2. Overview

Romonet Ltd was engaged by Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS) to facilitate and explore the challenges faced by the University in successfully achieving the environmental sustainability and low carbon IT (energy efficiency) goals of a new Central Machine Room (CMR) project. The computing services department’s existing Machine Room (MR) was constructed in the 1970’s and has had a number of upgrades since, those being mostly in the mechanical and electrical infrastructure in order to support the increased and higher density demand over the years.

The CMR project will bring the University two primary benefits: a) Additional data centre capacity b) the opportunity to provide a higher level of resilience (thus lower risk) for critical IT services by creating the ability to split services between the current MR and the new CMR.

The University is very keen that the new CMR demonstrates a state-of-the-art design emphasising sustainability and low carbon ICT. Due to the limited resources, the focus of this study has been on the design and in-use energy efficiency rather than the embodied carbon used within the materials and equipment housed within the OMPI building and the CMR.

The CMR has been designed within the basement of a new building to house the Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute (OMPI) which itself has a significant requirement for controlled environmental capabilities for the laboratory areas within the building.

Many departments and areas of expertise are required during such a project and whilst each group may be considering energy efficiency within their area of knowledge and expertise, experience has taught us that these areas are rarely brought together in order to optimise and maximise the overall design efficiency and ability to meet such in terms of the achieved efficiency.

The project team were aware that it is possible to create a ‘sound’ mechanical and electrical design in isolation that could go some way to optimising the in-use energy efficiency of a data centre but in order to create an exemplar for the University, the use of the facility in terms of the IT and communications equipment was of vital importance.

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