‘What’s the Wi-Fi password?’
It’s one of the first things we ask when we arrive in an office, coffee shop, or hotel. Without realising, we are relying heavily on data centers to provide one of the ‘utilities’ we come to expect from modern life – on a par with water, gas, and lighting.
In September, our co-founder Alex Reid was invited to join a panel discussion, hosted by Arcadis, to ‘demystify the data centers’, and take a closer look at their sustainability credentials – a recording which was broadcast during MIPIM – the annual international real estate industry conference.
Alex joined Tony Jacob, vice-president of design and construction at Digital Realty, Laura Allwood, training project manager at Arcadis, James Ricks, associate project director at Arcadis, and Olivier Dumoulin, directeur du développement at Arcadis France for the 20-minute broadcast – and it’s well worth a listen.
Kicking things off, the host asked Alex how he thought data center design has evolved since Reid Brewin Architects was established, 15 years ago. He explained: “The scale of data centers has grown considerably – as have the environmental impacts.
“Yet, data centers today are far more efficient than in the past, but that’s because the operators are trying to reduce energy consumption costs – and thereby using more efficient cooling methods and electrical equipment. For example, the use of water has been reduced dramatically, and – because of the environmental and political implications – we need to be very aware of where they are built and the impact they might have.”
In France, most of these structures are powered by nuclear energy, but there’s still a long way to go before a ‘carbon neutral data center’ can become a genuine possibility. This is largely down to the import of electrical equipment – which contains carbon – from overseas, as well as the building materials used in the structure itself.
But can a data center ever be as aesthetically pleasing as it is useful? We certainly think so! There’s even one located inside a decommissioned submarine bunker.
“To gain a building permit in France, you need to respect the planning rules and please the local mayor,” explained Alex. “They will only approve construction if they believe it will be accepted by the local community – so it has to look good. We spend our entire lives trying to make data centers look beautiful.”
While this blog gives you a little insight into the piece, it’s well worth taking a moment to listen to the short podcast, here.