Making the most of what we have…..

Facebook leads the way

Posted on 02/11/11

It was interesting to hear the news last week that Facebook is to build a huge datacentre in Lapland. A decision based on the opportunity offered by the icy local climate which means that the energy consumed in cooling the facility will be reduced significantly.


It is great to see a company at the forefront of technology and so heavily embedded in modern life thinking in this way. In some ways it is a nod back to the beginning of the industrial revolution where Manchester and surrounding towns became the centre of the Cotton trade. A key factor in this was the consistently damp local climate which stopped fibres drying out and snapping when being spun and made the process more efficient. As technology has progressed we have found ways to overcome the challenges that the climate presents and can use air conditioning to create the humid environment required for processing cotton in any location. In the same vein we can use air-conditioning to operate data centres in the desert.


However rather than use technology to overcome the challenges of cooling a data centre Facebook have made the decision to locate their new datacentre in Lulea. It is easy to transport data via optical cable and satellite to any corner of the world. Then rather than using a refrigeration system to produce cooling for the facility which is the size of 11 football pitches, outdoor air can simply be passed through the servers to maintain an appropriate operating temperature. The use of outdoor air in this way is termed free cooling.


The same philosophy should in fact be applied to all buildings. Building regulations are becoming ever more stringent in the level of insulation required which means that the internal gains from people, lights and computers in most buildings will provide sufficient heat to maintain comfortable temperatures throughout the year. The problem is actually then removing the heat to prevent overheating. Energy intensive air conditioning tends to be the immediate response of the industry but when our climate is so temperate for much of the year it is a wasted opportunity not to use natural ventilation to provide free cooling for our buildings and make the most of what we've been given….




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