Sustainable strategies for data centers

Andy Baxter, PE, Page principal and director of MEP engineering discussed three trends related to sustainable strategies for the mission critical data center market.

By Andy Baxter, PE, Page February 23, 2017

Engineering clients typically want to investigate and integrate energy-efficient and sustainable solutions based on return on investment (ROI) or total cost of ownership (TCO). Enterprise data center owners and operators tend to be more willing to look at much longer ROI or TCO periods to see benefits. They are also looking at public-perception benefits as well as how this works into their overall business model. Owners and operators of colocation data centers, which provide access to multiple clients, generally focus on their bottom lines, resulting in shorter ROI or TCO periods. Although they do care about public perception and energy efficiency, their primary concern is to attract customers. This does not mean that they aren’t trying to be sustainable or energy-efficient. They just have a different set of business priorities

Clients are concentrating more on reduced power-usage effectiveness (PUE)—the ratio of total facility energy over information technology (IT) equipment energy—and overall operating costs. Page is seeing more evaluations and decisions moving toward efficient and sustainable designs as this field continues to receive public exposure.

Changing attitudes regarding LEED certification

There continues to be a desire to obtain a LEED certification at some level. However, it’s often more of a marketing decision rather than a requirement to be sustainable. Enterprise data center owners are much more likely to make sustainable selections as long as they do not add risk to the facility. On the colocation side, those decisions are almost always about marketing. Looking at the efficiency of the IT equipment itself would have a much bigger impact on the overall sustainability of a facility.

New strategies for making data centers more sustainable

Ideal services would include cooling solutions using direct or indirect economizers, direct evaporative cooling, liquid cooling and heat recovery using data center energy to heat domestic and heating hot-water systems for other parts of a building. In general, it is recommended that evaluating all aspects of energy-efficient design—including cost, sustainability, marketing, risk management and how it will impact a project—before deciding on a particular solution.

Andy Baxter, PE, is principal, mission critical at Page. Page is a CFE Media content partner.

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