How data centers can help the climate Europe’s green agenda
Build greener, build better
> How data centers are trying to forestall regulation by setting aggressive climate targets
> To understand the true carbon footprint of a data center means understanding its whole lifecycle
> Batteries are expected to help the grid and keep data centers online. But what does the future hold?
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Contents 4. Climate neutral in a net-zero continent Europe wants to move to Net Zero, and data centers are leading the way 8. Advertorial: An Effective Maintenance Program for Data Center Infrastructure 10. Building greener Before you install your IT and your cooling system, check your building's footprint 14. The future of lithum Batteries are essential for greener data centers. But check their ingredients
Build back greener
he Covid-19 pandemic is still with us, but the world is starting to think about life after lockdown. We're looking forward to a life which may include some protective measures, but will be more "normal."
But we have another task: the climate crisis has not gone away. We are going to be using everything we have learnt in 2020 to attack the bigger problem. And we are going to have to do that with all our intelligence, because the devil will be in the details.
The pandemic pushed everything online, from shopping to education to business. And that's had an effect on emissions. At DCD, we've moved our trademark debates about digital infrastructure, into online forums. Discussion and development have continued without the massive footprint of in-person international events. Elsewhere churches, mosques and synagogues have worshipped on YouTube, while every social group and hobby has gone on Zoom. There has been real hardship alongside the exploration, for people whose jobs have gone, or whose education disappeared, but we are all adapting to an irreversible move to digitization.
Governments wake up
As the US administration resumes membership of the Paris Agreement on combatting climate change, authorities are considering how data centers can clean up
their own act, while helping other sectors become climate neutral. Europe seems to have a head start on this, with a data center sector lining up to be climate neutral by 2030 (p4). What can the rest of the world learn, and can the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact really deliver?
Consider the whole lifecycle One thing that emerges from our discussions on Net-Zero is that there is a lot more to the problem than merely data center efficiency. Any honest carbon accounting will include all the emissions associated with your supply chain, and that can bring some surprises. Adopting renewable energy will reduce your carbon footprint, but even wind and solar embody some greenhouse gas emissions. And your building may embody a comparable footprint to what you do inside it. Concrete production, for instance, makes eight percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (p10). Lithium-ion batteries can be a big green win if they displace diesel generators or allow demandresponse on the grid. But, as with renewable energy, it's important to count the cost honestly (p14).
A continuing story This will not be the last word on sustainability for the data center sector. In fact, we're still at the early stages of transition - even though it's a transition which needs to move urgently in the next ten years. DCD will be returning often to the role of data centers in combatting climate change. It's a journey we look forward to making with you.
Sustainability Supplement 3
Reaching net-zero in a carbon-neutral continent Europe hopes to eliminate its net emissions by 2050, while the US is still getting its act together. Data centers want to lead the way
DCD Supplement • datacenterdynamics.com
Peter Judge Global Editor
hen EU vice president Frans Timmermans set out the bloc’s Green Deal at the end of 2019, he proposed that central government support and digitization could help all sectors of society go carbon-neutral by the end of 2050, making Europe the first climate neutral continent. At that time, the US was effectively a climate-change denier, outside the Paris Climate agreement. Just over a year later, things have changed. Europe’s commitment remains strong, while a new administration has brought the US back to the table. Actual policies have yet to emerge in the US, but a bipartisan bill passed in the dying days of the Trump administration might be a sign of progress. The huge Consolidated Appropriations Act, weighing in at more than 5,500 pages, included an Energy Act, which itself contained two sections, calling for more efficient data centers. The act calls for an update to a 2016 study into data center energy use from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which must be produced within four years. It also demands an examination of the energy impact of cloud computing, and requests a new metric for data center energy use. 2020 also saw the Covid-19 pandemic, of course, a global event which will cause a re-evaluation of data centers and energy. Lockdowns cut emissions temporarily, and pushed society further down the digital route, with cloud services enabling people to remain home where possible, to minimize infections. Coming out of lockdown, those same tools will be integral to making businesses run more efficiently, to cut emissions. It seems that, if we are to reach Net Zero, data centers will have to lead the way. Given the US is only starting to look at how to enable this, let’s look at developments in Europe. Early in 2021, Europe’s data center providers responded to the Green Deal with a commitment to beat the European target and be climate neutral by 2030. It was the result of negotiation behind the scenes which began after Timmermans’ announcement. At a DCD online event in February, Towards Net-Zero, the data center leaders behind the Climate Neutral Data Center Pact explained how it happened. Both the European Data Center Association (EUDCA), and CISPE (Cloud Infrastructure Services Providers in Europe), independently went to talk about climate change with the EU authorities.
