Focus on data centers: Sustainability

Designing efficient and effective data centers and mission critical facilities is a top priority for consulting engineers. Energy efficiency and sustainability are key factors to consider.



  • Cyrus Gerami, PE, LEED, CxA, Associate, Senior Project Engineer/Manager, exp Global Inc., Maitland, Fla.
  • Kerr Jonstone, IEng, MIET, Senior Electrical Engineer, CH2M Hill, Glasgow, Scotland 
  • Keith Lane, PE, RCDD/NTS, LC, LEED AP, President, Lane Coburn & Assocs., Bothell, Wash. 
  • James McEnteggart, PE, Vice President, Primary Integration Solutions Inc., Charlotte, N.C.
  • Robert M. Menuet, PE, Senior Principal, GHT Ltd., Arlington, Va. 
  • Brian Rener, PE LEED AP, Electrical Platform Leader and Quality Assurance Manager, M+W Group, Chicago, IL.

Sustainable buildings/energy efficiency

CSE: Energy efficiency and sustainability are often the No. 1 request from building owners during new building design. What is your experience in this area?

Features of the Sabey Quincy (Wash.) data center, engineered by staff from Lane Coburn and Assocs., include many aimed to enhance electrical reliability, including advanced generators and transformer switches. Photo: Lane Coburn and Assocs.Johnstone: Energy efficiency is an increasingly important element for all clients, and PUE is a focus for all data center design. However, while we can be innovative in our approach to energy efficiency, this is sometimes compromised by the requirement to comply with conservative and more traditional design and approaches inherent within some client briefing and internal client design standards. Within all projects, we design elements of free cooling, and variable volume technology to drive down cooling production and distribution costs.

Lane: For mission critical facilities, the No. 1 priority is reliability. One outage can erase all the energy savings from a more efficient design. That being said, there are numerous strategies that can make a data center more efficient without reducing reliability. That is the secret sauce in the design.

Menuet: All data center end-users have increased their attention to energy efficiency, and in some cases have used the LEED program as a guide to building more efficient facilities. We continue to be challenged by the fact that mission critical buildings are heavy utility users, and the proportion of credits that address those issues in many green building programs is limited. The next generation of sustainable design guidelines specific to mission critical facilities must be heavily weighted toward electric and water usage.

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