ACT Data Center is First LEED Platinum Certified Data Center in United States

Aug. 14, 2009

ACT’s new data center in Iowa City, IA, has been awarded LEED Platinum level certification by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), making it the first publicly announced LEED Platinum-certified data center in the nation. The data center is also the first LEED Platinum-certified building of any type in the state of Iowa.

Computer-based technology is critical to ACT’s mission and success. Sustainability drove the project for the new data center, which required infrastructure that is secure and reliable enough to withstand a natural disaster and flexible enough to allow for future growth. A design-build team focused on resiliencies and redundancies.

“Sustainability was the name of the game for this project, both environmental sustainable design and the ability of the data center to sustain a disaster,” says Tom Struve, assistant vice president of central services at ACT. “The most gratifying aspect of the project is that none of the sustainable design strategies diminish the building’s ability to perform its primary functions. In fact, several of the sustainable traits actually aid in the building’s value and functionality.”

The new ACT data center features an energy-efficient geothermal system, unique among data centers. Geothermal has not been compatible with data centers in the past because they constantly reject heat and would quickly heat saturate the ground; however, project engineers developed an innovative design that made geothermal viable for ACT’s data center.

Additionally, the geothermal system provides an extremely resilient system because the heat transfer loops are buried in the ground, and the remainder of the equipment resides within the tornado-resistant facility. This system provides a cooling source that is fully protected from 250 mph wind speed, projectiles, and vandalism. A separate highly energy efficient system incorporates dry coolers and provides redundancy for the primary geothermal loop, and can be used as a backup or when cold Iowa outdoor conditions make using it more efficient than using the ground-source system.

The additional sustainable features of the new ACT data center include enhanced indoor air quality due to air quality control systems and increased ventilation rates that are more than 30 percent greater than code requirements, reduced energy usage from high-performance HVAC systems, recycled content in more than 30 percent of the total building materials, restored native prairie landscaping on 90 percent of the site (which requires no irrigation), and renewable materials, such as cork flooring, cotton-wall insulation, aspen fiber ceiling panels, and agrifiber wood doors.

These features are on top of the LEED certification requirements, which are based on a number of green design and construction features that positively impact the project itself and the broader community. These features include sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design.

“I think the excitement we feel for sustainability is that it adds a whole new dimension to architecture,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president, chief executive officer, and founding chair at the USGBC. “Buildings need to function well; they should be beautiful, but there also is a responsibility in building structures that are ecologically friendly. We embrace this. When clients like ACT embrace sustainability, we not only build a building, but we do it extremely well.”

The data center was designed by Neumann Monson Architects in Iowa City, KJWW Engineering Consultants in Des Moines, and McComas-Lacina Construction in Iowa City. MMS Civil Engineering Consultants of Iowa City also provided civil engineering and landscape consulting.

“The success of a LEED project is heavily dependent on assembling just the right team – a team which communicates and works effectively together,” says Struve. “ACT was extremely fortunate to have such a team.”

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