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Considering Metrics for Data Center Sustainability

Discussions about commercial real estate’s efforts toward sustainability and environmental protection tend to focus on office buildings and residential rentals. But data centers – those facilities that centralize IT operations and data storage – generate approximately 0.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while using large amounts of water for liquid cooling and energy production.

According to Brian Korn with Data Center Computing for Advanced Energy, a data center’s carbon footprint encompasses its manufactured and purchased equipment, daily operations and end-of-life equipment disposal and decommissioning.

A recent Cushman & Wakefield report, “Energy, Water, Carbon, A New Trinity for Measuring Data Centre Sustainability,” suggests a “trinity” of metrics to reduce emissions throughout a data center’s life cycle. The report specifies three metrics – power usage efficiency (PUE), water usage efficiency (WUE) and carbon usage effectiveness (CUE) – to help boost sustainability while reducing a data center’s carbon footprint.

The formula for PUE is the total facility’s power divided by IT equipment energy. This statistic focuses on the amount of power used by computing equipment versus other systems.

When it comes to water usage, it’s estimated that the industry uses 1.7 billion liters a day in the U.S. alone. WUE focuses on how much water a facility might use for cooling and other operations and is calculated by dividing the center’s total usage by the IT equipment energy. In addition to using this metric, the Cushman & Wakefield report noted that initiatives like rainwater harvesting and recycling systems are being tested.

Finally, CUE examines a data center’s carbon emissions; the formula here is CO2 emissions caused ty total data center energy divided by IT equipment energy. Not only does CUE measure daily operations, but the statistic also considers supplies, building designs, input materials, cooling systems and even geography.

The report echoed Korn’s idea that a data center’s sustainability is more than what happens while it’s in operation. “From data centre configuration to the materials used in construction, it’s important to assess how these might impact PUE, CUE and WUE throughout the asset’s lifespan,” the Cushman & Wakefield analysts noted.

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Cushman & WakefieldAdvanced Energy's Brian Korn

About Amy Wolff Sorter

I love content. I love writing it, visualizing it, and manipulating it to fit into different formats. I have years of experience in working with content, both as creator and editor. The content I create and edit provides assistance with many goals, ranging from lead generation, to developing street cred through well-timed thought-leadership pieces. Content skills include, but aren't limited to, articles and blogs, e-mails, promotional collateral, infographics, e-books and white papers, website copy and more.

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