“We met with leaders of CISPE, and it turned out they were going the same direction as us,” said Michael Winterson, managing director services for Equinix, and a board member of EUDCA. The two groups agreed to a challenging set of targets, “so we could meet the EU with a positive message.” “We wanted to create a story together and ensure that we had metrics which could be met by every player in data center industry and the cloud services industry,” added Alban Schmutz, chairman of CISPE and SVP public affairs at Europe’s largest cloud provider, OVHcloud. As well as EUDCA and CISPE, the talks pulled in more than other 20 trade associations, including national data center groups. The data center crowd got a good reception from the EU, partly because they were ready to commit to any targets at all, said Winterson: "As far as I can see we are the only industry in Europe that is accepting to targets. Every other industry is pushing back, saying 'we want more time,' or saying it is not possible. But we are meeting the targets. That's a bold step." Both men are clear that they want this approach, because if they didn’t voluntarily propose their own moves, the EU would eventually impose its own demands on them. The data center sector has a fear of regulations imposed from outside, which might end up mandating specific technologies. It's easy to overstate the threat - and fear - of regulations. "It’s not that we don’t want to be regulated," Winterson said, pointing out that most data center operators are actually pretty keen on regulations: "Most subscribe to ISO, TUV, and BSI standards. We have to deal with city-based and state-based regulations, and see that staff are trained to work in high voltage environments." Winterson puts it more positively, arguing that regulations would cost money to create and police: "It would be very expensive for the EU to set up a regulatory environment, and set up an agency to administer it," said Winterson. "We have saved them from that huge financial burden."
In any case, regulators potentially have a more basic understanding of the tech, so their proposals will not be as good as the sector’s own ideas: “If we don't do this it will lead to regulation, which will be less effective than if we do something today.” Schmutz says that, with data centers toeing a self-created line, regulators can spend their time elsewhere: “The people who would be working on regulation for this topic may go and work on another topic." Having got the ear of the European Commission, Winterson, Schmutz, and colleagues had to come up with a program of targets that their members could accept. That was a tough ask, because EUDCA and CISPE and other bodies include a broad range of members, from giant cloud providers running monolithic applications in new data centers built to high-efficiency specifications, as well as smaller operators having to serve multiple customers inside older facilities Big cloud providers have a clear benefit here: they can set their own targets, and upgrade hardware at will. Hosting the virtual data centers of many customers in their facilities, they get the efficiency benefits of sharing resources between those customers, an effect which is already credited with enabling a massive increase in world compute power for a minimal increase in energy use. But smaller players will sign up, says Apostolos Kakkos. He’s chairman of the EUDCA board and CEO of Lamda Hellix, a 6MW provider in Greece (which is now in the process of being absorbed by Interxion, part of data center giant Digital Realty). “I don’t agree that you can’t be green if you are small,” Kakkos told DCD. “There‘s no conflict between being green and cost efficient, and making more money. If we are green, we consume less energy, so we are either more competitive or we make more money - or both!” The specific goals of the Climate Neutral Pact (see p7) are within the reach of small colocation players. Kakkos says Lamda Hellix met the PUE target years ago and is carbon neutral on paper, through renewable energy certificates (RECs). Taking in the other targets, he says: “We’ll
If data centers didn’t make their own voluntary proposals, the EU would eventually impose its own demands on them. The data center sector has a fear of regulations imposed from outside, which might end up mandating specific technologies Sustainability Supplement 5
Sustainability Supplement be 75 percent climate neutral by 2025, and net zero by 2030.” If it’s that easy, then was the bar set too low? Schmutz disagrees: “This is ambitious, but achievable. We can argue if the metric could be lower or higher. It is already a huge jump if we take the average across Europe. We agreed the target with the European Commission.” The pact was never going to be a heavyhanded drive to push customers onto the large cloud platforms which have resources to meet green targets, said Winterson: "We specifically called out this issue. There is a fundamental issue here: a big provider like Equinix can raise a green bond; Global Switch recently raised one for $750 million. Smaller data centers can’t have access to that funding." Happily, the EU has a long-standing commitment to support smaller enterprises (SMEs), which make up the bulk of any market. The Pact members expect support from the EU’s sustainability fund for smaller providers to implement improvements. "We will be pushing for that to be part of the Green Deal funding,” said Winterson. “The overall interest in the EU is to have a vibrant ecosystem, which can include
the smallest players with added value. We needed to have this ecosystem working," said Schmutz, most of whose members are SMEs: “What we do with this pact is not asking everyone to be best in class on everything. We are not creating burdens for SMEs." The other interest of the EU is to make sure any measures don’t price local providers out of the market. Under the pact, Winterson says “EU SMEs can offer services to compete on a level playing field against international - read US and Chinese - vendors." Kakkos thinks the Pact will become table stakes for any government deals: “We believe in a couple of years, people who have signed up to the pact will be commanding the market. It will not be easy for other people to be in the market if they are not in the pact. Clients will be asking for it, and vendors will be chosen because they are in the pact.” It may sound awkward against a goal of reaching net-zero, but Winterson sees a business opportunity in the Pact: “The people who’ve signed are predominantly cloud and colocation providers, but we’re fielding requests from
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telecoms companies, and my feeling is eventually enterprises and governments will join.” These organizations will work out whether they can build their own data centers efficiently, and Winterson thinks more will outsource: “We know how to use technology to beat the targets. They need to decide whether to use the tech to retrofit, or to end of life that facility and move to cloud and colocation in ten years.” “Enterprises and governments are realizing it makes more sense to not build data centers for in-house use, compared with doing it in an information hub. It makes a lot of sense for them to outsource, not just for economic reasons, but also for sustainability and green reasons.”
