Net gains: far from just a lot of hot air, DC4 represents Leeds’s connected future

Big things are happening in Leeds: March saw the opening of Trinity Leeds; the only major shopping centre to open in the UK in 2013, while Leeds City Council is continuing with plans to establish free WiFi across the city with Millennium Square the next area on the list.

The biggest thing on the horizon for Leeds however is DC4, aql’s forthcoming data centre and the largest independent facility of its kind to be built outside London.

The data centre is expected to attract Internet giants such as BT, Cable and Wireless, SSE Telecoms, Fujitsu, Cogent and Virgin Media, many of which are already present in aql’s latest state of the art data centre in Salem Church in Hunslet.

aql founder and CEO, Dr Adam Beaumont, sees great things for the new facility:
Household names are waiting to connect in Leeds and that’s when the consumers will benefit, but you have to build these things before they make a decision.”

As well as being a breath of fresh air for the city, DC4 will also be a major step forward environmentally. The facility is to be built on a brownfield site in Hunslet, namely the former Yorkshire Chemicals site, which is understandably contaminated given it’s previous use.

The contaminated land is to be fully remediated and cleaned before ground is broken for DC4, a process which Dr Beaumont hopes will be complete within the next six months:
We need to look at the most cost effective way of doing it… we’re hoping it’ll be nearer three months. It’s funded and full planning is in place.

What’s more, plans are in place to use the excess heat generated by DC4 will be recycled and used to heat nearby housing developments in the future. Dr Beaumont explained:
We should have a lot of heat – up to 5MW when the facility is full – enough to supply a large portion of the south of Leeds developments which are currently subject to planning.

We’re currently liaising with Leeds City Council and working with Airedale, a local air conditioning & engineering company, to build a prototype of the district heat scheme to provide up to 500kW of heat to heat our conference auditorium and to share with schemes neighbouring our existing sites.

With plans such as this aql are looking to redefine the idea of a data centre. Rather than a characterless out-of-town facility, DC4 will be an integral, working part of urban Leeds that will highlight the importance of the digital community to the city. This from the company that has already transformed Leeds’s Grade II listed Salem chapel into the cities first metropolitan data centre.

Dr Kevin Grady of the Leeds Civic Trust, who was on hand at the opening of aql’s Salem Chapel headquarters said of DC4: “The development is just the type of building required to help cement the city’s key role in telecommunications and the Internet, and we appreciate that this is an almost perfect location in terms of connectivity.”

Lurene Joseph, Chief Executive of Leeds and Partners, the public body whose mission it is to promote Leeds on an international level, believes that DC4 will
send a strong message that to national and international investors that they can have confidence in our infrastructure.

This article is based on a feature on page 38 of the spring 2013 issue of Yorkshire Vision magazine, which can be viewed here.

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