Facebook announced that it is building its first custom data centre, a facility in Oregon that will help the social networking site maintain performance levels for its growing legion of users.

Facebook was founded with a single server, and as it grew leased data centre space from third-party service providers like most Internet startups do, Jonathan Heiliger, the vice president of technical operations at Facebook, noted in a blog post.  

Now the company has more than 350 million users and wants more control over its data centre space. Facebook broke ground on its new facility on Thursday in Oregon, which will reportedly be a facility costing $180 million and require 12 months of construction. The data centre will employ at least 35 full-time employees and dozens of part-time and contract workers.

Facebook said it will use several energy-efficient technologies, including an evaporative cooling system, airside economiser, a system to reuse server heat to heat office space, and a patent-pending UPS system designed to reduce power usage as much as 12%.

"When Facebook first began with a small group of people using it and no photos or videos to display, the entire service could run on a single server," Heiliger wrote.

"However, as the site expanded to different colleges around the US, we needed to add more servers and data centre capacity to keep up with the increasing number of people who were joining every day. Initially, as most Internet start-ups do, we leased data centre space alongside other companies in the same building. As our user base continued to grow and we developed Facebook into a much richer service, we reached the point where it was more efficient to lease entire buildings on our own. We are now ready to build our own."

In predictable fashion, Facebook announced the data centre with just Heiliger's blog post, which received 172 user comments within two and a half hours. The data centre also has its own Facebook fan page, which will apparently provide updates on construction. The page already had 80 fans by 4pm EST Thursday.