Design and Construction Strategies for Sustainable Data Centers Roundtable

New approaches to energy, water, carbon which drive the next generation of data centers

The roundtable series is shared in four parts, each posted to this page.

The Cloud is part of everyone’s personal and professional lives. Everything from hospital records to social media platforms to banking is backed onto servers that live in large data centers. This dependency creates new challenges as digital infrastructures continue to grow. Sustainability continues to be a challenge for these energy-intensive data centers, so the question is, what does it take for companies to design and build more energy-efficient, resilient spaces?

DPR hosted a roundtable discussion to delve into the drive to create a more sustainable industry, focusing on energy, water and embodied carbon and looking at what the future holds when creating a truly green Cloud. Participants included:

  • Ryan Poole, global sustainability leader at DPR Construction
  • Greg Metcalf, senior director, global design at Equinix
  • Denis Blanc, director of sustainability at Sheehan Nagle Hartray Architects
  • Joshua Hatch, principal at Brightworks Sustainability
Sustainable Energy Strategies
Energy: The industry’s focal point

Data centers consume 1-2% of the world’s energy and the demand for them is only increasing as consumers continue to depend on the digital services they provide. As an industry, energy use—specifically lowering it—is the biggest topic of conversation. But how should the industry address this?

Part 1 of the roundtable discussion focuses on understanding what affects data center energy usage, energy efficiency, cooling solutions, site selection and the effects a microgrid has on our daily lives.

Sustainable Water Strategies
Water: A growing concern as supply beings to dwindle in some regions

Every heated server rack is backed by complex MEP cooling systems. Keeping these servers and overall data halls at an optimal temperature requires innovative cooling solutions that depend on water. Understanding that water has an energy footprint, it’s a complex issue and sensitive to water scarcity in some locations.

In part 2 of this video series, panelists touch upon the importance of water analysis during site selection, cooling strategies that balance energy and water use, tactics to reduce water use during construction and more.

Sustainable Embodied Carbon Strategies
Embodied Carbon: Collaboration will drive innovation

Embodied carbon is increasingly being tied to an owner’s green commitments, so there is a need for action that includes the design, consulting, general contracting and manufacturing communities. Innovative solutions won’t happen without a collaborative approach among those partners. It all starts with conducting a lifecycle analysis of construction activities on a project including supply chain planning, manufacturing, transportation and more to better surface green strategies. Combining data with collaboration will yield smart, greener choices.

Part 3 of the Greener Data Center roundtable series dives deep into embodied carbon, the roadblocks around alignment in this space and where new methods can be used to push forward.

Sustainable What's Next
What’s Next: Transitioning into a more sustainable future 

The transition to producing more sustainable data centers is happening now. To move all stakeholders forward towards building more sustainable digital infrastructure, it takes early collaboration between all partners, working together through the entire lifecycle of a project.

In the final part of the Sustainable Data Centers Roundtable series, panelists discuss what's next for the industry, how to leverage their collective power to transition to a greener future, and ultimately provide a healthier built environment.

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