On the Boards: La Dati Ghiacciaia

Rendering ©️ ICON + HDR

Northern Virginia as the capital of the world data infrastructure (more than 300 facilities and still growing fast) is the epicenter of the emerging trends related to the expanding footprint of the data center built environments. The need for more space, integration into the surroundings, independent and renewable power sources, a more sustainable life cycle, and flexibility are among the most prominent trends in the industry.

Photo Credit © HDR

La Dati Ghiacciaia, or “The Data Icehouse,” is an attempt to achieve the world’s first net-zero data center concept and a direct response to the trends and emerging requirements of the industry. It repurposes Italy’s abandoned nuclear bunkers, blending with publicly accessible spaces to shape a technology hub piazza. This visionary project comprises data center facilities, research centers, data halls, and public spaces, fostering community interaction with the expanding physical footprint of the digital world.

La Dati Ghiacciaia employs an independent and semi-passive mechanical approach to reduce its environmental impact and sets a precedent for future decentralized and vastly expanding data storage and computation spaces. By redirecting the heat generated by data racks into an underground ice reservoir, this system significantly decreases the need for mechanical cooling and heating and creates a passive reserve of cooling power in case of power cuts. The campus utilizes solar power and wind turbines to produce energy to power the racks and cooling system. In the cooling process, during the day, the energy will be stored in the ice system and will be re-used for the cooling process at night. In addition, wind turbines power hydrogen electrolyzers to store a source of clean energy in a hydrogen fuel cell system. The hydrogen fuel cell will be used to produce electricity to power the racks and cooling system at night. The combined system provides enough electricity to sustain the data center off-grid.

Photo Credit © HDR

By using the underground bunkers as mechanical support spaces and ice reservoirs, we were able to display the data racks in transparent and illuminating “ice cubes” placed on top of the bunkers and coming out of the floating canopy blending with the surrounding topography. Inspired by Italian Pinus Pinea trees, the cross-laminated timber slab canopy concept creates a serene playground of light, nature, and movement creating a dynamic environment connecting the components of the site.

Northern Virginia as the most prominent location for data infrastructure faces numerous hindrances in the way of sustainable development of data centers. Problems such as a strained power grid, limited space, air quality issues, and lack of aesthetics can be resolved through similar solutions presented within the La Dati Ghiacciaia concept template by expanding through the reuse of the existing spaces and the use of renewable energy and resources.

Visit the HDR website: www.hdrinc.com.

Published: 03/14/2024
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