About our building

The award-winning ESI boasts three highly-resourced laboratories; a large research hall and dedicated workshop; a creative studio; eight Controlled Temperature (CT) rooms; a variety of work areas and meeting rooms; and a cafe, conference and social space in a central interactive area. The conscious integration of different types of spaces within a single building encourages informal discussions between researchers and visitors, and facilitates genuine interdisciplinary collaboration.

The ESI has been designed to BREEAM ‘Outstanding’, the highest classification of the world's foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings. Its score in this category was 91.57%; this was exceeded, after completion, by the score gained at the post construction stage (PCS), which was 94.33%.

  • Recycled plastic void formers in the floor structures minimised the quantity of concrete required in the building frame
  • Triple glazed windows provide ultra-high levels of insulation and air permeability
  • A bespoke integrated Combined Heat and Power (CHP), water-cooled heat rejection and ‘coolth tank’ system minimises the electrical demand of the CT rooms
  • A North Light harnesses and funnels natural light into work areas on the ground floor
  • A 35,000ltr rainwater harvesting tank stores ‘grey water’ for use in the Institute’s toilets
  • Bright, light, open-plan work areas reduce the need for artificial lighting
  • On-site generation, via 250m2 of solar panels, meets just under a quarter of the ESI’s daily power needs.

ESI Beowulf Cluster: Carson

The diverse computing needs of this interdisciplinary research centre are met by the ESI's strong computing architecture and its associated components (Beowulf Cluster/Web Server/Database Server/Virtual Machine Server).

The role of the ESI in investigating environmental changes and the Penryn Campus's green ethos have moulded the specifications of this cluster. We aimed to achieve the highest possible performance with the least possible environmental impact per unit of processing power, while allowing for utmost manageability, scalability and catering to a wide user base.

What are HPC, HTC and Beowulf Clusters?

The term high performance computing (HPC) refers to any computing which needs more than a single computer to execute a task. Supercomputers and computer clusters are used to solve advanced problems. High-throughput computing (HTC) describes the use of many computing resources over long periods of time to accomplish a task. A Beowulf cluster is a ‘supercomputer’ built from a group of smaller computers; the first Beowulf cluster was constructed in 1994 by NASA.

How powerful is the Cluster?

Below is a quick comparison of the overall performance of Carson compared to the average desktop computer in use at the time of purchase:

  Carson Desktop Factor
CPU Cores 2032 2 1016
GPU Cores 9984 - -
RAM (GB) 9536 4 2496
Raw Hard Disk (TB) 300 0.5 600
Performance (TFLOPs) ~32    

Carson was believed to be the fastest cluster in the south west of England when we bought it, excluding the three clusters run by the Met Office based in Exeter.

What Operating System does it run?

The cluster primarily runs Scientific Linux 6.4  which is a Linux distribution put together by FermilabCERN and various other labs and universities around the world. It is based on Redhat Enterprise Linux, compiled from source, with the primary purpose of reducing duplicate effort of the labs, and to have a common install base for the various research groups.

For a detailed guide to the ESI building, download: An outstanding building - a BREEAM case study

For a short guide to the ESI building, download: ESI: An outstanding building and facilities