Student project leads students to a tour of the Prineville Data Center

Since Facebook picked Prineville to build its first data center, the facility has grabbed the attention of people throughout the world.

Recently, 15 members of the University of Oregon architecture program and their instructor joined that list, and came out to Prineville to tour the building in hopes of drawing inspiration for a class project.

“I am teaching a course (Architecture 4/584) where students will be designing a data center located in Prineville,” said Jolie Kerns, adjunct faculty with the University of Oregon’s architecture department. “A focus of the studio is to better understand what impact these large data centers have on the local community’s infrastructural, ecological, and cultural networks.”

Mayor Betty Roppe said she received a request from Kerns to come to Prineville, tour the Facebook data center, and talk to her about what Facebook has done for our community. She recommended that Kerns talk to City Manager Steve Forrester to schedule a data center tour, and she set up a meeting later that day with herself and City Engineer Eric Klann.

The group consequently came to Prineville in early October where they toured the facility and later visited with Roppe and Klann for about two to three hours.

“We had a really delightful visit with them,” Roppe said. “We talked a lot about what Facebook had done for our community.”

Kerns explained that that because Prineville has a population of about 10,000 people, the community appealed to them as a fruitful ground to explore the potential benefits and possible tensions with a neighboring data center.

“We were impressed with the scope of future economic development, environmental stewardship, and regional planning efforts taken on by the City of Prineville,” she said. “On our Facebook tour, it was very helpful to see first-hand how the building and cooling systems operate.”

Having toured Facebook and learned about Prineville, the students returned to school where each student will apply what they have learned to design their own data center.

“The students are developing infrastructural and architectural design strategies for the data center, which could certainly be adapted to other environments,” Kerns said. “For the building itself, these include considering how to utilize waste heat and decrease energy demand, and exploring the scalability of the data center.”

The students will complete their projects by early December, at which time Roppe and Klann will visit the school and see what they came up with.

“They invited us to come over to Eugene and see what they created after they got home,” Roppe said. “I think it’s really cool.”

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