The Importance of Sustainability in Data Center Construction, Development and Management

Maintaining a data center can be energy intensive – after all, data centers are responsible for storing innumerable data, powering applications and connectivity and providing security for all of it, simultaneously. Recognizing the necessity to regulate energy usage and costs, sustainability has begun to play a larger role in the onset of construction and the lifecycle of a data center. The importance of sustainability begins at the development stage, as building sustainably is a critical factor in this initial stage of the data center lifecycle. There are several ways data center developers can design for sustainability, which we will explore more in depth below.

Energy Efficiency

Data centers must use considerable amounts of electricity to power and cool equipment. One way to reduce the impact is to use energy modeling to optimize efficiency in cooling and power systems. Design choices like hot and cold aisle containment, high-efficiency HVAC, sensors and controls and variable speed fans can significantly cut energy needs.

Resource Conservation

Construction requires substantial resources, but developers can reduce their overall impact by using recycled and responsibly sourced building materials, reducing packaging waste and diverting construction debris from landfills. Water conservation measures like air-cooled chillers and wastewater recycling also help.

Sustainable Materials

Choosing sustainable materials can make a substantial difference in data center development and construction. Selecting materials such as FSC-certified wood, recycled steel and concrete, high-recycled content carpets and ceilings, energy-efficient lighting, and low/no VOC paints and adhesives. These green materials reduce environmental impact.

Waste Minimization

Construction at times generates huge waste volumes. Developers must implement careful planning, purchasing and inventory control to reduce surplus materials. They can also develop waste management plans to reuse, recycle and donate usable surplus materials.

Choosing the Right Partner

Choosing the right development and construction partner is crucial, as the design stage is a one-time opportunity to build sustainably. The partner must share the sustainability vision and be ready to meet specific green building parameters. Developing to standards like LEED, ENERGY STAR or ISO/IEC 30134 requires the partner’s buy-in from the very beginning.

Sustainability Through a Data Center’s Lifecycle

During data center development, sustainability best practices are essential to implement for ongoing ESG goal meeting and otherwise.

The development and construction phase sets the foundation for the lifespan of a data center. Adopting sustainable design principles immediately results in long-term economic and environmental benefits. With data centers being major sustainability stakeholders, responsible green development is a crucial pillar of modern data center strategy. By partnering with builders who share their vision, developers can bring this ethos to life. Once the data center is operational, the management team must maintain sustainability diligently throughout its lifespan. 

Essential aspects of sustainability best practices throughout a data center’s lifecycle include:

  • Continuously monitoring and optimizing energy efficiency of power and cooling systems, including regular audits to identify areas for improvement.
  • Scaling capacity in a modular way to ensure highly efficient utilization. Lower utilization leads to excess energy waste.
  • Proactively maintaining equipment for optimal performance, which avoids efficiency degradation over time.
  • Utilizing free cooling techniques like airside and waterside economization whenever possible reduces reliance on mechanical cooling.
  • Deploying new energy-efficient technologies as they emerge during equipment refresh cycles. 
  • Exploring onsite and offsite renewable energy options like solar, wind and hydropower to reduce carbon footprint.
  • Monitoring water usage efficiency and fixing leaks promptly, as well as optimizing treatment systems as well.
  • Instituting stringent e-waste recycling programs for old equipment, including reusing equipment within the data center or donating older equipment when possible.
  • Engaging sustainably-minded colocation clients by reporting PUE, carbon emissions and renewable energy use, which may help attract like-minded customers.

Adopting a sustainability-focused ethos across the construction, commissioning, daily operations and periodic refresh cycles of a data center allows data center operators to minimize environmental impact across its lifespan. The effort requires committed leadership and constant optimization but pays dividends in energy savings, future-proofing, customer attraction and brand building. This is where T5 Data Centers can support your ongoing sustainability efforts by providing full lifecycle services.

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