The other interest of the EU is to make sure any measures don’t price local providers out of the market
Winterson thinks the Pact will be a template for other industries: "We can be the catalyst that tests new ideas for the benefit of other industries, like transport and mining." And Schmutz thinks it could be applied in other nations: "Europe is not unique. It is a collection of various states. What we have done is a laboratory of what can be done at an international scale, not only in Europe. If we can succeed in Europe it can have effects in other places," he said, pointing out that other European initiatives such as GDPR for privacy, have been used or partially adopted elsewhere. But while Winterson, Schmutz and Kakkos believe they have evaded legislation, and have held their members’ feet to the fire to create real commitments, others aren’t so sure. One skeptic DCD spoke to is Ed Ansett, chairman of consultancy i3 Solutions Group. “At the moment I’m struggling with any data center anywhere being carbon neutral by 2030,” he said. “What they mean is near zero perhaps.” While efficiency measures like PUE ensure that less power is wasted on the way to the IT kit, there is nothing to ensure
"We can be the catalyst that tests new ideas for the benefit of other industries, like transport and mining" that compute cycles are used effectively. Data center operators face an economic incentive to sell more services, and little incentive to make sure those services are used efficiently, so cloud providers will sell customers resources they don’t need. With those drivers in place, Ansett thinks data center operators can’t be left to mark their own homework. “An effort like this is laudable, but if we are going to do something we cannot leave it to goodwill,” said Ansett. “A lot of the things you’ve got to do are going to be costly and involve compromise. If we’re going to do something, in my opinion it requires a mandate. You can’t do it yourself. It requires regulation from above.” Time will tell who is right.
The goals of the pact The Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact has five goals. Some of them are not yet expressed in concrete targets: Efficiency Data centers must meet a high energy efficiency standard. By 2025, new data centers bigger than 50kW must have an annual power usage effectiveness of 1.3 in cool climates and 1.4 in warmer climates where heat removal is harder. Existing data centers have till 2030 to reach this target. The pact also proposes to develop a new metric that could replace or extend PUE. Green energy Data center energy use will be 75 percent matched by renewable energy by 2025, and 100 percent matched by 2030. Water use Data centers will improve their water conservation - but the target won’t be defined till 2022. Reuse and recycling Data centers will move towards a circular economy by “assessing” all equipment for recycling and reuse, and increasing the amount they recycle but an actual target won’t be set till 2025. Heat reuse Data center operators will all examine the possibility of offering waste heat to district heating systems or industrial customers. No targets are set though.
Sustainability Supplement 7
Attributes of an Effective Maintenance Program for Data Center Physical Infrastructure Authors: Ken Belanger, Eric Brun, Prasanna Kanchikere, James Martinec, Wendy Torell
Executive summary Data center maintenance is in the midst of a gradual evolution toward condition-based and eventually risk- informed maintenance. However, many data center operators today rely on calendar-based maintenance. In this paper, we discuss what key attributes to look for in a maintenance service provider. We also describe how data analytics, digital services, and connected systems are enabling the evolution from calendarbased maintenance to conditionbased maintenance.
Introduction Critical data center information technology (IT) loads depend on the reliability and availability of the physical infrastructure systems that support them. This includes uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), electrical distribution equipment like switchgear and power distribution units (PDUs), and cooling systems like computer room air conditioners (CRACs)/ computer room air handlers (CRAHs), direct expansion (DX) condensers, chillers, etc. Maintenance programs are an essential part of keep- ing these systems operational. In addition to minimizing downtime, these programs help the systems run efficiently and maximize their life expectancy, ultimately reduc- ing the operating expense of the data center over time. There are two core functions of infrastructure maintenance programs, as described in Figure 1 below. Preventive maintenance (PM) is intended to eliminate preventa- ble failures from occurring, while also optimizing system upgrades, parts procure- ment and manpower resources. The more robust the program, the more likely it is that the activity does what it is intended to do. Remedial maintenance (sometimes referred to as break/fix or unplanned maintenance), the other part of the equation, is necessary for when an unforeseen failure occurs. Some programs do a better job than others at performing the remedial repairs timely and effectively. White Paper 124, Preventive Maintenance Strategy for Data Centers, discusses the history of PM visits for data center systems like UPSs and the progress the industry has made in evolving from component level maintenance plans to more holistic maintenance. In this paper, we describe both preventive and remedial maintenance in greater detail, describe the approaches to each, and provide examples. We then present five key attributes that are critical to look for when selecting a maintenance service provider. Lastly, we will describe how data analytics and the adoption of digital services and connected systems will lead to an evolution from calendar-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance.
Figure 1 Two parts of a comprehensive field-based maintenance program
Comprehensive maintenance program
Maintenance activities intended to reduce the risk of system failure
Maintenance activities intended to repair a system failure
Preventive maintenance Preventive maintenance (aka preventative maintenance), when executed effectively, reduces downtime and its associated costs, reduces operating costs, and defers capital costs. Today, data center preventive maintenance programs most often fall under the category of calendar-based maintenance. Calendarbased maintenance means the activities are performed on a regular occurring, pre-determined schedule – quarterly, semi-annually, or annually. During those visits, specific sets of tasks are performed. Later, in the section titled, Evolution of maintenance, we discuss how we are seeing a shift towards hybrid models that include condition-based mainte- nance as technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) become more widely adopted, and data center systems continue to evolve into highly connected, smart, and remotely manageable systems. The following major activities should be completed as part of a preventive mainte- nance visit: • Perform comprehensive onsite inspection. This includes a visual inspection of all physical infrastructure systems, an environmental (and thermal) inspec- tion, and an electrical/ mechanical inspection. These onsite inspections can be crucial for determining the type of maintenance work to perform on the sys- tems. In the “Elements of effective maintenance” section, we discuss this in greater detail and describe what attributes to look for in a service provider’s approach to inspection. • Replace consumable components. Most physical infrastructure systems have parts that are consumable, meaning they have a limited life expectancy. Common examples of these are batteries, capacitors1, filters, and humidifier cylinders. It is important to replace these components before they present a downtime risk to the data center. Timely intervention also minimizes capital costs by deferring the parts replacements until necessary (“just-in-time”). Life expectancy of key components is a variable that should be considered when designing your data center, as it impacts the frequency of maintenance needed. One way to prepare for the evolution towards condition-based mainte- nance is to retrofit older equipment with modular equipment that has replacea- ble or upgradeable components.
