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Integrated design concepts for energy-efficient ICT in buildings

Proposals should investigate innovative design concepts and advanced ICT solutions for integrated design of server rooms and small data centres in buildings (based on state-of-the-art sustainable data centre designs such as the Open Compute Project or similar), covering as many as possible of the following areas:

  • Optimal energy performance of the proposed design concepts,
  • Innovative and energy efficient cooling technologies and/or solutions,
  • Integration with buildings’ energy management system and energy-consuming systems (using European and global communication standards such as SAREF), taking into account building usage,
  • Integration with intermittent renewable energy sources
  • Waste heat valorisation (e.g. recovery, conversion, usage in local low-temperature heat networks to serve urban areas), while minimising the total waste heat production,
  • Geographical and temporal workload balance,
  • Elimination of unnecessary repeated power conversions (AC/DC),
  • Operation of ICT equipment in a wider range of temperatures (to mitigate cooling and airflow needs in data centres but also heating needs in telecommunication cabinets/booths in the field).

For the purposes of this action, proposals should address server rooms or small data centres, with an IT Equipment energy requirement of a maximum of 250 kW or lower per pilot. Proposals should focus on new and/or existing small edge or sensitive (delay and security) data centres and include at least three pilots in three different countries (one pilot in each country) in different climatic conditions.

Proposals should deliver guidelines and good practices to support building designers (architects, engineering companies, etc.) and managers (IT or facilities managers) in approaching the design of server rooms and small data centres in buildings, taking into account the characteristics of the building, the systems and the expected use.

These guidelines should include in particular flexible design concepts (including ICT solutions) for server rooms and small data centres in buildings, readily applicable to a large number of typical configurations (e.g. office buildings in urban areas). These design concepts should be optimized in terms of energy efficiency and use of intermittent renewable energy and cover building envelope, technical building systems and server room(s), and related connections / synergies. The design concepts should also include lessons learnt from the operation of systems. They should be applicable and scalable in Europe, including application under different climatic conditions.

Proposals should include an evidence-based evaluation of the impacts (in terms of energy savings, CO2 emissions and other possible side effects, e.g. on comfort of occupants) of the proposed design concepts. This evaluation should rely on relevant indicators over a representative period of time on a limited set of buildings, systems and server configurations. This evaluation should follow a well-defined strategy that can rely partly on modelling and simulation but should also include tests and experiments in close to real-life conditions, leading to at least TRL 7 (please see part G of the General Annexes).

Projects are required to follow the H2020 guidance on ethics and data protection[[]] taking into account digital security, privacy and data protection requirements including the compliance with relevant directives/regulations (e.g. NIS[[Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union.]], eIDAS[[Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC.]], GDPR[[Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation).]]) and relevant National Legislation.

Proposals should also include convincing dissemination strategies to reach out to relevant business players (e.g. architects and engineering companies).

Proposals should include the development of business models to trade heat, cold, electricity or energy security and storage. Large and medium data centres have been addressed by different actions under H2020 or other research programmes. Proposals should benefit from the transfer of lessons learnt from these larger systems.

Proposals could build upon the results of previous and ongoing projects.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 2 and 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

This topic contributes to the roadmap of the Energy-efficient Buildings (EeB) cPPP.

The demand for data processing is expected to grow in the coming years. Consolidation is quickly replacing a multitude of small, remote and inefficient data centres with big and more resource and energy efficient data centres. This tendency however does not address specific delay- and security-sensitive small data centres. Moreover the emergence of edge computing, Internet of Things and Software Defined Networks (Network Function Virtualisation) will increase the amount of small data centres at the edge of the network. This is also the situation for server rooms in buildings.

These server rooms, small data centres or other ICT equipment in building (e.g. telephone cabinets) should become more energy efficient, better integrated with the buildings in which they operate, and should maximise where possible the integration of intermittent renewable energy sources, district cooling systems, and synergies with buildings’ energy management systems (e.g. space heating and cooling).

Proposals are expected to demonstrate, using quantified indicators and targets wherever possible:

  • Innovative design concepts for ICT in buildings, optimizing energy efficiency and usage of intermittent renewable energy.
  • Demonstration and quantitative evaluation of impacts of innovative design concepts.
  • Dissemination of the design concepts and related benefits to relevant market players.
  • Bring ICT specific innovative energy efficiency technologies and solutions, already developed by research projects, to market faster and cheaper.
  • Achieve a high share of the existing ICT energy consumption covered by sustainable energy resources.
  • Demonstrate lower environmental impacts in the short and long term of the installation/construction/operation/decommissioning.
  • Facilitate the identification and removal of non-technical barriers to accelerate wide deployment of innovative solutions for energy efficiency in the data centre sector
  • Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) lower than the best performing small data centre solutions in a given location.