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ZDNet (GreenTech Pastures): Vermont Data Center Pursues Data Center Gold

by Marketing on January 6, 2011

January 6, 2011
Article Posted on www.ZDNET.com Blog – By Heather Clancy

I read recently that there are now more than 1 billion square feet of buildings and facilities that are certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. One of the toughest certifications to earn, as you might expect, is the designation for data centers. What does it take? Consider the example of Tech Vault, which is seeking a Gold-level certification for its facility in Burlington, Vermont.

LEED Gold requires 60 or more points in the following areas of green design: sustainable site selection, water efficiency metrics, energy and atmosphere conditions, materials and resources used, and the indoor environmental quality. The LEED rating scale is 100 points, plus 10 possible bonus points for “innovation in design and regional priority.”

The facility in question, which encompasses 500 kilowatts of capacity for each phase of the buildout, is meant for commercial hosting. Some of the initial clients include hospitals and healthcare providers (the facility is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, aka HIPAA, requirements), software companies that are offering their applications as a service and even some bonafide sustainable businesses, such as a very high-profile green cleaning products manufacturer that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention by name. Other relevant metrics from a data center management point of view: the facility is served with Internet bandwidth from two tier-1 carriers (it is a node on each carrier’s regional SONET ring). The network infrastructure includes hardware from Cisco.

As you might expect, Tech Vault takes advantage of its environment to design for efficiency. For example, airside cooling is used whenever possible, which cuts down on its use of electricity for cooling. Lighting is automated with motion sensors, so they’re only on when necessary. Its philosophy: “Heat only what you need to heat, cool only what you need to cool, and light only what you need to light.”

Bob Stewart, vice president of IT for Tech Vault, says one of the biggest factors when planning for the LEED Gold certification was the company’s choice of technologies for power management and rack design. For that, Tech Vault turned to Schneider Electric’s APC portfolio of solutions, including In-Row cooling, Symmetra uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) and InRow Remote Power Modules. “It is cheaper to save electricity than it is to go out and buy new stuff,” Stewart says. “We would never have been able to do this without the efficiencies that we could get through this technology.”

Stewart also notes in a press release describing the project:

“The facility soup-to-nut is a Schneider Electric house, and we are really happy about that. After a year of planning and design collaboration with the Schneider Electric team, we began construction on the facility. Within four months, we completed the full installation, enabling us to open on time and in large part because of their energy-efficient solutions, we hope to join a small and distinguished group of LEED certified data centers in the United States.”

When I spoke with him on the phone about the solution, Stewart said a key benefit of going with the Schneider solution was his team’s ability to monitor everything from a centralized panel.

Mike Murray, marketing manager for the data center solutions team with Schneider Electric, estimates that close to 80 percent of the points that companies need to earn for LEED are associated with the lighting and electrical systems in a building, which makes it important for data center operators to take a holistic view of energy efficiency projects. The company’s InfraStruxure approach allows facilities managers to build out the requisite modules for energy efficiency as a data center scales over time, he says. That way, the investment doesn’t have to be made all at once.

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