European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Project

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Project Type: Data Center
Owner: European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
Engineer: Studio TI
Contractor: Gianni Benvenuto S.p.A
  • Fabrication
  • Virtual Design & Construction
Pipe Material:
  • Carbon Steel
Pipe Size: 2 – 12” / DN50 - DN300
Location: Bologna, Italy
  • Design Flexibility
  • Ease of Installation
  • Reliability

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), based in Reading, UK, and now with 360 staff across more than 30 nations, is a research institute and 24/7 operational service producing global medium-range numerical weather predictions and other data for its member states. Following its core mission to produce medium-range numerical weather forecasts and carry out scientific and technical research, the Centre plays an integral, if not completely vital, role in providing meteorological data to almost the entirety of the European continent. 

To cater for the increased need for data processing, the ECMWF decided to open in 2016 an international competition for bids from the ECMWF member states to host a new data centre. The bid from Italy, which proved to be the competition’s winner, was put forward by the Regione Emilia Romagna (R-ER), focused on bringing the proposed data centre to the city of Bologna and leveraging on the synergies with Tecnopolo di Bologna planned developments. Studio TI who produced blueprints for the different data centre components, worked closely with Victaulic to create the design concept for the data centre’s cooling system. At a very early stage, Victaulic employed its Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) services to draw up 3D models of its proposed piping system.

Ing. Lanfranco Ricci, Mechanical Systems, Studio TI, praised Victaulic’s proactive approach, stating: “The positive approach Victaulic took to this project was fantastic to work with. From the offset they understood what was required for the project and how best to produce a system which keep the data centre cooled and the weather forecasts running. A particular benefit was being able to use their digital prowess to build 3D design concepts.”

The site chosen for the new ECMWF data centre was the new Tecnopolo di Bologna, a 13-hectare space for public and private research facilities built on redeveloped unused buildings and the grounds of a former tobacco factory. However, the piping system created by Victaulic involved the use of prefabrication offsite. Victaulic understood that by prefabricating the system could ensure the highest level of reliability through greater quality and level of control and ultimately convinced the contractor Gianni Benvenuto S.p.A to opt for initially building offsite and installing later. 

One of the key reasons for choosing Victaulic products is the scalability for future system changes or expansion and the improved reliability compared to traditional solutions. Furthermore, a primary factor for the contractor’s choice to work with Victaulic was the simplicity and speed of installation provided. As a result of Victaulic’s Installation-ReadyTM technology, which only requires two bolts and nuts to be tightened, installation can often be up to seven times faster than traditional methods: a valuable saving of time and resources for any project lead. 

This solution also paves a way forward for the future of existing data centers: expansions required in the coming decades to process more information can be undertaken without the use of fire – evidently a huge hazard for data centers – which are necessary for methods such as welding and brazing. In total, for the mechanical room, technical tunnel and distribution of air to the computer room air conditioning units, more than 8600 couplings, 2400 fittings and 990 valves were installed, ranging from DN40 on the smaller scale to DN350 at the larger end. 

Matteo Vecchiato, Sales Engineer, Victaulic said: “There’s no question data centers are set to play a key role in the future of digital infrastructure. We see further dependence on data centers continuing throughout 2021 and beyond, with more data centers going out to tender. We urge all companies starting their process towards a new data centre to look at the example set by data centre at Tecnopolo di Bologna premises: to assess the options and partner with trusted experts.”

External Links:

ECMWF Data Centre,