Cobalt Data Centre 3, Newcastle

Newcastle’s Cobalt Park is the UK’s largest business park

Project Details

  • Scheme & Version: Data Centres 2010
  • Stage: Interim
  • Location: Newcastle, UK
  • Score & Rating: 87.6% Outstanding
  • Certificate Number: BREEAM-0038-8249
  • Building Size: Four data halls of 630m2 each

Project Team

  • Client – Highbridge North Tyneside
  • Architects – Woods Bagot
  • BREEAM Assessor / BREEAM AP / Building Services Engineers / Structural Engineers / Sustainability Consultant – Cundall
  • Contractor – Bowmer & Kirkland
  • Cost Consultants – EC Harris
  • Landscape Architect – Waterman Group / One Associates
  • Ecological Consultant – Waterman Group

About the Building

Cobalt Data Centre 3 is the latest addition to Cobalt Data Centre Campus. The new building provides more than 2,400m2 of technical floor space and continues the sustainability ethos that developer, Highbridge North Tyneside has adopted for the campus. The first data centre developed on the campus achieved BREEAM ‘Excellent’, and this third new data centre raises the bar alongside Cobalt Data Centre 2 with another ‘Outstanding’ rating achievement.

Environmental Features

  • Air cooled data halls, resulting in low energy consumption and associated PUE
  • Office and administration spaces facing onto an external courtyard to promote natural ventilation and controlled daylight penetration
  • Natural light to all usable spaces to reduce lighting loads
  • Energy efficient lighting throughout
  • Air source heat pumps for heating and hot water generation
  • Use of construction materials with a very low environmental impact (Green Guide A-rated walls, roof, floor finishes/coverings, and hard landscaping and boundary protection), and use of recycled aggregates
  • Responsibly sourced thermal insulation with a low embodied impact relative to its thermal properties, specified to optimise energy demand and heat recovery
  • Rainwater harvesting from large data hall roofs to provide water for toilet flushing
  • Extensive site waste management plan (SWMP) covering several projects on the campus
  • Substantial enhancement of the ecological value of the site
  • Annualised calculated Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.12 based on indirect air cooling
  • An ‘A’ rated Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)

Building Services

Cobalt Data Centre 3, along with  Cobalt Data Centre 2, are some of the first data centres in the UK to achieve a BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ rating and are developed in line with the end building uses. The Cobalt Data Centre Campus offers over 10,000m2 of data hall space, making it one of the largest co-location campuses in the North.

The data centre, although constructed in-situ, has a modular design approach and is flexible to accommodate either a cooling strategy of air-optimisation or chilled water system. The focus of the developer was to provide a facility that could be flexible to meet market trends, yet still be affordable to the wholesale colocation market Energy consumption is an important factor in the operation of the data centre and has a significant impact on the operation costs.

Cooling of the data hall is proportionally the greatest energy consumer after the IT process load and so at the concept design stage, the choice of cooling strategy was debated. The chosen cooling strategy was to cool the data halls using air. The preferred cooling strategy for Cobalt is indirect-air cooling, however the design of the data centre is such that any one of several cooling strategies can be deployed including a conventional chilled water strategy.

The electrical power distribution system comprises static uninterruptible power supply (UPS) arranged to give to active UPS paths (2N). The power system is backed up with standby generators configured on an N+1 basis.

The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) unit was used to better understand the possible impact of design and specification on the sustainability of the data centre. It is not uncommon to find data centres operating with a PUE greater than 1.8, especially if no form of free cooling has been deployed. Through calculation it is estimated that Cobalt Data Centre 3 will achieve a PUE in the region of 1.12 to 1.15 for the data halls depending on which form air cooling is deployed, a considerable improvement on energy consumption when compared with a data centre that does not deploy any free cooling strategy.

Other contributory factors to the PUE for the data halls include the adoption of low loss Transformers (Tx), IGBT Static Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) units. The UPS that is to be installed represents the latest generation of low energy UPS design, which operates in a double conversion mode at greater than 95% efficiency and will exceed the EU code of Conduct for UPS which stipulates minimum efficiencies for UPS.

“At Cundall we recognise the need to deliver truly sustainable development. Cobalt Data Centre 3 takes on the same principles as Cobalt Data Centre 2, in that it had expert design input at feasibility stage (which drove down the cooling load and Power Usage Effectiveness), an architect receptive to low carbon design principles and a client enthusiastic to achieve a highly sustainable outcome. From concept the design team developed an integrated approach, which established a solid basis from which to achieve the BREEAM Data Centres 2010 ‘Outstanding’ result. The client role has been a crucial success factor in the quality of the final product, as well as the full integration of BIM which has helped to develop, test and display the building design capabilities.” Cundall – Assessor Company


“Cobalt Data Centre 3 was designed to be extremely flexible, cost effective and also to meet the highest environmental standards. As we were very conscious of the carbon footprint of this building, special care was taken to ensure that it would operate optimally with low energy demands. We are delighted that with the assistance of our consultants we have been able to achieve an ‘Outstanding’ BREEAM accreditation.” – Client, Highbridge North Tyneside