• Functional verification – In this step, the technician confirms the system is (or will) perform as needed. For a UPS, this may be a system self-test, self- load test, runtime test, or a transfer to and from static bypass. For a CRAC/CRAH, this includes testing the fans, heaters, humidifiers, compressors, condensate pumps, and checking the refrigerant level or chilled water flow. Some of these parts related to condensate management and humidification are used seasonally, and sediment can accumulate due to water impurities which can inhibit proper operation; performing the test ensures it will turn on when needed. Functional verification can involve state changes, and state changes always introduce a potential risk. Data centers designed with redun- dancy present a lower risk in performing this verification. Ultimately, the end user must decide if they are comfortable with the risk introduced. It’s a tradeoff between a potential event during a scheduled maintenance window, vs. an un- expected event during business hours. For example, knowing if a UPS battery supports the critical load due to a power event. • Updates/revisions – Vendors periodically update firmware or implement cir- cuit board revisions. During a preventive maintenance visit, the technician should update the systems with the latest available updates. • Communication of status – It is important the service technician provides communication on their findings. A report is generally provided digitally to the operator/owner, so they know what tasks were completed, what components were changed, what software was updated, and any other further recommen- dations. There are standards available that guide the preventive maintenance work that should be done for the systems within a data center. For example, Table 1 is the checklist recommended for external VRLA batteries, according to IEEE Standard 11842006. The objective of preventive maintenance is to avoid failure and ultimately avoid the need for remedial maintenance. But Access the full white paper to continue reading.
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Sustainable data centers require sustainable construction
Dan Swinhoe News Editor
Sustainability gains through energy efficiency will eventually plateau, but there’s much work to be done around the carbon footprint of building materials
here’s no shortage of sustainable activity going in the data center space. Hyperscalers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have made carbon neutral commitments and have made significant investments in sourcing renewable energy for their facilities. And in 2021 alone, the likes of ChinData, MTN, and IBM have made similar pledges to become carbon neutral before 2040. However, much of the conversation is still around operational sustainability and ensuring the facilities use as little power as possible, use green energy where they can, and have minimal or even carbon negative impacts on the local area through district heating initiatives and natural cooling. But is enough thought being given to the environmental impact of the construction phase around data centers and the material impact of the construction materials they use? Data centers use huge amounts of concrete and steel, which are major sources of CO2, and as the sustainability gains from operational efficiencies dry up, firms will have to look to embodied carbon in the construction phase if they are serious about being climate neutral.. “Until now, the modern green building movement has largely focused on reducing operational energy – the energy used to heat, cool and power buildings – which is easy to see and measure,” says Stacy Smedley, Chair and Executive Director of Building Transparency. “While this effort has produced many successes, it’s not enough.” Embodied carbon the next phase Embodied carbon is the sum of all the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the mining, harvesting, processing, manufacturing, transportation and installation of building materials, and is a major source of carbon globally.
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Cement and steel are the most carbonintensive construction materials, two materials data centers use in abundance. On average, a ton of cement will produce 1.25 tons of CO2, largely from the roasted limestone and silica. And as a result, buildings are responsible for around 40 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions and 40 percent of all raw material consumption. Building Transparency says embodied carbon makes up half of a building’s total carbon emissions, but with data centers, the fact they are energy-intensive powered shells changes the equation slightly. The operational carbon impact of a data center can be more than twice the embodied carbon impact, according to Michael Riordan, managing director of Linesight, and focus has historically been on the operational side more than the embodied carbon aspect. However, due to their large size and ever-increasing number, it’s not a topic that should be avoided just because there are more savings to be had in operations. “At some point, most energy is going to come from wind, solar, and other renewable types of sources,” says Rob Ioanna, Principal at Syska Hennessy, “And when that happens, the conversation is starting to turn to embodied carbon because that's really going to be where we're going to have emissions reductions.” Much of the construction considerations around sustainability still revolve around the impact of operations; how to cool the servers in the most energy-efficient way, what to do with excess heat IT hardware generates, whether the facility uses renewable power, or if there more sustainable options for backup than diesel generators. These are important considerations, but IT hardware continues to evolve and become more efficient, and energy grids rely more on renewable energy, the sustainability gains and carbon reduction companies are looking to make will be harder to come by through operational efficiencies alone. “As we start to reduce our operational emissions and the energy grid start to get cleaner, emissions of the materials that we're building with on our construction projects actually become a larger source of emissions,” says Smedley. “For some of these large data center owners that are already purchasing 100 percent green energy for some of their markets and projects, they'll already view themselves as carbon neutral on the energy side, and for those owners the embodied carbon emissions are really what's left to tackle.” The fact that data centers are often fairly standardized in their construction also means once low-carbon practices and standards have been established at one facility it should be easy to replicate across future facilities without too much heavy lift.
