Critical Facilities

Critical facilities are becoming more diverse as technology advances create market shifts. The industry’s next challenges include innovating in urban spaces, creating more energy-efficient operations, and achieving carbon goals.
Maruwa Seto Factory exterior
Maruwa Seto Factory, Owariasahi, Japan
Data centers will need to address concerns such as water scarcity, energy efficiency, and supply chain issues, particularly in major data center markets where available properties are scarce.
—Jackson Metcalf, Critical Facilities leader

The AI goldrush will drive new growth in the market — and new designs.

The rapid growth of AI and other emerging technologies will have a huge impact on the market as data center operators look to build dedicated AI sites or adapt existing buildings to deploy AI. These advanced operations will force new designs to accommodate more computing power and new kinds of cooling solutions, from traditional air-cooled data halls to direct-to-chip, immersion, and liquid cooling.


Sustainable design options drive more efficient operations.

Data center operators have a growing list of alternatives to lower their energy consumption and decrease their carbon footprint. On-site power generation, near-site green energy sources, waste heat recovery, and alternative material choices — like using timber over concrete — are some of the options available to make data center infrastructure more sustainable and resource efficient.


Existing buildings will be ripe for data center retrofits.

In prime markets, like London or Northern Virginia, urbanization and the shortage of land for large-scale data center development are pushing data centers into brownfield sites, existing buildings, and vertical designs. Former corporate and research campuses on the periphery of urban centers offer attractive acreage and existing architecture for data center development.

A group of people standing in a room with a stage and lights.
Design Forecast 2024
Design Forecast identifies the trends and design strategies that are shaping the future of the human experience and the built environment. We provide strategic advice, research, and projects from all 33 of Gensler’s practices to help clients prepare for transformational times.