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What's it take to design a LEED-certified data center?

By Max Burkhalter
September 2, 2015

While plenty of progress has been made with regard to designing data centers to operate with greater energy efficiency, there is still plenty of work to be done throughout the sector. According to the National Resource Defense Council, the data center industry is still the responsible for leading the nation in annual electricity consumption, and also makes up the country's fastest growing electricity customers. Facilities across the U.S. consumed a total of 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, an amount twice as large as New York City's total residential demand, in 2013 alone.

Despite the challenge, several data centers in the U.S. have defied stereotypes and have been recognized by international green certifications like LEED. Building or retrofitting a data center to meet LEED's strict standards is by no means easy, but the task is certainly within the realm of possibility. That's why small, medium and corporate facilities, which are responsible for a large percentage of the industry's waste generation, should take a hard look at strategies for achieving or approaching LEED certification in the data center.

A few intentional upgrades will help to make data centers much more efficient.A few intentional upgrades will help to make data centers much more efficient.

Streamlined infrastructure translates to reduced consumption
Much of the massive energy bills common to data centers are generated by the process of keeping racks and racks of servers up and running at all times. Data centers that are able to find ways to curtail the size of current infrastructure while simultaneously future-proofing to ensure efficient storage growth will be the most successful in limiting their expenses. Additionally, these reorganization efforts provide IT staff with a better idea of where electricity is used most readily in the data center.

LEED certifications are difficult to earn, but there are numerous categories that businesses can focus on as they work to make their facilities a little greener. For example, IT teams interested in expanding their facility while reducing material costs can use a high-performance media converter to extend copper connections, circumvent huge investments in new lengths of fiber and avoid tearing up existing cable infrastructure.

Simply reducing the total pieces of infrastructure is one of the easiest ways to earn LEED credits related to consumption, and there are endless means of cutting down energy waste in the data center. For instance, advanced serial device servers can be used to consolidate numerous servers into a single VMWare environment. IT teams can also replace entire rows of servers with instances of hybrid storage by using a remote console server to manage data stored across multiple clouds.

Smarter cooling helps to minimize waste generation
Temperature control is a very important consideration for facilities interested in LEED certification because cooling in the data center is the source of much waste and consumption. That's why recommended that IT teams focused on efficiency dedicate more attention to monitoring temperature and humidity in the data center. It may take the integration of high-performance heat sensors throughout the facility, along with a robust DCIM application, to bring heat flow and other cooling problems under control.

"Temperature control is very important for facilities interested in LEED."

Platinum projects showcase high-profile solutions
A Data Center Knowledge article recently showcased some of the most efficient data centers currently in operation. Though not all facilities will have the resources necessary to implement the same solutions as these industry leaders, these LEED Platinum facilities can provide your own facility's IT team with inspiration for new sustainable solutions.

Apple's Maiden facility in North Carolina, for example, is a great example of a system that takes advantage of "free" cooling resources. In the case of the Maiden data center, cool air is drawn from the outdoors to supplement the facility's heat exchanger, resulting in a free supply of cold water for data center cooling.

Similarly, the VMware facility in Wenatchee, Washington, recycles heat waste generated by data center servers to make office spaces more comfortable. By thinking outside the box, IT professionals have an opportunity to turn sources of waste into sustainable resources and inch the data center closer to LEED certification.

Perle's serial to Ethernet converters connect serial based equipment across an Ethernet network. The Perle IOLAN range of Console Servers, Device Servers and Terminal Servers feature built-in support for IPv6 along with a broad range of authentication methods and encryption technologies.


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