LEED for Data Centers: Solutions for 3 Common Energy Challenges

03/20/2020 | By Pete Campie

Data centers’ need for massive amounts of energy to provide cooling power brings unique issues for energy managers looking to drive sustainability and energy cost savings. Achieving LEED certification for data centers can be a crowning achievement in demonstrating commitment to smart energy management. Even though the number and quality of resources for energy-minded data center leaders is growing, there are still plenty of challenges that cause trouble in the certification process.

Although new and emerging technologies may be the most visible option when addressing building energy performance, diverse strategies can be utilized to avoid costly issues and drive energy usage improvements while still meeting organizational needs.

There are three challenges that data center managers frequently encounter during certification projects, notes Corey Enck, vice president of LEED Technical Development for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). He offers helpful strategies that can help address these challenges without causing headaches.

1. Use collaborative processes to make the most of opportunities.

Large projects like certifying an entire data center have plenty of moving parts, and it can be easy to miss aspects if you’re the only one focused on making sure the project comes together. A collaborative approach can help.

Although it may seem strange to include stakeholders in roles with less direct relationships to energy consumption in the planning process, collaboration can make a big difference in helping drive follow-through and avoiding errors that run up costs.

“LEED encourages an integrative approach, so the decision-making table should include seats for anyone who has a stake in how the space runs,” Ench adds. “This helps keep all departmental organizations on the same page for decisions related to the project and allows an opportunity for diverse opinions to be represented.”

2. Avoid the “known unknown” with emerging resources.

Designing and operating data centers sustainably can be challenging due to lack of available tools to help energy managers take a holistic view of the project. This can lead to understanding generalities as far as what needs to be done, but struggling to implement it—the known unknown.

With emerging resources, you can get a better understanding of what’s necessary and how to project outcomes from specific updates. The good news is that LEED v4 and v4.1 have added guidance and resources for data center projects to provide a useful structure that can be followed on the path to certification.

[Related: Small Data Center Devices: Big Impact]

“USGBC developed a calculator to document energy savings from IT equipment to help quantify upgrade impacts,” Enck says. “Additionally, the LEED for Data Centers certification process now includes Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), helping energy managers track energy loads from IT equipment as a proportion of the data center’s overall energy use.”

Using tools specifically designed for data centers can provide better insights into how design upgrades will further your sustainability and certification plans.

3. Surmount the renewables hurdle.

Demand for data centers continues to grow rapidly, and with stringent performance requirements to meet, finding opportunities for significant improvements can seem insurmountable. Think big when considering upgrades.

Transitioning to powering your data center with renewable energy can be a challenge, but the payoffs in certification benefits and sustainable impacts for organizations are significant. Diminishing barriers to entry in the renewable space can make green power more desirable.

“Using renewable energy sources to power data centers will continue to be a focus for LEED certification into the future,” Enck explains. “Battery storage technology is also quickly improving, which can help make renewable more realistic for performance-focused data center managers.”

To learn more about LEED Certification for Data Centers and get more tips for overcoming common certification hurdles, visit USGBC.

Read Next: Free Cooling for Data Centers

About the Author: Pete is a seasoned writer with a broad background in copy creation for varied audiences including college students, consumers, business executives, and scientists. His areas of expertise include web writing, technical content creation, journalism and social media.


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