There is an old engineering adage that says you can’t have faster, better and cheaper all at the same time. Yahoo is out to prove this adage wrong with its new data center under construction in upstate New York.

The facility, located 30 miles northeast of Buffalo in Lockport, N.Y., is being billed by the company as one of the greenest and most energy efficient building of its kind in the country. Powered by renewable energy from Niagara Falls, the data center’s design takes advantage of the region’s climate to cool the facility using 100 percent outside air.

Instead of precast concrete or steel and precast concrete, the Yahoo’s 115,000-sq-ft data center outside of Buffalo, N.Y. employs pre-engineered metal buildings.
Photo courtesy of Structure Tone
Instead of precast concrete or steel and precast concrete, the Yahoo’s 115,000-sq-ft data center outside of Buffalo, N.Y. employs pre-engineered metal buildings.

“It is going to be, by far, Yahoo’s most efficient and arguably the most innovative data center, at least from a cooling perspective,” says Scott Noteboom, Yahoo’s director, data center engineering operations.

The Lockport facility, which broke ground in August 2009, is part of a Yahoo initiative to become a leader in the design and construction of environmentally sustainable data centers. The effort is integral to the company’s commitment to reduce its carbon intensity by 40 percent by 2014.

The 115,000-sq.-ft. complex is comprised of four structures; a 25,000-sq.-.ft administrative building and three, 30,000-sq.-ft. data center wings. Sufficient space is available on the 30-acre site for three additional wings. Completion is slated for June 2010.

Factors that made Lockport an appealing location for Yahoo include abundant clean electricity, fiber optic network capacity, available real estate, a ready work force, tax incentives and, perhaps most of all, the region’s mild climate.

“Traditionally it is not a humid climate and on average the temperature only exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit a small number of hours per year,” explains Terence Deneny, vice president at New York based-Structure Tone, the project’s general contractor.

“The attractive climate and the consistent winds off the Great Lakes have really enabled us to be more efficient in the design,” Noteboom says. Instead of using traditional cooling technologies, the design relies on outside air to cool the facility.

“To the best of my knowledge this is the first data center in the country using total outside air cooling,” Deneny says.

Data Center Design The design is the result of numerous studies conducted by Yahoo which determined that traditional raised floor data centers were poorly managed from an air flow perspective, Noteboom explains.

“When you take into consideration all the fans with the air handlers and all the consolidated fan horsepower of the servers, because of the poor management you end up with 300 percent more fan horsepower than required.”

Design of the new data center leverages the local climate and simply physics to turn the entire building into an air handler with the server fans providing the fan horsepower required to manage air flow in the facility.

By consolidating the fan horsepower of the servers and eliminating a large percentage of the traditional air handling solutions Noteboom expects to saves 0.35kW per ton of cooling.

The complex, dubbed the Yahoo Computing Coop since its design resembles that of a chicken coop, is oriented on the site to take advantage of the prevailing winds off the nearby Great Lakes. Data center wings, or pods, are ..