Whether you can pursue LEED certification is fairly obvious because, of course, you can. The more important question, however, is whether you should for your data center environment. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, creates value such as:

  • Public relations
  • Incentive for investment for those who prioritize environmental responsibility
  • Marketplace differentiation
  • Energy efficiency
  • Employee well-being and morale
  • Potential long-term financial savings
  • Carbon footprint reduction

Though all of these factors can put a smile on your face, a bulge in bank accounts, and a cleaner environment, consider the following quote from IBM Technology Group Engineer Joe Prisco in a TechTarget interview:

"We see data centers as being more energy-intensive per square foot, so where [LEED] seems to fall short is taking into account the energy-intensive nature of the data center."

The latest proposed LEED v4 standard considers the unique nature of data centers.

Eco-Friendly Factors Besides Power

There are several ways for data center service providers to gain LEED credits beyond energy efficiency. Here are factors that the US Green Building Council uses to assess whether a data center or another type of building is LEED-worthy:

  • Efficient use of building materials and reduction of waste
  • Location relative to public transportation and/or residential neighborhoods for employees to live
  • Water efficiency
  • Effective lighting through solar
  • Indoor air quality
  • Innovative building amenities, ranging from simple outdoor ashtrays to sophisticated parking facilities
  • Rainwater management and reduction of carbon emissions

Sustainable Cooling Practices

Consider the potential use of rainwater in server cooling.

In some regions, the practice seems much more viable than in others. Microsoft’s location in the Pacific Northwest is much more viable for collecting rainwater than Google facilities in California, especially after droughts.

In regions with cooler climates like Colorado, the naturally lower temperatures help take the heat off servers. The same can’t be said for Arizona. Data center environments in these regions tend to use recycled water consistently.

Financial Benefits to Your Data Center Environment

Many state and local governments offer tax credits and incentives for companies with buildings that attain LEED certification. Other potential financial benefits include:

  • Moving to virtual hardware demands less energy and reduces maintenance requirements.
  • Choosing locations with access to cleaner energy sources like hydroelectric power reduces cost and carbon footprint.
  • By building data centers with bicycle or public transportation access for employees, improved exterior views, interior air quality, and sunlight, studies show employee health, morale, and productivity also improve.
  • Investors and data center customers are increasingly rewarding LEED certified data centers.

Large corporate hosting and colocation providers like Digital Realty Trust and Internap are working very hard to achieve LEED certification standards.

Local, Sustainable, Efficient, and Clean Air

LEED-certified data centers are built with materials from local manufacturers. Waste is diverted to recycling facilities wherever possible.

Custom hardware is used, which requires less energy and cooling and meets ENERGY STAR standards.

In years past, a single-managed IT services facility could demand as much energy as a small town. As responsible environmental strategies are increasingly adopted, these buildings are being retrofitted with equipment, systems, and practices that are less costly and better for the planet.

If your data center environment is not currently LEED-ready, there are many affordable, actionable steps to get credits toward certification. The benefits described in this article are significant for your bottom-line cost reduction, employee well-being, shareholder value and for the benefit of the planet.

Has your company established a mandate for LEED certification, or have you already achieved one of the LEED certification tiers? How has it impacted your business? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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