The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) to include MEP systems designed with MagiCAD by the Italian Engineering Design firm Digierre3


MagiCAD Group

MEP Design

MEP Design: Digierre3 (General Contractor: Cimolai)
Project name: ELT, The World’s Largest Telescope
Project location: Atacama Desert, Chile
Start: 2015 (tender)
Completion: 2022
MagiCAD modules used: MagiCAD Ventilation, Piping, Sprinkler Designer, Supports & Hangers


MagiCAD used to design ELT’s MEP systems

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is constructing the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). It will be the largest telescope of its kind ever built. The telescope’s main mirror will have a diameter of 39 meters. On its own, the ELT will gather more light than all the existing large research telescopes on the planet combined, and 100 million times more light than the human eye. It will provide images 15 times sharper than those from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The ELT will be housed in a huge dome approximately 80 m height. The dome protects the telescope which is contained into it. The dome has a semi-sphere shape that has to be opened (at night) and closed (at daytime), as well as rotate with high accuracy to track celestial objects according to where the telescope is pointing.

What is the role of Digierre3 in the project and what have been some of the challenges until now?

Digierre3 works with Cimolai, general contractor for design and construction of ELT and we are responsible for the design of the HVAC systems, fire suppression system, as well as plumbing and compressed air systems,” says Marino Dell’Acqua, Head of Digierre3, main mechanical plants’ designer for the ELT project.

The project has very strict requirements and because of the unusual geometry of the telescope building, the HVAC design is very complex. The telescope will be placed on a rotating steel building where a giant dome resides. Because of this, it took multiple of our designers to detect and resolve all the possible clashes, static and dynamic” adds Marino.

How did MagiCAD help you in solving these challenges?

The Thermal Control System of ELT consists of six Air Handling Units, placed in the auxiliary buildings’ area (around the dome), designed to cool the dome during daytime. Three pressurizing air handling units (AHPUs) are designed to pressurize. During the day, air is introduced in the telescope chamber through air ducts, which are positioned along the internal side of the dome’s volume, evaluated with a CFD model to equalize internal temperatures as per ESO’s requirements. Digierre3 is responsible for designing accurately this extraordinary Ventilation, Cooling and Compressed Air systems.

We worked with MagiCAD to model all the engineering systems using the vast BIM object library and also to test and optimise our design using MagiCAD’s calculations function. We have had a positive experience working with MagiCAD to design the MEP systems of ELT,” says Marino.


MagiCAD’s BIM objects are modelled from physical products to a high level of detail, with correct dimensions and technical data provided by the manufacturer. The technical values are always present in the model, enabling accurate calculations during design. With MagiCAD the designer can calculate while designing and compare different alternatives to achieve the best possible optimisation for the MEP systems. MagiCAD provides integrated engineering calculations for Ventilation, Piping, Electrical and Sprinkler systems.

About Digierre3

The design group, Digierre3 operates in the field of Mechanical and Electrical plant engineering with a growing professional commitment in Italy and abroad. Digierre3 operates since 2004 from experienced partners, in the sector of industrial, tertiary, civil, and transport buildings in all M&E specialities design, works direction and tests.