The last remaining portion of the former America Online campus in Dulles, Va., is making way for yet another modern symbol of cloud computing—a 1.2-million-sq-ft hyperscale data center complex, which will house critical computer and network infrastructure to support large-scale technology operations. 

PowerHouse Data Centers, the developer, declined to disclose the project’s cost.

EE Reed Construction began full-scale demolition of the remaining structures earlier this month, clearing the site for the three-story data center’s first building. The 380,000-sq-ft facility is scheduled to begin its two-year construction phase late next year.

The project joins other data center construction in the Dulles area, which has become known locally as data center alley. Already home to more than 300 data centers that handle an estimated 70% of the world’s Internet traffic, the broader Northern Virginia region is forecast to attract continued growth in this sector. Virginia economic development officials claim that the state has more than 35% of the world’s known hyperscale data centers.

The availability of vacant or underutilized office space in the region, coupled with resistance in some areas to greenfield data center developments makes the repurposing of existing sites particularly attractive, says Luke Kipfer, vice president of data center development and construction for American Real Estate Partners (AREP), PowerHouse’s parent firm.

Few challenges are expected during demolition, which includes a concerted effort to recycle as much material as possible, says Kipfer.

Salvaged wire, metal and building materials are being sent to reclamation facilities, while concrete will be processed for re-use on site. PowerHouse also donated usable office, furniture and kitchen elements from the existing buildings to local charities.

“It’s a little bit slower of a process in terms of sorting and recycling on site versus just demolishing and trucking it all off site,” says Kipfer, who anticipates the new buildings will be steel-framed with two-story tilt-up panels and precast architectural concrete enclosing the third level.

EE Reed will also handle site preparation and underground utilities for a new 300-MW on-site electrical substation being developed in cooperation with Dominion Energy. At full build-out, the campus is expected to use nearly 90% of the substation’s capacity.

The facility will occupy part of what once was AOL’s home during the Internet pioneer’s explosive growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Following the company’s relocation to New York City in 2007, sections of the campus near Washington Dulles International Airport were gradually sold off, leaving a 43.3-acre-site containing approximately 750,000 sq ft of office space, support facilities and parking garages, originally constructed in the early 1990s for an aerospace research company. AREP purchased the property in late 2021.

PowerHouse cleared a building at a site in Ashburn, Va., for its recently completed two-story, 265,000-sq-ft ABX-1 Powered Shell.

“In some instances, the buildings can be reutilized, but the requirements for hyperscale data centers are just so specific in terms of structural loads and floor-to-floor heights,” he adds. “Most times, you can’t make an office building work the way these data center deployments are going.”