McGill University/UCSD Montreal Data Center—A Partnership for Deep Green Computing

Eric Soladay, Integral Group | Rumsey Engineers
Jorge Vinals, McGill University

Design of high-performance data centers has evolved to focus less on reliability and redundancy and more on energy efficiency and total cost of ownership (TCO). Energy efficiency gains come from many new technologies and design strategies, as well as free cooling provided by northern climates and locations with a high day-to-night temperature differential. Locating data centers in Quebec also helps to replace paper mills and aluminum smelters as industry bases, and takes advantage of zero-carbon hydroelectric power priced at 4 cents/kilowatt hour.

The McGill/Univeristy of California San Diego Montreal Data Center project is the result of a partnership between two major high-performance computing (HPC) facilities: CLUMEQ at McGill University and the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego. Other partners are Hydro Quebec, Integral Group | Rumsey Engineers, and ClimateCHECK, an internationally recognized greenhouse gas standards and measurement firm headquartered in Ottawa. The project involves: designing an ultra-efficient datacenter for HPC applications; developing a prototype in Montreal that maximizes energy savings due to climate and minimizes carbon footprint because of the ready availability of hydroelectric power; and developing the business model to co-locate future growth of California HPC facilities in the newly designed Montreal data center.

Perhaps the most innovative feature of the prototype data center being designed by Integral | Rumsey is a "glacier building," a seasonal ice storage bank for summer cooling that eliminates the need for chiller based cooling.

As energy efficiency, energy security, and carbon offsets continue to drive the data center market, specific technology and design trends are emerging. Ubiquitous DX (refrigerant direct expansion) CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioners) units are being replaced with more efficient and sophisticated cooling systems—most often, water-cooled systems offering greater efficiency and flexibility. Current "best practice" data center design includes strategies such as: hot aisle/cold aisle isolation; warmer supply air—80 to 85°F warmer; hot aisles—90 to 105°F; water and/or air side economization; and power usage effectiveness (PUE) targets of 1.2 or lower. The next generation of data center design will include: PUE of 1.1 or less; heat recovery; and close coupled liquid cooling at the rack.

This presentation will cover the innovative concepts in this design, which also include: year-round compressor-free cooling; hybrid cooling tower economizer, liquid cooled equipment; direct coupling to supercomputers; in-row cooling coils; and rotary uninterruptible power supply (UPS).


Eric Soladay is an innovative, goal-oriented mechanical engineer responsible for the design, procurement, and management of building engineering system projects with architectural and social significance, sustainable and efficient systems, and cost- and maintenance-conscious focus. As project manager and mechanical engineer of record at Integral Group | Rumsey Engineers, he has led several significant projects, including the Linde + Robinson Laboratory for Environmental Sciences at Caltech in Pasadena, California; a planned LEED® Platinum retrofit of a historical laboratory building; the ADC Green Datacenter, a 180,000-square-foot (sq.-ft.) data center with groundbreaking energy-efficient design; University Plaza, a 190,000-sq.-ft. mixed used retail/commercial development in Palo Alto, California; and the Packard Foundation Headquarters, 30,000-sq.-ft. commercial/institutional zero energy building.

Before coming to Integral Group | Rumsey Engineers, Mr. Soladay was a senior engineer at Gotama Building Engineers in Los Angeles, California, where his projects included laboratories and clean manufacturing facilities, hospitals, academic buildings, and central plant design for a wide range of clients including Advanced Bionics, Scripps Health: Memorial La Jolla Hospital; Mercy Hospital; Glendale Memorial; City of Hope–Beckman Research Institute; West Los Angeles College; Hyperion Environmental Learning Center; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Mr. Soladay received his Bachelor of Science with honors in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jorge Vinals is professor of physics at McGill University in Montreal; the Director of the McGill Institute for Advanced Materials; the Canada Research Chair in Nonequilibrium Materials; and the director of CLUMEQ (Consortium Laval, Université du Québec, McGill and Eastern Quebec) is based in Quebec, with supercomputing platforms at two sites: Montreal and Quebec. The McGill Department of Physics’ research is of theoretical and computational nature, and focuses on nonequilibrium phenomena in extended systems, and in applications of statistical mechanics to problems in biophysics or biomaterials. Dr. Vinals' research at CLUMEQ is conducted by faculty from partner institutions, from other institutions in Canada and abroad, and by industrial partners. It spans several disciplines in the life sciences and engineering with the common denominator being access to high-performance computing equipment, software tools, and analysis. While topical research is funded by several federal and provincial sources, CLUMEQ provides access to supercomputing equipment, software libraries and tools, as well as access to user support and analyst services.