Host to Europe’s fastest supercomputer, Lugano’s Centro Svizzero di Calcolo Scientifico (CSCS) provides computing power for scientific research, including physics, chemistry and materials science and weather forecasts. The data centre houses several high performing computers (HPC) including Piz Daint, ranked the world’s sixth fastest supercomputer and Europe’s top performer.
To remain competitive in this fast-moving industry, operators ETH Zurich and Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI) designed a facilities expansion programme to optimise computer performance. Arup together with its consortium partner IFEC won the tender for a framework contract in 2012 to deliver a total of 14 subprojects dealing over the next four years. Sustainability and resilience were the key drivers for this data centre, one of the most energy-efficient computing centres in the world.
With Piz Daint, CSCS is one of the most important tier zero sites for PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe). One of the key challenges in this project was working to accommodate several High-Performance Computers, some of them prototypes – with no downtime. Our engineers worked to plan and support the upgrades to meet strict requirements including securing access to a highly secure power supply and to ample cooling water supplies.
Cooling systems – essential to ensure mainframes don’t overheat – can consume up to a third of an average data centre’s total energy consumption. In Lugano, the super-computers are directly water cooled by supplies from Lake Lugano, making this one of the most energy-efficient data centres with a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of < 1.25.
2,000m² data centre
Optimising the data centre
As part of the framework agreement, we also upgraded the primary infrastructure. Among other things, the generator system was expanded, the cooling capacity was increased with an additional heat exchanger and economical solutions for the existing hydraulic problems were developed.
We also worked with the client to agree the conditions for the secondary supply of the individual high-performance computers and storage islands to subsequently develop tailor-made solutions and manage their short-term implementation with our local partner.
Based on extensive knowledge about data centre planning and project delivery work in Switzerland, we were able to roll out this programme of all the works without impacting operations.
Despite the very demanding schedules, all sub-projects were completed on time and consistently in very good planning quality. The proposed technical solutions were characterised by expertise, cost-effectiveness and feasibility. The execution times were significantly shortened by the application of BIM methods. The management of the executing companies on site was exemplary. ” Andrea Block-Ross Project Manager ETH Zurich
BIM enables seamless delivery
Although it was not a requirement, we used Building Information Modelling (BIM) through all phases of the project. For us, 3D modelling was a basic prerequisite to ensure the smooth coordination of existing, new and planned technical routes. Our models were 1:1 so that the executing construction companies could plan material orders and assembly promptly, enabling a faster implementation timetable and trouble-free construction operation.
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