2021 Plimpton-Poorvu Design Prize, First Prize: Building a Scalable Business in Data Centers

Rendering of building entry and urban farm

by Sarah Fayad (MLAUD ’20), Ian Grohsgal (MArch I ’21), and Dixi Wu (MDes/ MArch I ’22)  — Recipients of the 2021 Plimpton-Poorvu Design Prize, First Prize.

Data centers are typically a powered shed, located in remote areas, driven by profit, and primarily service enterprises. To set up a testing ground for a new scalable paradigm with a more human centered approach, Building a Scalable Business in Data Centers prepares for the 5G driven future while addressing the current growing demand in urban areas. Located along the Ottawa River in Gatineau to take advantage of the booming tech presence in Canada East, the data center sits at the nexus of benefiting three groups: the tenant, the community, and the investor.

The design serves the tenants by providing high-volume, low-latency data processing infrastructure and reducing their carrying costs. To achieve this, a holistic energy cycle integrates renewable energy sources from hydro Quebec and onsite solar panels to reduce the overall energy consumption, which is a significant portion of our clients’ carrying cost. On the other end of the energy cycle, the data center harvests the large amounts of waste heat emitted from the data facilities and channels it to the surrounding communities and public pool. For the community, the urban location allows for a digitally immersive, tourist destination via the extension of the municipal green belt, an interactive urban farm, and a heated outdoor pool using the data center’s excess heat.

In benefitting the tenant and the community, the investor can then receive returns from this digital backbone of local economic and community activity that services the current demand for data processing and prepares for the future market needs of 5G infrastructure and IOT.