Nexus data center in Zellik: unique building with maximum energy efficiency (ROBUUST architecture and research)

On the grounds of the Research Park in Zellik, the VUB, UZ Brussel, Green Energy Park Vzw and Ghelamco opened the first “sustainable by design” data center. The Nexus data center with triple certification (Uptime Tier III, BREEAM Excellent, EDGE Advanced) is the cornerstone of the CO2-neutral multi-energy grid and a beacon in the renewable energy community. To design the Nexus data center, the clients partnered with the firm ROBUUST architecture and research.

The approximately 10,000-square-meter building is unique in Belgium. The design focuses on maximum energy efficiency. The energy used has 100% renewable origin and is partly generated locally. In addition, heat from the servers is recovered, rainwater is used for cooling and the building uses circular material

Besides the servers of the UZ Brussel and the VUB, the data center also houses the new Flemish supercomputer of the very latest generation. This Tier 1 supercomputer will be put into service in 2025, and will serve to process very complex and large amounts of data, as for example in climate models, the development of new medicines and AI applications.

The powerful machine will be at the disposal of all Flemish researchers and research institutions. As well as educational, healthcare and government institutions, the data center will also have space for various innovative (inter)national companies.

The unusual building has nine floors. The semi-underground building floor contains the technical and logistics premises of the data center. This floor is solidly finished with linear bricks in concrete. The pedestal connects to the frameless glazing of the ground and second floors. The high-voltage cabin with the step-up transformers is finished in the same bricks.

The ground floor is slightly elevated from the public road. This makes the building secure from outside collisions. The entrance to the building is integrally accessible by stairs and a ramp. On this floor are the meeting rooms, a central marketplace for reception and catering, workstations for users and visitors, the sanitary facilities and changing rooms with showers.

Transparent pedestal

Space has also been reserved on the ground floor for the construction of a new supercomputer for the VUB. Pending its construction, this area can be integrated into the office landscape. The supercomputer will be visually present in the space for educational purposes. Further technical spaces will be located on the second floor.

From the second floor, an overhead view of the supercomputer zone will be possible. The second floor, together with the ground floor, forms a transparent pedestal. From the second floor, the data center begins. At the end of each floor there is a core with stairs, freight elevator and technical shaft. The seventh floor is a purely technical floor with the indoor arrangement of the chillers.

The north side of the building will be fully glazed. The verticality of the building is reinforced by the continuous metal slats in a rhythm of 90 cm. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels are placed between these slats, the top of which has a linear print to camouflage the technical spaces behind (raised floors, lowered ceilings).

The seventh floor has a woven metal mesh between the slats that conceals the technical installation from view and allows sufficient air supply. At the end facades, the rhythm of the slats is continued for the wall behind in metal sandwich panels. The woven metal mesh is also applied between the louvres at the end facade to camouflage the existing facade grilles for the air supply to the technical rooms at the end of the building.

From the second floor up, the south façade is fully clad with solar panels alternately facing east and west. The folded arrangement of the panels also on the facade reinforces the verticality of the building and increases the available area of panels by about 18%.

The solar panels are attached to a facade in metal sandwich panels by means of a lightweight aluminum structure. The air supply to the upper technical floor is through the hollow space behind the panels. These forced air flows cool the panels which increases their energy output.


Source: Architectura

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