3/3: Andy Baxter on Sustainable Strategies for Data Centers

Andy Baxter, PE, Page Principal and Director of MEP Engineering, was interviewed for an article which appeared in a recent issue of Building Design + Construction that was published for attendees of the Greenbuild International Expo & Conference.

To accompany the article, Andy discusses three trends related to sustainable strategies for the mission critical / data center market.

Client demands for energy efficiency or sustainable strategies

Our clients typically want to investigate and integrate energy efficient and sustainable solutions based on a 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 in order 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 co-location (CoLo) 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 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 CoLo 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

Page is leading energy efficient designs for data centers. Our services include cooling solutions utilizing direct or indirect economizers, direct evaporative cooling, liquid cooling, and heat recovery, utilizing data center energy to heat domestic and heating hot water systems for other parts of a building. Some of the electrical systems with which we work are rotary type Uninterruptable Power Systems (UPS) in lieu of lead/acid battery systems.

In general, Page recommends 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.

“Greenbuild Report 2015: Mission Critical Sector / Data Centers,” by John Caulfield. Building Design + Construction, November 2015.

Contributed By

Andy Baxter, PE