The Building

The office block with its distinctive double layered glass facade (Picture: Marco Carocari)

The chief design criterion for the computer centre was that it should be a modular and flexible building and as sustainable and energy-efficient as possible. Today, CSCS is one of the most energy-efficient and ecologically sustainable supercomputer centres in the world.

Work on the new computer centre in Lugano-Cornaredo began in January 2010. Two separate buildings were erected, one for the offices and one for the supercomputers. The five-storey office block has been built to meet the Minergie Eco standard and offers a total surface area of 2600 square metres. Special care was taken during construction to use environmentally friendly materials. The spacious halls and landings provide meeting areas for the employees and encourage communication, while the white decoration and large windows in the offices provide light-flooded work spaces.

An underground corridor and a footbridge on the first floor lead from the office block into the heart of the new site, the computer building. The machine room, which measures 2000 square metres, was designed to minimise restrictions to the installation and operation of supercomputers in the future. That is why there is not a single supporting pillar or any partitioning.

The water supply system in the resource deck

The basement of the computer building houses the "resource deck" containing the basic infrastructure: 960 batteries for the emergency power supply as well as the electricity and water supply systems.

From the "resource deck", the processed power and water are sent to the "distribution deck", the installation floor located directly above. In most conventional computer centres, the installation deck consists of a raised floor measuring 40 to 60 centimetres in height through which kilometres of cable are fed. Moreover, the cabinets for the power distribution units (PDU) are usually located in the computer room and this limit the options for installing supercomputers. In order to avoid this limitation in the new CSCS building, the raised floor has been replaced by a five-metre high storey which houses the entire technical infrastructure, also called the secondary distribution system. This man-high structure is clearly laid-out and allows easy access to the technical infrastructure. This is also where the fuse boxes and power distribution boxes are located next to the hydraulic system for the secondary water distribution system. The equipment stands on steel mesh platforms 90 centimetres high, to protect them in the event that the water cooling system should ever spring a leak.