25 Years of MGAC: Critical Environments

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MGAC was founded in 1996 with three goals: to do the most interesting and challenging work, to have fun working together, and to build a successful business in the process. Twenty-five years later, we have met these goals and more. At this milestone moment, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of our most memorable projects—our favorite missions made real. Today, join us as we revisit the evolution of our Critical Environment projects.

Perfect Timing

In the late 1990s, there was a “dot-com bubble.” Internet startups proliferated. For every Amazon that got going, there were four or five www.pets.com. GoDaddy ads were the talk of the office. WorldCom and Global Crossing quickly became international powerhouses in the telecommunications space. Colocation companies built globally were seeing the massive demand for mission-critical space. Redundancy, resiliency, and security were the buzzwords of the moment.

Then somehow, the bubble burst. Maybe people got ahead of themselves. There was no more www.pets.com, WorldCom, or Global Crossing. The NASDAQ fell 78% from its peak quickly. That would be equivalent to an 11,000-point drop from today’s level. We heard “the world has built its last data center.” Those in the industry postulated that the capacity in place would be enough support needed for the foreseeable future.

It was in that market, and amid this rapidly changing landscape, that MGAC began its Critical Environments (CE) Group.

Tracking Exponential Growth—Math Books Optional

Rates of ascent can be linear, or alternatively, can be exponential. What starts slowly takes off in an exponential growth model. COVID-19 infection rates are a timely, commonly understood example of this. MGAC’s Critical Environment’s Group took that exponential route from the jump. Carefully cultivated relationships and a history of delivering successful projects led MGAC to be awarded Fannie Mae’s Urbana Technology Campus. A 125,000 SF resilient post-9/11 office building, and a new data center to support Fannie Mae’s corporate requirements.

Our first large, ground-up data center was cutting edge. Many of the details are private, but the project was recognized publicly as the world’s first LEED certified data center. It was an exciting and highly involved endeavor and the relationships built during that time last to this day.

Exponential growth means the first engenders two, two engenders four, and so on. That led us to Highmark Inc., whose first data center marked the beginning of a decade’s long collaboration between Highmark and MGAC as needs arose. The project, located on an admittedly “challenging site” (which translated means a ravine), became the world’s first LEED Gold certified data center. Quick on the heels of that project, a paired data center program was undertaken for a Fortune 500 industrial giant in the Midwest, which entailed constructing the same building on two sites—45 miles apart.

Immediately following, a major banking client fired its failing project management team from a national brokerage firm and brought MGAC in to rescue the project. Rationalizing size, putting in place a process to deliver, and ultimately building the project in a remote location in Ontario, Canada spawned MGAC Canada ULC, MGAC’s Canadian subsidiary. The project was uniformly successful under our leadership, was LEED Gold certified, and features the largest solar photovoltaic array in Ontario.

From there, our exponential trajectory continued. We completed project after project, and so on.

Still Growing—Today, Tomorrow

Somehow building $500M data centers in 24 months or less has become normal, if not routine. MGAC has an unblemished record of delivering these projects. Thirty megawatts of critical power, delivered in six months from groundbreaking? We have done it. National program for distributed data delivery? We have done it.

Much of the work we have done in this space is understandably under non-disclosure agreements, but every project comes back to the same fundamentals. Critical Environments and mission-critical projects are about predictability, speed to delivery, value for the investment, and confidence—the kinds of assurances and outcomes we built MGAC to deliver. To date, our CE team consists of 22 people working across 11 states and Canada, working for many of the world’s major technology companies, delivering their mission-critical facilities on time and within budget.

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