Project description by jury
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.
Reuse of waste heat from data center for heating and cooling
Java has about 4,000 kilowatts of power and produces 19 giga watt hours of waste heat annually. Solar panels on the facade and on the elevated highway will provide electricity for the data center. The amount of the waste heat is cooled by a water system invented by IBM in collaboration with ETH Zurich. It reduces the energy required for cooling and allows waste heat to be used for heating and cooling. The waste heat will flow as an energy source into the heat supply network in Zurich. The supply areas in Zurich currently consists of two independent networks: Zurich-north and Zurich-west. By 2020 a new underground line will connect the two networks together and this project sees itself as a part of the connection and expands the supply area in the direction of Zurich-south.
Thermal activated park area
Java is situated at the Manesseplatz along the Sihl River in Zurich. The cold river water increases the cooling efficiency of the data center during the winter. The heated water flows back in an underground pipe network. The outside area will be thermally activated. It forms a park area with its own foggy microclimate.
Urban living space without thermal insulation
The collected waste heat with a temperature of 60 degree from the data center will be pumped up and transported into the sorption machines which split the 60 degree waste heat into a two-stage temperature range: 12 degree which could be used for cooling and 35 degree for heating. Totally open living spaces are created under the cylindric volumes. Installations like water pipes and electric cables enable a flexible use and configuration in the 72 apartments. Through a recess, the sorption machine loses minimal energy and works like a huge air conditioner for the apartment. Therefore there is no thermal isolation around the apartments. The sorption machine rests on rolling bearings in a tray and can be rotated by a wheel depending on heating or cooling demand during the different seasons.See more
There are over 4,000 data centers in Switzerland, which require a great deal of energy and release an immense amount of heat. With his project, Yufei He, architect and scientific assistant at the ETH Zurich, plans to utilize this waste heat. He has designed a building that provides energy for Zurich’s heating and cooling network. The long, slender structure to be built on the banks of the Sihl River is both a waste-heat power plant and a residential building. Solar modules on the facades supply the data center with energy. The waste heat at 60°C is cooled by sorption machines to either 35°C or 12°C, ideal temperatures for heating and cooling. “The project raises contemporary questions at different scales,” says Yufei He, “from the energy network development in Zurich to a new form of living within the process of digitalization and densification.”
The Awards jury was intrigued by the visionary qualities of the project. It offers aesthetic and functional solutions to environmental problems caused by data centers. “It feels natural to use waste for something else,” says Marilyne Andersen. “But it’s not so easy to implement this in an efficient way. It needs a network for the waste of one to become the input to another. In this project the value also lies in the materiality, in the bold design.”Read more »
Next Generation 1st prize ex aequo winner Thermal Processor in Switzerland – Waste energy recovery for residential use …
Next Generation 1st prize ex aequo winner Yufei He, architect and scientific assistant, ETH Zurich, Switzerland for …
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