This week we started investigating the LEED certification process and it was illuminating. For my data center project we only have two options for obtaining the certification- and both are frankly uphill battles.


The first option is for an interior commercial space. Our LEED consultant Brandon Smith believes we may be able to qualify under this program at a basic certified level. Our data center is part of a shared use space in the basement of our building. We lease out the third floor of our facility to at least three other companies. We also share a lunch room in the basement, and lease out another office in the basement to the same companies.


The data center is a separately-accessed space that is one small office on it’s own. I think this is our best shot at certification. Mr. Smith believes our project will garner 47 of the 100 possible points, which would put us right at the certified level.


Our other option is to pursue an Existing Facility Operations and Mainentance certification. This is a more rigorous review that would require us to change out our old whole-building air conditioning units. I cannot see how I can justify this large capital investment on the data center project alone.


We will investigate the possibility of the second certification as part of our larger sustainability plan.


There were some surprises in this evaluation:

  • The rather large solar investment in the project- enough to offset 100% of the power needs of the data center – garnered us all of 1 point in the evaluation. The same as reusing our door.
  • We received the bulk of our points because of the location of the site and the nature of our business. Being a public transit district and the free transit we offer out employees brought us 6 points. The thought is that commuters will generate a much larger carbon footprint than that of the data center itself.
  • We receive no points for reusing the air conditioners. Even though they will be used infrequently in another part of the building, they clearly still pull a great deal of power.


Pursuing the second certification will require significant investment on our part- from changing the toilets and water fixtures, to the cleaning products we use, to changes in out parking lot. It will be an interesting process to determine whether these investments will make sense to our financially strapped organization.


And that brings us to the question of ROI. The certification process will probably cost around $7500 with fees and consulting hours. This is a very small cost on the overall project, but is equivalent to purchasing 3 servers. Will it return as much as 3 servers would? Is there a monetary value to LEED?

One Response to “Starting the LEED certification process”

  • 3 servers may be worth $7500, whereas the certification will return more in the long run, definately.

    However, if looking at the amount of man hours and materials. I am guessing the servers would cost much, much more to produce. Interesting that a certification is being hugely over charged, isnt it?