When that's getting full, we're going to have to decide where to expand" said Karl Strohmeyer, President of Equinix Americas.

Karl Strohmeyer, President of Equinix Americas, image by Jack Landau

Despite its size, TR2 is expected to be staffed by no more than 19 employees at any given time, though the construction of the building was a major creator of jobs. "It took over 430,000 man hours to build this building. That's really good for the local economy", said Mr. Strohmeyer.

South side of the data centre, image by Marcus Mitanis

TR2 will serve some of Canada’s largest financial, networking and cloud computing companies, as well as over 60 network service providers, including Rogers, Telus, Cogeco, Allstream, Cogent, Beanfield and CFN Networks. TR2 will also serve finance-related companies like foreign exchange broker Oanda, and 30 financial firms including five of the top eight Canadian electronic trading platforms. TR2 is connected to Equinix's pre-existing TR1 facility at 151 Front Street West via a fibre-optic link, allowing reliable, high-performance, low-latency connectivity.

Equinix's new TR2 data centre on Parliament Street, viewed from the southeast, image by Jack Landau

Security is a major factor when serving companies handling sensitive data and large amounts of transactions, and security features are evident inside and outside of the facility. Upon entering the building, a "mantrap" area sits between the front entrance and the security desk, which can only be cleared with a code and the use of a biometric palm scanner. After clearing the first mantrap and subsequently passing the bulletproof-glass protected security desk, almost every other door and cabinet in the facility requires the use of these biometric palm scanners.

Given the sensitive data and technology on site, security was a major factor in what we could and couldn't shoot while touring the building, and certain features like the security desk were among the items off-limits to cameras. "Obviously building access is very restrictive", said Mr. Strohmeyer. "From the front door, that's a mantrap, then you get into the lobby, you have to be registered or you go nowhere. If you're registered, then someone will walk with you." 

One of many biometric palm scanners in the data centre, image by Jack Landau

In the fourth floor first phase of the data centre, we get a look at both the functional spaces of the facility as well as common areas for employees. Though largely windowless on the whole, the southwest corner of the building features large floor-to-ceiling windows. On the fourth floor there's a conference room and meeting area, both with commanding views of the Toronto skyline.

Conference room on the fourth floor of TR2, image by Jack Landau

Another security door and palm scanner divides the windowed employee area from the actual nerve centre of the building's initial phase. Bathed in dim blue lighting—a signature feature found in all of Equinix's data centres—this area is in the process of being divided into "cabinets" which hold the technology serving Equinix's high-profile clients.

Fourth floor of TR2, image by Jack Landau

Cabinets are accessed with the same palm scanners found elsewhere in the building, and some have been fitted with additional security features like ceilings, and tight mesh cages too small to fit a USB drive through.

Palm scanner securing a cage on the fourth floor of TR2, image by Jack Landau

Proximity to the Downtown core, as well as Equinix's existing TR1 facility, was a major factor in the decision to build the facility on Parliament, south of Front. "We generally deploy in downtown areas because that's where most of the fibre and interconnection is which drives latency", said Mr. Strohmeyer. "Most of our customers require high performance, low latency interconnection to a lot of other suppliers and buyers. So we end up creating these locations where all that interconnection happens. Generally we have architectural codes that we have to abide by."

Fourth floor of TR2, image by Jack Landau

The servers in a data centre can create a lot of heat, and several systems have been put in place to create enough cooling to disperse it. TR2's climate control system utilizes air conditioning in the summer and outside air in the Winter to maintain a constant air temperature of 20 degrees. Just as important are backups to the facility's power system, which include generators, battery backup, and UPSes (Uninterruptible Power Supply). In the event of an outage, the UPS system provides power to the facility until the generator is able to spin up and take the entire load.

Future cabinet space on the fourth floor of TR2, image by Jack Landau

As one can imagine, plenty of heavy equipment is required to run the servers, climate control systems and security. The building's large freight elevator, capable of carrying up to 9,000 kg, is an integral feature in a building designed to house heavy machinery.

Freight elevator at TR2, image by Jack Landau

For more information about the Parliament Street Data Centre, check out our dataBase file for the building, linked below. Choose the associated Forum thread link to get in on the conversation, or you can leave a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page.

Related Companies:  Trillium Architectural Products, WZMH Architects