Friday, 16 October 2009

LEED - Is it beneficial?

Increasing amounts of Data Centre operators in the United States are looking to get LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification on new Data Centre builds in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. There are obvious advantages to creating a more sustainable building which conserves and/or generates its own power, but are all the LEED checklist points beneficial to the building of a new facility?

23% of the LEED checklist refers to the site chosen for building construction. The checklist covers areas such as the reduction of impact on the land, rehabilitating biodiversity and minimizing the effects on water flows and runoff. Although many of these site-related points can be achieved, the nature of Data Centres generally require them to be located close to, or in, a major town so as to avoid the huge cost of re-routing power and sourcing data connectivity. Urban sites are often limited and developers often do not have the space or money convert 50% of the land to promote biodiversity which is one of the LEED requirements.

Conforming to other sections is easier. There are recommendations on taking logical steps to reduce carbon emissions. Building in minimum levels of energy use in new devices by design can realise significant power reduction.

A major section is to demonstrate that a building will be more efficient than a normal building, scored on a percentage improvement on an incremental scale. It encourages improvements at every stage of the build to encourage the highest scores. The more efficient the building materials used, the more efficient the building will be.

A relatively small maximum score (6.3%) is awarded for the production of on-site renewable energy, which appears to recognise the fact that it is not feasible to produce off-grid energy in large quantities at this point in time. They also give points for sourcing grid power from a green source. Most electricity providers now supply, for a premium, energy produced sustainably using wind, wave, hydro and solar. Crucially, LEED promote building power metering - essential for a well run Data Centre. Only by monitoring and logging energy use can it be properly assessed. This provides the basic tool to make informed changes to reduce energy use.

So to answer the original question 'Is LEED beneficial to new Data entre construction?' the answer depends! The benefit of LEED accreditation must be balanced with return on investment. Many of the criteria for LEED compliance are industry best practice and should be followed as they will result in lower running costs. Other criteria may not be considered as essential, and with budgets being tight, this may mean that not enough points could be realised to obtain creditation.

There is also the issue of potential conflicts between LEED and meeting the requirements for a tiered facility, as defined by the Uptime Institute.

Companies will look at
a return on investment when designing a new Computer Room or Data Centre. The benefit of LEED accreditation has to be weighed against cost. LEED best practice should however, be followed where possible.

Migration Solutions is a specialist Data Centre consultancy focused on improving data centre and computer room design. Migration Solutions is an active member of The Green Grid, the only UK accredited RIBA CPD Network Provider for data centre design and endorsers of the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres. For more information visit or call 0845 251 2255.

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