When it comes to green building characteristics, today’s massive data centers often get a bad rap. They’re energy hogs; they gobble up huge tracts of land; they’re thermal nightmares, requiring enormous water resources to keep them cool—all in the name of building a bigger “cloud” for storing inconceivably large amounts of information.
Data centers, however, are essential to today’s high-speed digital. Fortunately for the planet, not all data centers are born equal. Here is a selection of 10 planned, existing or rebooted data centers that have made some impressive strides in reducing their carbon footprints just in the last couple of months, proving that cloud computing does not always have to crash the ecosystems on which they’re sited.
1. QTS, Richmond, Va.
IT infrastructure firm QTS was recently awarded LEED Gold certification for its Data Center 1, one of the world’s largest date centers, located in Richmond, Va. Since 2010, QTS has been retrofitting the 210-acre campus, which formerly housed a semiconductor plant that had gone bankrupt. Over the last year, QTS has recycled more than 6 million pounds of copper, aluminum, steel, plastic, concrete and other materials from the site, finding most of the end-use markets in the Richmond area. The U.S. Green Building Council also lauded the company for it sustainable site selection, innovative design, water efficiency, and optimized energy use in its HVAC systems and appliances.
2. Internap, Los Angeles
Internap Network Services recently opened its Los Angeles Data Center, earning a Green Globes certification under the Green Building Initiative. Located in the South Bay area, the 55,000-square-foot facility runs on just over half of the energy use required for conventional buildings of its size by using high-efficiency lighting, HVAC systems and intelligent controls. Nearly all of the exterior structural components of the building included pre- and post-consumer recycled content. In addition, the office portions of the Internap center are powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources; potable water use has been reduced by 40 percent via low-flow lavatory features; and janitorial crews use low-VOC cleaning products.
3. Internap, Santa Clara, Calif.
Another Internap data center, located in the Silicon Valley town of Santa Clara, received an Energy Star performance rating of 100, which is the highest level of power consumption efficiency and represents twice the national average for data centers. The 24,000-square-foot facility—which had already earned both LEED and Green Globe certification for its environmental attributes—was found to consume energy and produce greenhouse gases at 36 percent below the national average, according to a recent Energy Star analysis. Earlier this year, the Santa Clara center was also awarded Silicon Valley Power’s 2012 Energy Innovator Award and was named to the InformationWeek 500 for its green data center achievements.
4. MetLife, Rensselear, N.Y.
Another Energy Star standout is MetLife’s Rensselaer (N.Y.) Information Systems Center, the first data center to be certified by the U.S. EPA program in New York state. MetLife, in cooperation with real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, made several environmental upgrades to the facility this year, including the installation of a more efficient boiler system that reduced energy use and emissions, new energy-efficient lighted control panels, and LED lighting in the parking lot. MetLife also implemented virtualization technology, which allowed the facility to better allocate resources as needed, saving costs in energy, hardware, software licensing and IT infrastructure maintenance.
5. Cavern Technologies, Lenexa, Kan.
Looking more like a Cold War movie set for NORAD than a data center, the subterranean Cavern Technologies facility, located under 125 feet of rock a few miles outside of Kansas City, recently expanded server capacity by 31,000 square feet, more than doubling its previous size. The Lenexa, Kan., center earned an Energy Star rating for its dual power feeds, its uninterruptible power supply, fully redundant HVAC system, heat and cooling sinks, and SAS 70 and SSAE 16 certification. The 3 million-square-foot complex now has more than 60,000 square feet of mission critical data capacity, protected underground from natural disasters like hurricanes and tornados that can interrupt service.