Data Center Megaprojects Fuel Next-Level Construction Careers
Mortenson data center construction team member

There’s nothing like working on a construction project site.

Where else can you get your hands dirty, work with a great team to solve problems together and create something completely new? No two days are the same and the everyday satisfaction of seeing a job well done can make the hours fly by. 

Unless they don’t.

Working in construction can provide a stable, rewarding career. However, the choices you make along the way can help you become the best version of yourself and elevate your career by working on cutting-edge projects like today’s hyperscale data centers.

Responding to a Fast-Growing Data Center Market

Digital experiences and the technological advances behind them play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. We depend on reliable, fast data exchange for everyday tasks — whether it’s streaming video content, quickly searching for the best price or facilitating high-speed financial transactions.

As a result, the demand for more data centers that power those experiences has exploded in recent years. According to McKinsey & Company[1], the U.S. accounts for about 40% of the global data center market which is forecasted to grow by some 10% per year through 2030 — with hyperscale providers projected to experience some of the most significant growth over that timeframe.


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Data Center Construction Projects Require a Multitude of Skill Sets

By leveraging economies of scale and custom engineering on many levels, constructing a hyperscale data center involves a massive scope of work. In addition to designing and building the overall structure, these mega-jobs also include the electricity to power huge amounts of IT equipment and next-level cooling systems to maintain proper server temperatures.

“Our customers building these data centers have needs that go well beyond the typical general contractor delivering the vertical build,” said Joe Proulx, VP of Operations for the Mortenson Data Center Group. “These hyperscale data centers are very large, complex buildings that range from 500,000 to 1 million gross square feet.”

There’s so much you can learn because the work involves the biggest and potentially most complex systems…

MEPs and Other Critical Component Teams

On top of the teams responsible for the large mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) scopes of work, mega data center projects involve several component teams. There are civil, structural, architectural teams that consist of multiple Project Managers and Engineers. There’s also a safety team, a quality team and a project controls team that deal with cost and schedule, all while providing other support mechanisms throughout the project.

“Even though these large data center projects are unique in many ways, the org chart still includes many of the same roles involved with a typical commercial build out,” said Bill Peterman, Talent Acquisition Lead at Mortenson. “There are still Project Managers, Superintendents, Project Engineer roles along with a heavy focus on MEP and commissioning.”

Mortenson helmet on table

A Diverse Team Delivering Exceptional Results

The Data Center Solutions group at Mortenson has team members working on multiple jobs and campuses. Based on demand, the group is currently supporting select hyperscale customers looking to create the necessary infrastructure to support their growth.

“Our focus right now is working with, and for, a few major customers,” said Proulx. “We want to make sure we're focusing the right time, attention, and resources to deliver the exceptional results and experience our customers expect on every project.”

In order to execute these types of jobs, it is imperative that the project teams include a diverse team of top talent to ensure an exceptional experience and end result.

If you have the ability to engage in MEP systems and bring a willingness to learn, grow and advance, the data center demand is only going to increase.

Once-in-a-Lifetime MEP Career Growth

About 60% of the work on these mega data center projects revolves around the MEP systems. As a result, there is significant career growth opportunities for MEP professionals, especially in leadership roles. These projects provide exposure to technical elements not involved with a typical commercial build — including large, complex electrical and mechanical systems that interface with each other. 

“There’s so much you can learn because the work involves the biggest and potentially most complex systems you'll see as far as redundancy and other aspects,” said Kari Labucki, Senior MEP Project Manager. “You can really gain that technical expertise and grow by doing a new scope. The sky really is the limit working on these massive data centers, possibly more than maybe any other of the construction industry from my experience.”

Collaboration and Customer Engagement

The large teams required on these mega-jobs also demand a higher level of communication and engagement. The multiple internal groups within Mortenson’s diverse business model offer plenty of opportunity for collaboration — whether it's with the civil work on the project site, the group helping support the campus substation build or other teams related to the vast scope of work.

These vital collaborations also extend to working directly with hyperscale customers who are very well versed and involved in their builds. The opportunity to work with such a large team and a customer that's very engaged creates a unique project site experience that is rewarding on many levels.

“There is a heightened level of scrutiny and focus revolving around the quality process within these mission-critical facilities,” said Proulx. “These are very collaborative builds with the customer being right on site with the team and their subject matter expertise helps support the build and the efforts of team.”

Growth Equals Opportunity

Staffing for these large-scale projects includes multiple different disciplines and the size of the team ranges from 40 to 60 people per build. That provides a lot of opportunity — both on a current job and with the need to fill additional positions as the campus continues to expand. This forecasted growth provides a chance for team members to get to that next level in their career.

“As we continue to build projects on these campuses, we’re very strategic with how we fill the number of open positions and who we put in those roles,” Proulx said. “It’s been a focus of Mortenson and the data center team to promote from within. So, we're identifying high performing team members that are looking to stretch and advance into those positions, which provides growth and advancement.”

With the anticipated longevity of a campus and multiple builds, there are a lot of opportunities for team members to grow and advance from certain roles or component teams. Even if you're doing a specific scope on a specific team, there’s a good chance you could have the opportunity to work on a different scope with a different team as the campus progresses. 

Data Center Projects Can Provide Greater Job Stability

Hyperscale data center customers and clients are experiencing dramatic growth in their businesses and are continuing to invest in capital projects to meet industry demands. All projections for this industry indicate exponential growth over the next 8-10 years, which should drive an abundance of construction project opportunities.

This forecasted growth and resulting career advancement opportunities also provide the added benefit of stability. While the Mortenson data center team is a traveling group, it’s possible to get on a site and be there for a while. In Utah in particular, there is a long-range vision for multiple builds that could lead to work for another 10 years or more.

“If there's any wave that you want to ride as a construction industry professional, being a part of building these mega data centers would be the wave to ride,” said Proulx. “If you have the ability to engage in MEP systems and bring a willingness to learn, grow and advance, the data center demand is only going to increase as the market of technology and innovation continues to grow.”