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How Can Data Centers Meet Their Sustainability Goals? Learn More At Bisnow’s Feb. 22 Event


The pressure is on for data centers to make significant changes to reduce their impact on the environment. Data centers make up 1% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Data center owners can help ensure their buildings are climate change-resilient by choosing to embrace sustainable solutions, from opting for materials that emit less carbon to tracking the building’s energy performance and committing to improvement.

One step facility owners can take to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability is to pursue a Green Globes building certification administered by the Green Building Initiative, or GBI. The certification program educates project teams and analyzes the environmental sustainability, health and wellness, and resilience of a property or portfolio and helps owners implement sustainable features that are right for them. 

Green Building Initiative President and CEO Vicki Worden will be at Bisnow’s National Data Center Construction, Design and Development event on Feb. 22 at The National Conference Center in Leesburg, Virginia. She will be speaking on the Building at Scale and for Speed to Market panel, which will cover how to build and deliver sustainable data centers on a large scale.

Click here to register.

Bisnow sat down with Worden to discuss the resources that building owners can use when taking steps toward sustainability, including those provided through the Green Globes certification process.

Bisnow: What are some of the unique considerations of building for scale and speed to market with sustainability in mind?

Worden: Building with carbon footprint and climate resilience in mind means that developers need to start with well-researched specifications. Decisions on design and building material selection, for instance, need to check several boxes today. Materials need to be as low in embodied carbon as we can manage, contribute to a healthy indoor environment and be resilient to the results of climate change. Having specifications and a design that minimizes the negative impact of new builds is a great start to building for scale and speed.

Bisnow: What decisions need to be made to maximize opportunity and minimize risk?

Worden: Chief financial officers and chief sustainability officers are overlapping on the issue of climate resilience. Investors want to know that their investment in a real estate fund is a good one. That means keeping buildings operational regardless of how our climate changes in the next 40 to 60 years. If CSOs can interface with the capex teams on planning for climate resilience, that gets at the risk management that investors want to see. 

There is also an opportunity for overlap in priorities, as decisions that reduce operational costs in any way will make both CFOs and CSOs happier. Working cooperatively with municipalities and utilities on issues that alleviate energy, water and waste concerns can create efficiencies in long-term opex. 

We’re predicting that municipalities and the federal governments will increasingly make carbon accounting and emissions reduction a priority for building owners. Planning with that in mind is the safest bet to avoid regulatory and risk-related threats.

Bisnow: Can you explain more about how the Green Globes building certification process assesses data centers and helps operators achieve sustainability certifications?

Worden: GBI leverages data center subject matter experts as Green Globes Assessors for these projects. This helps streamline the Green Globes certification process and provides additional support for data center operators. Because of the time-efficient and cost-effective process, GBI is seeing more data center certification projects than ever before.

Also, our data center community members benefit from a measurement system that recognizes each case individually. While there is great emphasis on reducing both energy and water consumption, there are opportunities for sustainability strategies in other areas as well, which is especially important since water and energy reduction can be difficult for data centers. We also evaluate project management and planning issues, site considerations, material choices and indoor environmental considerations. 

On the energy side, the Green Globes building certification offers choices for evaluating the targets for projected or actual performance. There are five industry-recognized pathways for energy performance evaluation as well as prescriptive criteria, such as power use effectiveness, lighting selection and strategy, equipment selection, building envelope performance, metering and the integration of renewable energy sources. There are many opportunities to show — and be rewarded for — excellence and innovation within the Green Globes rating system.

Our process yields positive experiences for data center teams because it’s focused on achievements and providing recommendations for next steps. The Green Globes rating system’s multiple pathways and “not applicable” provisions ensure that data centers and any complex building types are not penalized for providing essential services. The last step in our process is a visual walk-through of the building that provides the team with valuable feedback from an expert about long-term sustainability considerations. 

Bisnow: How do GBI’s programs and resources support buildings in meeting their sustainability goals? 

Worden: The market needs a standardized and transparent framework to evaluate sustainability, health and wellness, and climate resilience decisions that will impact the way we live now and in the future. Because GBI’s Green Globes is developed through an open, balanced consensus process, it’s designed to bring objective and meaningful considerations to the forefront for every owner and their chosen team.

Building owners can use a third-party assessment and objective measurements to compare individual buildings within portfolios and among organizations. Adopting a replicable and recognized approach, like Green Globes certification, allows building owners to compare performance within a data center portfolio and commercial real estate holdings across industries.

Data center portfolio owners are also pursuing recognition through ESG reporting programs like Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, now known as GRESB. Green Globes certification can help owners achieve the credit within GRESB, and certification provides a higher ranking than its competitors.

Green Globes contributes to a more holistic evaluation of how a property owner is implementing their commitment to investors, the public and their community stakeholders.

Bisnow: What are you looking forward to most about attending the event and speaking on Bisnow’s Building at Scale and for Speed to Market panel?

Worden: Green Building Initiative’s vision of “sustainable, healthy, resilient buildings for all” guides our work. I hope to hear about success stories that put these critical considerations at the forefront of the decisions we are making today that will make us feel proud of the building stock we have 40 to 60 years from now.

This article was produced in collaboration between the Green Building Initiative and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to