Slow progress in CO2 reduction Linesight’s Riordan says that concrete often accounts for as much as 40 percent of a data center's construction, followed by fuel (~25 percent) and then steel – both reinforcement and structural – which can account for 10 percent of a project’s carbon footprint each. He adds that adopting low carbon approaches to new builds can result in 13 percent less carbon during construction, but repurposing a building saves a lot more. Building a new facility creates eight times as much carbon as repurposing, so upgrading an old building can save 78 percent of the carbon emissions of construction. The Global Cement and Concrete Association has committed to zero emissions concrete by 2050. And while there will be no silver bullet to reach that goal, there are a number of startups and trends in the materials space looking to reduce the carbon impact of this core building material. CarbonCure reduces the emissions of the concrete industry, by injecting waste CO2 into the mix. It hopes to remove 500 megatons of carbon dioxide annually from the concrete industry by 2030. Compass Data Centers are a CarbonCure customer, with CIO Nancy Novak saying the company estimates an average of 1,800 tons of CO2 per campus as a result. Amazon and Microsoft have also invested in the company. Novak tells DCD that Compass are also looking into other embodied carbon technologies for aggregate. In terms of the spoil or ground that is raised during a data center’s construction, Novak says Compass will process it so it can be used for structural fill whenever possible, and will check if other projects in the vicinity of the site need clean fill before hauling it. If the spoils are unsuitable for structure, Compass will often make berms and natural landscapes to enhance security and add to the amount of green space on a campus. In 2018, AWS used 100,000 tons of spoil from its Stockholm data center to raise the altitude of the Vilsta ski resort by ten meters. She adds that more offsite construction is key to reducing impact. “We need to be thinking in the mindset of manufacturing, where transportation and utilization of local materials as well as sustainable materials, is paramount.” “Everything from advanced work packaging, prefabricated components and fully modularized rooms and buildings, needs to be more widely adopted and normalized in the construction industry.” A number of architecture and design firms tell DCD that broadly we are still very early in the conversation around embodied carbon, but progress is being made slowly as awareness of the issues increases.
Concrete often accounts for as much as 40 percent of a data center's construction, followed by fuel. Steel can account for 10 percent “There are clients that engage their sustainability teams really early on in the design process, says Todd Boucher, Principal & Founder, Leading Edge Design Group (LEDG), “and in other cases where the construction is more driven from that mission-critical sort of viewpoint, we find ourselves trying to weave in the sustainability discussion around how we could help improve the net environmental impact without an impact on reliability. But I don't think the conversation has extended far beyond efficiency into embedded carbon and sustainability. ” There are increasing examples of companies looking to green materials; Digital Reality announced it was using ‘sustainable materials, including recycled concrete and steel’ in its 430,000 square foot (40,000 sqm), four-story expansion of its Santa Clara campus in California. “Transportation from manufacturing yards to sites is a massive part of the carbon footprint on construction,” says Ashley Buckland, managing director at JB Associates. “Big companies are now looking at transportation and where materials or parts are coming from, and if they can source local materials or workers they will.” “We’ve seen materials, such as carpets made from recycled bottles becoming more prevalent in recent years,” says Adrian Brewin, co-founder of Reid Brewin Architects, “and clients are more conscious of the origins of materials such as tiling – opting for local suppliers rather than exotic ones.” There’s also a regular stream of news about eco-bricks being made from novel recycled or organic materials. Most recently, bricks made from mushrooms and sawdust were shown in London, but there are others made of everything from construction and demolition waste to loofahs or reused water bottles. However, no one DCD spoke to knew if some of these innovations were ready for prime time. “Increasingly novel, innovative, recycled, and organic materials are likely to be used in different aspects of large-scale construction within the next [10-20] years,” says Brewin, “but the regulatory systems that are required
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building new. Serverfarm calculates that reused existing buildings can deliver embodied carbon savings of 88 percent compared with the material carbon cost of new projects. Design firm HKS analyzed Serverfarm’s 25MW, six-story 150,000 square feet (14,000 sq m) Chicago facility, and found that the carbon cost of building an equivalent building would create over 9,000 tons of carbon emissions, compared to 1,000 tons for building reuse and expansion. Almost all of that saving would come through the reduction in concrete.
