Internal image of the Met Office High Performance Computer data centre.; Internal image of the Met Office High Performance Computer data centre.;

Met Office High Performance Computer, Exeter

A new data centre for one of the world's largest supercomputers

The largest computer in the world dedicated to meteorological services has been housed in a new 2000m² data centre at Exeter Science Park in south west England. Part of the UK Meteorological Office campus, this BREEAM Excellent data centre also features 1000m² of collaborative office space.

This world-leading facility was built to allow the Met Office to deliver more detailed weather forecasting and climate modelling, which in turn will contribute both to improved UK resilience to extreme weather events and to future advances in climate science. Once fully operational, the high performance computer will be able to complete more than 14,000 trillion calculations per second – and will have a maximum electricity demand of approximately 2.7MW.

Arup’s data centre design team provided building services engineering – mechanical, electrical and public health (MEP) engineering – as well as acoustics consultancy and testing and commissioning support. Our contribution also included creation of a MEP model to BIM Level 2 standards. Our team worked alongside Willmott Dixon, Stride Treglown and WSP to develop the building’s detailed design and to deliver energy-efficient solutions for the technology housed within it. Our focus on energy demand management played a central role in the project’s success in achieving its targeted BREEAM Excellent rating.

Exterior image of the Met Office High Performance Computer data centre. Exterior image of the Met Office High Performance Computer data centre.

Future-proofing with flexibility

One of the challenges of designing spaces for supercomputers is the pace at which technology continues to advance. In this case, the Met Office recognised that it would need a building flexible enough to support future phases of development. Close collaboration with the Met Office and the manufacturer of the supercomputer enabled the project team to design in high levels of adaptability whilst simultaneously protecting the cost effectiveness and efficient performance of the data centre. For example, power distribution units specified by Arup’s electrical engineers can easily be modified to supply DC power, an option that may be pursued in future to allow procurement of more efficient equipment. The design also incorporates provision to allow future connection to a district heating network powered by wasted heat, in case such a network is installed at the science park.