On behalf of real estate developer MIRIS and in collaboration Skanska, Asplan Viak and Nokia, Snøhetta has designed The Spark, a sustainable data center concept that fuels connected Power Cities with energy from its excess heat. The collaboration strives to transform this high energy-consuming typology into an energy-producing resource for communities to generate their own power.
«The heat generated by data centers represents a huge untapped potential in terms of energy capture that we wanted to explore further. By efficiently and sustainably exploiting excess energy that would otherwise go to waste, we can use technology to generously support health, recreation and the environment», says Founding Partner at Snøhetta, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.
The Spark will not only set a new standard for sustainable data centers, but also position data centers as anchors of smart city developments. By powering sports and recreational facilities, The Spark also aims to reintroduce a human touch back into our digitalized and smartphone driven lives, making the very body and mind of a living and breathing city of the future.
The Spark can be adapted to a wide range of contexts, and can be scaled in size and located anywhere in the world.
The first pilot study in Lyseparken in Os, Norway, will test The Spark’s feasibility on a real site. If the pilot is successful, Lyseparken may become an energy positive town, meaning it will produce more energy than it consumes.
The new sustainable data centers will function dually as «the body and brain» of the Power City. While the brain is represented by the storage of data itself and its possibilities of controlling a data-driven smart city, the body is manifested through the data center’s circular energy concept.
Just like blood travelling through in the human body, the energy generated from the data center travels through buildings and infrastructure, gradually giving off more and more of its heat, before returning to the data center and efficiently cooling it down. It then repeats the cycle indefinitely, producing energy that supplies the Power City, including schools, apartments, sporting facilities or even hospitals.
The facilities are placed strategically depending on their heating needs.
By 2020 the world’s need for digital data storage could amount to the nearly unfathomable number of 44 zettabytes (21 zeroes). While many perceive data as stored in “the cloud”, the reality of digital storage requires mostly remote, gigantic, energy consuming facilities connected to our towns and cities through millions of kilometers of fiber optic cable.
Data centers currently stand for 2% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to becoming an urban power source, The Spark pilot project demonstrates that the energy consumption in data centers can be reduced by 40%.
Ambitious, net-positive energy Powerhouse standards were implemented in the design process, including using low-embodied materials such as wood, rather than steel and concrete.
The data center’s structural core will also be made from local stone, allowing for aesthetic variations that adapt to the local context of the building.
In addition to designing the architectural concept for The Spark, Snøhetta has developed the name, the visual identity and designed and developed the website www.sparkcity.no. Snøhetta has also art directed and illustrated a short and visually appealing information film supporting the launch of the project.
Combined, these visual elements and communicative tools help convey this technically advanced project in a language that can be understood by all.