London South Bank University: modelling tomorrow's cleaner, greener datacentres

As the race to design ever more energy-efficient datacentres heats up, IT industry players large and small are engaged in efforts to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency (see panel below).

But although the IT industry has profound commercial, regulatory and sustainability incentives to develop more efficient datacentre technologies, arguably the biggest energy savings to be made come not from the design of servers, semiconductors and other IT components – but from the design of the building itself. 

Factors such as the layout of the building and the systems of power and cooling it uses can make a substantial difference to the amount of energy it consumes. Cooling, for example, accounts for around 40% of an average datacentre’s energy use.

In other words, the people whose knowledge and skills the industry requires to make the biggest impact on its energy efficiency are not traditional IT folk, but their close (and becoming ever closer) colleagues in buildings and facilities design and engineering.

While the skills of efficient datacentre design are increasingly nurtured by industry, the knowledge that builds those skills does not generally stem from the R&D laboratories of the big datacentre builders and operators, but from academia.

One institution at the forefront of producing engineers to meet the challenge of designing more efficient datacentres is London South Bank University (LSBU), which introduced the world’s first building services engineering course more than 60 years ago.

Around 20% of our students now choose projects related to datacentres for their graduation dissertation, up from nothing ten years ago

Dr Issa Chaer, LSBU

Dr Issa Chaer, course director for building services engineering at LSBU, says: “Our students look at the systems in buildings – from the air conditioning to heating to power and lighting. Almost all the past presidents of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), for example, have graduated through LSBU.”

Over 90% of the course’s undergraduate and MSc students today come from industry. “Some of the big global names in datacentres recommend their students come over to LSBU, because we were one of the first institutions to tackle datacentres, in our building services curriculum,” says Chaer.

Full article here

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