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UKRI Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Research Computer Center, Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire, England

Two women speaking and accessing equipment in a large data center

Glumac, part of the Tetra Tech High Performance Buildings Group, designed a scalable data center for the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) Oxford campus with a potential Information Technology (IT) processing capacity of 19.8 megawatts (MW).

The Science Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is part of UKRI and supports research in astronomy, physics, and space science. STFC operates world-class research facilities, including Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. RAL’s high performance computing facilities, services, and infrastructure support the science and engineering community. It requires high-capacity data processing and storage, so the need for a data center has arisen to cater for existing and future developments.


Achieving a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.1 was not possible with traditional air-cooled chillers, therefore a different cooling solution was proposed. The site boundary was confined, and scalability was key to the brief. The connection of power to the site presents an ongoing design challenge, with limited spare capacity on site.


Hybrid coolers in conjunction with rear door coolers at a minimum flow temperature of 20 degrees C allows the use of a non-refrigeration-based solution, with the flow temperature allowed to float up at high ambient air temperature. It is expected to achieve a peak PUE of about 1.14. The hybrid coolers need high quality water during the summer periods and thus water storage and water treatment plant are to be provided.

Site confinement led to the use of roofs for many major plant installations and careful citing of generator enclosures.

Data hall scalability is achievable using carefully designed ‘power blocks’ that can be repeated across the building as more data halls are added. Power blocks are designed to handle all cooling, IT power, and ancillary power related to the space served.

The client is currently reviewing with Tetra Tech options for major infrastructure upgrades to secure power for this project and future developments at the site.


Our expertise in the mission critical sector meant we were able to apply tried, tested, and highly robust designs to the scheme, which inspired confidence in the client regarding the resilience of the facility. We were also able to explore more custom solutions to meet the client’s challenges.

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