What is LEED Certification for Data Centers?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), developed by the US Green Building Council, is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings. The certifications come as Silver, Gold and Platinum, and the highest Platinum certification indicates the highest level of environmentally responsible construction with efficient use of resources.

What is LEED Certification for Data Centers?Over the years, LEED has become more popular and is now an internationally accepted standard for "green buildings." While LEED certified homes, commercial buildings and even neighborhoods are present across the world, LEED data centers are surprisingly rare. Less than 5% of all US data centers have LEED certification. This, however, is changing, and more and more data centers are now becoming LEED certified, thanks to the growing awareness of environmental issues.

A single word to describe LEED certified data centers is "sustainable." Here are some characteristics of a typical LEED certified data center.

  • Advanced cooling system to reduce energy consumption. This could be implemented in different ways, such as using outside air and cooling it by evaporation to cool the facility, deploying custom servers that operate at higher temperatures and using cold air containment pods with variable speed fans to match airflow with server requirements.
  • Improved cooling efficiency. Using chilled water storage system, for instance, has the potential to transfer up to 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours daily and, therefore, improves cooling efficiency.
  • Reduced energy consumption. Monitoring power usage in real-time and leveraging analytics during operations helps to allocate power judiciously. Distributing power at higher voltages reduces power loss, and eliminating energy-draining transformers helps to convert power to the appropriate voltage and reduce the generation of heat. The overall aim is to maintain low power usage effectiveness (PUE), which is the measure of the energy used beyond the IT load.
  • Using a clean backup power system. One innovative approach is replacing the football field sized room full of batteries that powers the uninterrupted power supply with mechanical fly wheels and a diesel engine. This reduces emissions, noise pollution and fuel consumption.
  • Using renewable energy. Extensive use of renewable energy, such as solar power, to reduce dependence on the grid and fossil fuels is a characteristic of all green data centers, moreso when aspiring for LEED certification.
  • Green construction. Construction of the facility also influences LEED certification. Using recycled materials for construction, purchasing materials near the site to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and diverting construction waste to nearby landfills reflects positively on LEED ratings.
  • Intelligent design. Adopting an in-row design confines the heat to a smaller area, reducing the space to cool and, therefore, reducing electricity consumption considerably. Similarly, a modular design helps to contain cooling only to the required area instead of cooling the entire facility.

While LEED does not force data centers to follow specific methods of cooling, reducing energy consumption and the like, the system has a combination of credit categories, and each credit category has specific perquisites that the data center has to satisfy. Each rating system is made up of a combination of credit categories, and the number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED certification.

To learn more about data center certifications, check out our Certifications and Qualifications page.

Alex Carroll

Alex Carroll

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Alex, co-owner, is responsible for all real estate, construction and mission critical facilities: hardened buildings, power systems, cooling systems, fire suppression, and environmentals. Alex also manages relationships with the telecommunications providers and has an extensive background in IT infrastructure support, database administration and software design and development. Alex architected Lifeline’s proprietary GRCA system and is hands-on every day in the data center.
Alex Carroll