A breath of fresh air


Data centers suck up a lot of power—much of which is devoted to keeping servers cool. So it was with great fanfare that tech giant HP unveiled its first entirely air-cooled data center in February. Located in blustery Wynyard, England, the 33,445-square-meter (360,000-square-foot) facility is equipped with eight 2.1-meter (6.9-foot) fans to create one of the world's most energy-efficient data centers.



The project was built to complement an existing data center directly to the north. Site options were severely limited, though. “If you went too far east, you hit the North Sea; too far north, you are in the flight path of Newcastle Airport,” explains Maurice Julian, facilities project director at HP UK. There was a potential site to the west, but it was largely rural and without power, so the team focused on a small southern quadrant for the final build-out.


Project leaders considered choosing a greenfield site that had adequate power, but deemed it was too risky. “We could have gone through 13 weeks of meetings and still been refused permission to build on the site by local governing bodies,” Mr. Julian says. Given the tight schedule, the team abandoned the plan.

£2.1 million

The estimated annual cost savings at Wynyard compared to the average data center

12,500 tonnes

The reduction in carbon emissions


The team chose a warehouse originally built as a distribution center, but revamping a site brought its own challenges.

“We had to strengthen the existing concrete slabs in the floor so it could support the weight of the walls and server racks,” Mr. Julian says.

There were also security concerns. Stakeholders, including some high-profile government clients, would need to feel confident their information was protected.

“We realized halfway through the project that we needed to raise the bar a bit to make the facility secure physically,” says John Finlayson, data center manager at HP UK.

In addition to building high walls around the perimeter, construction crews strengthened interior walls by reinforcing them with steel.


Delayed delivery of onsite power and extensive mechanical prototyping necessary for such a cutting-edge facility threw off scheduling. To make up for lost time, the project team had to go into 24/7 work mode for approximately 12 weeks.

“We got up to having as many as 500 people per day on the site,” Mr. Julian says. Ramping up the staff allowed the team to make its initial delivery date for the building at the end of September 2009.

The data network was then completed in December, and the next month HP began migrating services to the Wynyard facility. Now the company is already considering expanding the center. “The new business pipeline looks healthy, so potentially within the next 18 months, we could start the next phase of construction,” Mr. Julian says.


Other eco-friendly aspects of the project include harvesting rainwater for use within the building and saving about 40 percent on lighting by opting for pale-colored server racks rather than the traditional black. Other companies are following HP's lead: Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans for its first-ever green data center.