A heat dissipation system installed for GSK
by Johnson Controls has cut energy costs
at the global data centre, while making
a positive impact on the local wildlife.
Winner: Glaxosmithkline and Johnson Controls
By Natalie Li
28 October 2010
In 2009 GlaxoSmithKline, a research based pharmaceutical company, created a sustainability council of senior executives to transform how it does business.
As part of this commitment, GSK’s technical and engineering services provider at GSK House, Johnson Controls, developed an innovative project to reduce energy consumption by using canal water. This satisfied an increasing demand for cooling capacity in the global data centre.
In essence, this system dissipates unwanted heat generated in the data centre by discharging it safely to a local water source – the Brentford Grand Union Canal. This was all achieved working with the Environment Agency, which set strict parameters so as not to affect the canal’s wildlife or biodiversity.
The project managers were particularly important as they ensured that the heat dissipation is considerably less than the limits set by the EA, to the extent that this project improves the water quality of the canal. In support of the BIFM award entry for sustainability and environmental impact, British Waterways stated that “there is no doubt the Brentford Grand Union Canal is better off for the installation of the GSK House cooling system which has improved the local environment.”
Through two heat exchangers, waste heat from the data centre is transferred through 1km of newly installed piping to the chiller located in a newly constructed plant room in the west basement. Here the waste heat is discharged over a waterfall which dissipates some of the heat before flowing back into the canal.
Extensive planning for the project started in May 2007, technical and ecological permission were later obtained from national and local government agencies as well as environmental bodies. Pre-installation mechanical work started during the data centre shut-down in 2007 and the main works commenced in March 2008.
How it works
The whole system is linked by remote control to the engineering control suite where every aspect of the operation is actively managed to ensure operational integrity of the data centre and management of the canal. At the design stage, the project was projected to deliver annual savings of 202,000kg of carbon, equivalent to 256 family cars off the road. The original idea/baseline of the project was to increase the resilience of cooling the data centre from n + 0.5 to n + 1. This baseline was then expanded to include using the canal (a non-consumptive cooling resource) as a sustainable and energy efficient way of cooling the data centre. The original baseline was successfully achieved with the creation of the extra chiller now making resilience n +1.
Following confirmed data validation on the chilled water supply to the data centre, the project managers recognised that there was spare capacity within the circuit to cool additional 24/7 plant spaces in the building. New fan coil units were thus installed in the data centre UPS plant room, which is now saving an additional 230,651kw each year.
The whole project was successfully delivered by British Waterways and Thames 21, the charity committed to bringing life to London’s waterways. It has proved to be an enormous success with the local environment benefitting considerably. During the summer season of 2008 water lilies were planted close to the bank of the canal near the waterfall – those water lilies were unaffected by the construction of the heat exchanger system and in 2009 and 2010 they thrived and multiplied. The system has also dramatically increased the interest in the canal and its wildlife.
The number of walkers and ramblers using the canal towpath has increased. Most days of the week they can be witnessed often in groups, walking the towpath and sometimes following the Capital Ring path. GSK is pleased that pedestrians using this stretch of towpath are interested in the waterfall and stop to read the information describing the reason and the process behind the installation.
Employee engagement about the initiative was also key. During the construction period, it was promoted to GSK staff through banners and on-screen information while the work was in progress – it was also the subject of a BBC News feature in March 2009. The team has shared experiences with other GSK sites located near running water sources in the UK and the US and are currently assessing the feasibility of implementing similar projects.