The project seeks to address the typical typology of data centers as high energy consumption structures. There are currently more than 4,000 data centers in Switzerland that create an energy demand equivalent to 60,000 households. Not only do these buildings have significant energy requirements, but the servers and computers also produce a large amount of heat that must be evacuated. Java, a lean high tower situated at Manesseplatz along the Sihl River, is conceived as a new waste heat power station and residential complex in Zurich. With 1,024 server racks, the building produces around 19 GWh of heat per year. The waste heat reaches a temperature of 60°C in the data center and is pumped up and transported into sorption machines which lower the temperature to a two-stage range: 35°C and 12°C, ideal for building heating and cooling respectively. The energy, in the form of heat, is subsequently channeled into the heating and cooling supply network of Zurich, and cold water from the Sihl River increases cooling efficiency in winter. Photovoltaic panels provide electricity for the data center. A total of 72 residential units are located across all floors of the data center. As the sorption machines works like a huge air conditioner for the building, optimized thermal conditions can be ensured inside the apartments.
The LafargeHolcim Awards jury Europe was particularly fascinated by the visionary qualities of this “living machine” that channels the waste energy of infrastructure into heating and cooling for housing. The project touches many design dimensions: functional, technical, and aesthetic. Most importantly, it rethinks a typology that has become increasingly important in urban space – that of the data center and its environmental impacts. The combinatorial thinking as well as the conceptualization of a hybrid building as infrastructure were qualities that set the project apart.