Achieving LEED Certification for Data Centres: A Roadmap

April 2, 2024

Sustainability is becoming front and centre in nearly every sector. But in the rapidly evolving world of data centres, it poses a particular challenge. 

Data centres consume massive amounts of energy to power and cool vast arrays of servers, so finding ways to minimise their environmental impact — while maintaining efficiency — can be a daunting task. 

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) 

LEED certification is a global benchmark for sustainability and one of easiest ways to find that balance between efficiency and environmental impact. 

We’ve used our passion for sustainability and experience as a multi-discipline building services engineering firm to compile these tips to help you achieve LEED certification in your data centre.  

Understanding LEED Certification

LEED, developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), is a globally recognised green building certification system. It provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. 

You can gain LEED certification by accruing points across several categories, including energy use, air quality, and material selection. For data centres, which are energy-intensive by nature, LEED certification shows a commitment to reducing environmental impact and optimising operational efficiency.

Six Key Steps to LEED Certification

From planning, through to construction and operation, gaining LEED certification for a data centre involves six key steps:

 1. Assessment and Goal Setting

The best place to start is with an assessment of your current performance and sustainability goals. Then you can determine which LEED certification level you’re aiming for (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) and establish a clear roadmap to achieving those objectives.

2. Engage with LEED Accredited Professionals

LEED Accredited Professionals (APs), like our sustainability team at Metec, can offer expertise on building performance and optimising the thermal and solar performance of a building’s fabric. 

Our LEED APs are continually studying to expand their qualifications and have extensive experience with the LEED rating system. They’ll streamline the experience and guide you through the complexities at every step of the process — right from documentation to implementation.

3. Focus on Energy Efficiency

Given the high energy demand of data centres, optimising energy efficiency is a critical component of LEED certification. 

This can involve implementing energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, using renewable energy sources, and utilising innovative cooling strategies to reduce energy consumption.

4. Sustainable Site and Facility Design

Where’s your data centre located? 

Have you considered the environmental impact of your centre’s location and construction materials?

There are several things you can do to help minimise your centre’s environmental impact. 

Some of the easier strategies include using recycled and locally sourced materials, designing the building to maximise natural light, and selecting a location that supports sustainable transport options.

5. Water Efficiency

Data centres require significant water resources for cooling purposes, but water use can be reduced dramatically by implementing innovative cooling technologies, water-efficient landscaping, and cooling tower water management.

6. Monitor and Optimise

Once you've implemented your sustainability strategies, they’ll need to be monitored. This will be a vital part of your overall strategy because it will help you track and optimise performance, as well as ensure ongoing compliance.

One way to do this is by utilising advanced building management systems to track energy and water usage, indoor air quality, and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Benefits of LEED Certification:

  • Reduced Operating Costs: LEED-certified buildings typically have lower energy and water usage — which also means significant cost savings.
  • Enhanced Reputation: Certification demonstrates your commitment to sustainability and will attract clients and partners who value environmental responsibility.
  • Increased Asset Value: Sustainable buildings often command higher rental rates and have increased market value.
  • Improved Occupant Health and Productivity: LEED buildings are designed to maximise fresh air and natural light, which means a healthier work environment for all.

By pursuing LEED certification at your data centre you’ll be demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship, as well as reaping the benefits of reduced operating costs and enhanced marketability. 

"What LEED does is give you that international benchmark,” says Gary Quinn, Metec Executive Director. “And what we do, at all times, is protect your sustainability targets — we’re the guardians of your certification.”

LEED Certification Process: Quick Tips

  • Start Early: To fully integrate sustainability into your project, you should start incorporating LEED strategies in the earliest planning stages
  • Prioritise: Focus on the LEED credits that offer the most significant benefits in terms of sustainability and cost savings.
  • Document Thoroughly: Keep detailed records of all sustainability measures — comprehensive documentation is crucial for LEED certification.

Metec and LEED 

Along with our partners, Soren Jensen, we’ve designed several hyper-scale data centres in Europe — some of the largest in northern Europe — and delivered over 1,200,000 sq. Ft. of LEED certified floor area. 

At Aarhus University, we’ve designed several data halls and centres for cloud computing and research with fresh (ambient) air cooling and ventilation systems, significantly reducing the facilities’ energy consumption.

At the Irish Life building in Dublin we used full BIM and Lean plant design, as well as best-in-class new MEP equipment, to make 1 George’s Quay the first refurbished commercial office in Dublin to achieve LEED platinum, as well as an A3 BER rating. 

At Metec, we’re committed to guiding our clients through the LEED certification process and ensuring that their facilities not only meet, but exceed standards for sustainability and efficiency

Our leading team of engineers and designers have been hand-picked for their passion, qualifications, as well as experience in building performance and sustainability, and have delivered sustainably accredited projects across Ireland and Europe.

Get In Touch

If you would like to know more about Metec and our approach to designing a built environment for a better future, get in touch with the team at Metec today.

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