Embodied carbon is inherently difficult to measure and track, so making a change hasn't historically been easy to approve the industrial processes needed to produce such solutions, to the sheer volume we would need, will likely take tens of years to implement.” And just because data centers could be built, or even 3D printed, from such novel materials doesn’t mean many firms will be willing to take the financial or resiliency risks to use them in construction. “Owners adopt low-risk mindsets,” says LEDG’s Boucher. “If materials may not be proven enough yet, it would be a challenge to implement them in a data center environment that has any form of mission criticality.” This low risk mindset also means resilience and redundancy are higher on the list of priorities than sustainability. However, as companies move more towards fewer centralized facilities and more Edge data centers and availability zones, the
environmental impact per site lowers. This creates more opportunity to introduce greener thinking into smaller sites. “We are an industry that has rightfully been completely focused on availability and reliability. And that has governed most decision-making. But with the utilization of hybrid cloud models and the geographic diversification of data centers, we are moving away from the idea that a data center has to be this huge monolithic Tier IV facility,” he says. “And because of that softening of the perspective, we now can integrate different elements about energy efficiency and carbon neutrality into the conversation that are not solely focused on reliability, even if that still always has to be the number one part of the conversation.” Obviously utilizing existing buildings where possible is more sustainable than
12 DCD Supplement • datacenterdynamics.com
Data and benchmarks are needed While there are standards & certifications around sustainable buildings – LEED is probably the most well-known – they often focus on the entirety of a building’s lifecycle. Measuring and tracking embodied carbon and the environmental impact of construction and building materials can be difficult, and so creating effective benchmarks from which to measure yourself and others against, and start to make a change, hasn’t historically been easy for companies. “Embodied carbon is inherently more difficult to measure and track,” says Linesight’s Riodan. “Data is undoubtedly fundamental in quantifying, understanding and reducing the environmental impact within the construction space. What gets measured gets managed.” LEDG’s Boucher says that when we have a more standardized commonality of language and data, it might be then possible to create something akin to a PUE against which firms might be able to quantify and benchmark their embodied carbon impact against. There are a number of projects and lifecycle tools looking at how to better measure, understand, and reduce the embodied carbon of construction projects. The EU-funded BAMB project is working on Materials Passports that can help organizations understand the provenance of materials and become more comfortable choosing recycled materials. Another project is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) from Building Transparency. EC3 takes the Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) – which are third party verified disclosures that detail information around carbon impact, including kilogram of carbon per unit. EC3 takes disclosed EPDs and collates them in a free and open source tool in which users can input their own materials-use during a planned construction project. It then creates what is essentially a bill of materials and cost estimate in terms of carbon impact per item, allowing users to easily see the environmental impact of their material choices, but also see if there are more sustainable alternatives available. The hope
is not only that firms involved in choosing and procuring materials will opt for greener choices, but that the firms supplying materials will be forced to make all their products greener as a result of losing business. “Having these owners start to ask for lowercarbon products means the manufacturers start to create lower-carbon products, which then the whole industry benefits from.” Smedley says one of the goals of EC3 is to make a tool that is easy to use and allow it to be integrated easily into existing processes without heavy lift and that people who aren’t experts in building lifecycles or carbon footprints can quickly use and understand. Early benchmarks from the Carbon Leadership Forum have been released for companies to rate themselves against, and Smedley says companies are already seeing a 30 percent carbon reduction against that high benchmark through using the EC3 tool. “It helps specifiers start to develop designs limits or benchmarks, from a carbon perspective, and these specifications then get into the bid documents.” Microsoft was an early pilot partner of the tool, and the company has been using it in its Washington campus remodel as well as its data centers in order to choose lower carbon building materials. As well as Microsoft, Turner Construction and Mercury - US and European construction firms with large data center practices - are both pilot partners for the EC3 program. Smedley says its important that data center firms, especially the hyperscalers, take an interest in reducing their embodied carbon footprint due to the sheer number of facilities they run, both data center and otherwise. Likewise, while enterprise data centers may be smaller in number and size than hyperscalers and colo providers, those companies often have large commercial real estate footprints they can transfer sustainable thinking to and from and likely can impact their construction supply chains. “In the data center space, a lot of the players are very large companies that have a ton of other types of projects they're building where they can really kind of spur the market and benefit all of their building types by getting to these lower-carbon materials. It's the big players that lead and make it easier for the smaller ones to see they can implement it without much risk or cost.”
The largest companies are already committed. Smaller firms may need incentives
The next step, Smedley says, will be looking at mechanical systems, and the carbon impact of materials such as generators with the hope of reducing the emissions from their manufacture. Carrot and the stick: money talks While the hyperscalers and largest companies are already committing to carbon-neutral pledges, financial incentives – whether carrot or stick – from government and investors might be required to get smaller firms and those more focused on returns to come on board. “Ultimately, I believe the only driver is a financial one,” says Brewin of Reid Brewin Architects. "Consideration and effort to reduce the carbon impact of data center construction occurs within the limits of local regulations and occasional certification requirements. Anything more is for political gain or extremely limited, and the only way to encourage sustainable thinking is to make regulatory changes.” “People don’t like change, and unless they can see a clear business payback for [sustainability] then they don't sign up to it,” says Ashley Buckland, managing director, JB Associates, “There are not enough incentives there.” In terms of sticks, there are numerous carbon cap regulations coming out the EU, and New York City also has new carbon cap regulations on the books. At the same time, investors BlackRock are beginning to require carbon reporting from the firms it invests in. “There's a big ESG [environmental, social, and corporate governance] push in investment money and there's a lot of laws that are coming out that are putting carbon caps on what you can emit,” says Rob Ioanna, principal at Syska Hennessy. “Those two trends of money putting pressure on companies coupled with government incentives or pushes combining together will probably do some good.” Meanwhile, Building Transparency’s Smedley says the financial incentive carrot is already there, as less carbon-intensive materials are often cheaper because they have lower manufacturing and processing costs. She also advises firms to get ahead of the game and get up to speed before it becomes a regulatory requirement. “This is coming as policy. It might not be tomorrow but it might be three years from now. You might as well get your feet wet and just understand what that means before it is potentially a mandatory thing.” “Every step that we can take, however incremental, is important,” says LEDG’s Boucher. “If, as an industry, we're ignoring the impacts of that the construction piece, then I think that we're really doing a disservice in our commitment towards sustainability.”
