The world is focused on avoiding an environmental crisis, and the global data center industry is under intense scrutiny. On the one hand, experts count on emerging technologies made possible by the global digital transformation to enable innovative solutions that reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. Scientists say that to prevent the worst imaginable environmental catastrophe, human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must be reduced by nearly half – 45 percent – from 2010 levels.
And the clock is ticking. The goal is to reach net zero, a state where the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere is balanced by the amount of carbon taken out of the atmosphere. Many analysts say if we can’t achieve net zero by 2030, the effects of climate change might be irreversible. But what does all of this mean and what are some of the potential consequences of climate change? At the extreme, global warming caused by CO2 emissions could impact agriculture worldwide, reducing the ability of farmers to produce enough food to feed a rapidly growing global population (Complex Models Now Gauge the Impact of Climate Change on Global Food Production. The Results Are ‘Alarming’ – Inside Climate News), currently expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. Cities could become inhabitable due to toxic amounts of pollution. Streams and rivers could dry up while oceans rise. By 2050, major economic and population centers worldwide could be underwater and uninhabitable. Even under a more conservative view, skyrocketing carbon emissions are already having a measurable impact on weather patterns and thus the sensitive balance between nature and the global economy.
The emergence of 5G and other new technologies like machine learning, robotics, and augmented/virtual reality promise dramatic progress. Smart cities, smart vehicles, smart agriculture, smart manufacturing, and other advances will enable more efficient use of dwindling natural resources, substantial reductions in carbon emissions, and perhaps most importantly, a greater global awareness of a potential looming environmental disaster. At the heart of these vital applications is the data center industry, which will deliver innovation through greater global connectivity and ever-increasing computing power.
Ironically, the data center industry itself is part of the problem. With its need for vast amounts of energy to power servers, routers, cooling systems and other infrastructure, data centers alone account for 2-3 percent of the world’s total power output. Skyrocketing demand for greater connectivity and compute likely means that the need for data centers will increase exponentially in the coming years. The challenges are immense, but awareness is growing that the industry needs to change. That means using energy more efficiently, reducing reliance on nonrenewable natural resources, and finding smarter, more environmentally friendly construction methods.
The data center industry has moved toward the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) management model in the past several years. Essentially, ESG means that investors, data center developers, and customers are all now focused on the common goal of reducing carbon emissions throughout the industry. Specifically, some environmental goals of the ESG movement are reducing energy and water use and waste while increasing energy efficiency, air and water quality, and natural resource conservation. Companies committed to ESG values also pursue social goals, including increased customer satisfaction, data security, user privacy, human rights, and labor standards within the industry. The governing aspect means that leadership takes accountability for company performance in these critical areas.
T5 Data Centers, a global leader in data center leasing and development, construction and facility management, has fully embraced this trend toward environmental responsibility. Since 2008, the company has been helping its customers strategically plan and implement sustainable practices from initial design through procurement and construction.
“T5 is proud to actively pursue a comprehensive ESG program across our company,” says Dan Bishop, T5’s Building Automation and Monitoring Specialist. “As a leader in data center development and operations, we believe it’s important to embed sustainable practices into our core processes and fundamental business principles. Adopting these strategies across the data center industry better aligns with our customers and can also have a meaningful impact on global carbon reduction.”
Establishing a Baseline With nZero
Working with its partners at nZero, a 24/7 carbon management platform that gives NGOs, government agencies and organizations the accurate data they need to reach net zero carbon emissions, T5 is taking big steps toward reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.
The partnership allows T5 to provide its customers with real-time, efficient and transparent digital carbon tracking and reporting.
“T5 and nZero are working closely to form T5’s carbon footprint baseline as we establish our plan for reduction and mitigation of that impact,” Dan says. “nZero’s carbon intensity dashboard provides T5 with real-time, accurate data that lead to better decisions for our ESG goals.”
According to Dan, the primary objective of incorporating sustainable design elements in existing facilities is to reduce the amount of energy used for cooling systems, which often accounts for half of a facility’s utility costs. For facilities under construction, the use of sustainably sourced materials is vital. Even smaller, more mundane ESG initiatives can have an important impact.
“Most of our facilities implement some form of recycling at their site,” Dan says, “along with green housekeeping practices, environmentally responsible procurement, replacing older lighting systems with updated LED lighting technologies, and more.”
Dan says T5’s commitment to ESG is a fundamental part of the company’s operations. Working with partners like nZero, T5 continues to find innovative ways to better manage resources and deliver the environmental responsibility customers are asking for in a data center partner.
To learn more about T5’s sustainable practices, visit our Sustainability section of our website.