by Katherine Walsh

Smart Companies Take the LEED for Energy Efficiency

Jul 05, 20073 mins
Data CenterGreen IT

Cost savings, sustainability benefits of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards begin to take hold with data centers

365 Main, a data center builder and operator whose customers include Craigslist and Red Envelope, recently announced plans to implement the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for all of its future data centers. The first such data center, located in Newark, Calif., is scheduled to begin operations in Q4 of 2007. Companies in the new building will lease 5,000 to 30,000 square feet “pods” in which to run their data center operations. A financial service institution, based in the Bay Area, has already committed to space in the facility, and “several other high-tech and hosting companies are in final negotiations for space,” says Miles Kelly, 365 Main’s vice president of corporate strategy.

365 Main’s announcement is an example of a growing trend toward LEED-certified data centers as companies attempt to improve overall corporate sustainability, and cut their energy costs by improving efficiency. The Washington, D.C.-based mortgage company, Fannie Mae, for instance, completed the first-ever LEED-certified data center in 2005. Highmark, a health insurance company based Pennsylvania, also completed an 87,000-square-foot green facility that same year.

365 Main’s Kelly says that, in addition to the adoption of LEED standards for all new data centers, the company will address increasing concerns about energy consumption by retrofitting existing facilities, such as its San Francisco data center, which is home to Craigslist IT. Retrofitting, however, isn’t always easy. “Many of the items on the LEED checklist, such as using recycled or locally sourced construction materials, are done during initial construction; I can’t swap out walls or beams,” says Kelly. But there are certainly other ways to improve efficiency, and Kelly plans to implement those methods in 365 Main’s existing facilities. “Low-hanging fruit, like lighting, can be made more efficient through power controls. Efficient irrigation systems will also be applied.”

During’s recent Green IT roundtable, Jonathan Koomey, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said that the metrics required for data centers are so different from those required in commercial buildings that employing LEED in the data center often doesn’t do enough to improve efficiency. For example, Koomey has been working with the EPA on metrics for low-cost “volume servers and infrastructure, which currently aren’t incorporated into LEED standards. In the same discussion, Kevin Klustner, CEO of Verdiem, a developer of power management software for PCs, pointed out that LEED certification specifically for data centers would make sense, and suggested that the Green Grid, a consortium of technology companies aimed at improving data center efficiency, work with the Green Building Council on developing such standards. Marv Adams, CIO of CitiBank, who also participated in the discussion, said that regardless of that, there are certain LEED criteria that undoubtedly make sense in the data center. Adams’ suggestions include optimizing the IT equipment and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning layout to provide user flexibility and necessary cooling, designing the building to limit heat gain (this can be done through a “green” roof “meaning the top of the building is covered with vegetation,” or incorporating trees into the landscape), purchasing from local vendors and reducing water consumption. Adding to that list, Kelly says that controls—such as motion sensors—that reduce the draw on lightbulbs can improve lighting efficiency. He also suggests using recycled materials during construction, and implementing recycling programs for construction waste like metal and cement.