Best practices for sustainability in data center construction While tracking and quantifying the carbon footprint of a data center’s construction is hard to do, there are things firms can do now that will help: • Avoid landfill where possible • Use salvaged or reclaimed materials • Reduce cement usage in concrete mixes through fillers • Use synthetic gypsum for plaster and drywall • Buy green insulation such as cellulose or denim insulation/ natural cotton fiber insulation • Opt for rubberized asphalt made from recycled tires • Utilize recycled steel where possible • Source locally for as many materials as possible • Use modular designs and build off-site
Education and transparency are key Everyone DCD spoke to said one of the most important things any firm in the data center industry can do to encourage more sustainable thinking in the construction phase is to educate and engage with stakeholders on the topic. Design, engineering, construction, procurement, and sustainability teams should all be asking each other how to make these facilities greener; are there more sustainable materials options, is there scope to use recycled material, is everything being sourced locally where it makes sense, is everything as standardized and modular as it can be? Asking these questions will at least start conversations and may surface more sustainable options. At the same time, firms need to be open in order to share what they’ve learned. “Hyperscaler type companies have brought transparency into the market around the types of designs that they use in like the open compute project,” says LEDG’s Boucher. Those have been really transformative for the industry, not only in providing reference points for design but demonstrating the importance of collaboration and transparency. Continuing to cultivate that type of transparency in our industry will be important to encourage sustainability.” “Every company has a responsibility,” adds Buckland of JB Associates. “Anyone working in the data center world needs to be sending the message out how they're trying to reduce their carbon footprint. They should share those initiatives ideas, it’s not something that any company should keep as their little black book.”
Sustainability Supplement 13
Understanding the future of lithium Batteries will power the next decade, but companies need to ensure that their supply is as sustainable and ethical as they claim
f data centers are to turn to batteries for UPS systems, microgrids, and a more resilient grid, we’re going to need a lot of lithium. But with the lithium market plagued by boom and bust cycles, regional power struggles, and conflicting reports on future demand, it can be difficult to predict what the industry should expect as it embraces lithium-ion batteries. “So up until around 2015, lithium was a chemical used mostly for other things that weren't batteries,” BloombergNEF battery metals analyst Sharon Mustri explained. “And then the market realized like ‘Well, actually, electric vehicles and energy storage are going to be very important, and this is our main growth market.’ So they started focusing on battery-grade chemicals, and shifting all of their mindset and strategy to meet the demand coming from those markets.”
Prices began to rocket, with lithium producers adding more capacity, raising money, and building new mines. “And then that led to the market realizing a bit after the fact that they had overbuilt and there was a bit of excess capacity. So prices came down, from a peak in 2017.” This steady decline continued for years. “And then Covid hit,” Mustri said. “Nearly all markets suffered under the pandemic. That includes lithium, so prices went down further.” Prices essentially reached their costs, “there wasn’t much more room to go down,” so some producers realized they had to close down mines, cut back on production, and delay expansion projects. “So that helped the market stabilize,” Mustri said. “Now we see the market being in a pretty tight balance. But again - it's a balance in a market that's growing so quick it's quite volatile. If you add a new mine, that might mean you have excess capacity by a
14 DCD Supplement • datacenterdynamics.com
Sebastian Moss Deputy Editor
"It's a tight balance. A new mine can mean excess capacity, faster EV growth can mean a shortage" lot. Or if EV growth is faster than what we're predicting, then again, that means there’s a shortage in supply.” Demand for electric vehicles and energy storage solutions is growing rapidly, but it’s not clear what the next decade will bring. Economic woes may lower demand for high-end electric vehicles, while government mandates to phase out internal combustion engines may cause it to spike.
“This decade we estimate there's going to be about 8x growth in the lithium market.” Tesla's prediction is around 15 times higher than that growth estimate. "Neither of those numbers will probably be right nine years from now." Making matters more complicated is just how slow much of the lithium production process is. “So in South America, they use this process through solar evaporation that takes about a year to two years,” Mustri said. “And once you take the lithium out of the ground and put it into these ponds, there's not that much you can do to increase or decrease, and you don't have that much foresight into what's going on in the market two years from now.” That accounts for about 45 percent of global production, with another 10 percent in other regions that are also mostly trapped in two-year cycles. The remaining 45 percent is produced by Australia, which serves a vital role, as the mining process is far more flexible and able to respond to demand drops and spikes. "In this past year, they were able to close down mines or cut back on production, because it's literally just rock, right? You can just either dig it up or not, and if you leave it there, nothing will happen to it." Australia cut back on production during the tail end of the last boom. "They'll keep doing that until the market recovers, which will probably be like, a year to two years from now," Mustri said. While analysts and businesses differ on their predictions over how fast the market will grow, they all agree that it will grow. While there are some potential competitors, especially in the energy storage space - such as nickel-zinc, liquid metal batteries, and vanadium - most agree that lithium-ion batteries will dominate the next decade. Where variations are more likely to be found is in the type of lithium-ion battery. Lithium-ion batteries typically have metal-oxide cathodes, carbon-based anodes and an electrolyte solution composed of a lithium salt, which is dissolved in an organic solvent. That has meant primarily relying on metals such as cobalt and nickel, or even iron phosphate. Cobalt, the most commonly used cathode, has a problem. For some, it's that prices have risen dramatically due to soaring demand. More pressingly, "cobalt often comes from child labor, in artisanal mining and in the DR Congo." Artisanal mining is the term for subsistence miners that often use their own hands to dig for resources. Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla are among a number of tech companies currently being sued by human rights firm International Rights Advocates. Building
If data centers wish to lead the renewable transition, and not just spout greenwash, then the source of their lithium needs to be high up on their agenda. Not all lithium is the same upon research by anti-slavery economist Siddharth Kara, the ongoing suit accuses the companies of aiding and abetting in the death and serious injury of children who they claim were working in cobalt mines in their supply chain. Around 60 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo. "We've seen some companies promise to only source cobalt that is traceable, for example. It might come from artisanal mining, but it has to be supervised and there has to be some kind of guarantee that there are standards of labor that ensure healthy conditions. "There are those kinds of initiatives. It's up to each person to make their judgments on whether that’s greenwashing or not." Electrical vehicle companies are more likely to put some effort into improving their supply chains, or at least the image of their xsupply chains, due to their target consumer. "The consumer buys an EV to feel good about themselves, that they're doing the right thing by the climate, and then they hear news that says actually your EV has cobalt that comes from child labor. And that creates a kind of cognitive dissonance where they might be less willing to buy the EV." It's not yet clear if there's the same pressure from data center companies or the
wider energy storage market, as it is mostly not targeted towards consumers. UPS and microgrid purchasers are recommended to ask suppliers if they can trace their cobalt. Efforts to improve At a national level, there are also efforts to improve the carbon emissions of lithium production. "So Europe is trying to localize everything from the battery manufacturing to the minerals extraction - they're making it very easy for these companies to be financed, and are giving subsidies.” Musti pointed to Vulcan Energy, which hopes to mine 'zero carbon lithium' by using geothermal power. “It’s being financed in large part by the German government. Whereas in the US, they're still kind of figuring it out.” Again, it is not clear what the appetite will be for taking the extra effort and potential cost to ensure that supplies are both ethical and low-carbon. But if data centers wish to lead the renewable transition, and not just spout greenwash, then the source of their lithium needs to be high up on their agenda. Just as not all renewable energy contracts are the same, not all lithium is the same.
Sustainability Supplement 15
Overcoming the next set of challenges for data centre construction
Overcoming the next set of challenges for data centre construction Matthew Baynes, Vice President, Design & Construction Partners Cloud & Service Provider Segment - Schneider Electric
Throughout 2020, the data centre sector has played a crucial role in supporting business and mission critical applications across many sectors. Indeed many vendors, construction organisations and operators within the sector faced an unprecedented increase in demand throughout 2020 as a result of CIO’s accelerating strategies to move on-premise workloads to the cloud, digitalization, and remote working due to the pandemic.
and design services, and many colocation operators are doing all they can to cater for hyperscale needs.”
In November last year, I was delighted to be joined by experts from Kao Data, Bouygues Energies & Services and Red Engineering at Datacenter Dynamics Europe, where we hosted a panel discussion on the next set of challenges for data centre construction in Europe. Together, we addressed the speed at which construction is moving, the challenges each facet of the sector faces – from data centre design, to supply chain and access to resources – and the importance of flexibility.
Accelerated customer demand has also impacted timescales for projects, with many businesses stating tighter deadlines. Dan Mace, Executive VP for Data Centres at Bouygues Energies & Services stated that the company had needed to turn 9MW projects around in seven months, yet it’s difficult to plan for such a tsunami because you don’t know exactly when it’s going to hit.
The size and speed of the data centre market With CBRE predicting that new data centre supply will reach around 400MW across the FLAP markets by 2022, demand for capacity is certainly at an all time high. Both the growth and consumption of data shows no sign of slowing and now many stakeholders within the sector must be poised, ready to support customers through what has been, and continues to be an unpredictable period. Today, it’s no secret that cloud service providers have driven market growth exponentially and many are developing significant campuses between 80-100MW – each with multiple buildings across a single site. During the discussion, Red Engineering Director, Andy Sykes shared that, “such demand is driving a massive requirement for site selection, due diligence © 2021 Schneider Electric. All Rights Reserved. Life Is On Schneider Electric is a trademark and the property of Schneider Electric SE, its subsidiaries, and affiliated companies. 998-21174951_ DCS_Print_Blog_Ad_GMA_210x270
This was a point echoed by Kao Data CTO Gérard Thibault, who said that the organization has designed its campus to meet customer demands for bespoke facilities, space to scale and access to both sustainable, resilient power, with unmatched cloud and connectivity capabilities.
Therefore, looking beyond the pandemic and the changes it has driven, it is imperative that companies within the sector continue to collaborate openly, focusing on what is needed by customers and when, to devise a plan which is sustainable, on budget and on time.
Challenges surfaced for resource restraints Meeting tight deadlines can often have implications for resource availability. Indeed many of the panelists stated that Click the button below to continue reading