photo courtesy this is our selected toilet for the datacenter.

Well today was an interesting meeting with our LEED consultant Brandon Smith.  Based on our meeting, it is clear that specific LEED requirements for data centers do not yet exist.  As a result, we’re pursuing a classification for an Interior Space (for reference, the requirements are here).  There are a few items from this list that simply do not apply to data centers, but are ‘gatekeepers’ that must be addressed in order for us to pursue any certification.


The first of these is that no part of the interior space up for LEED certification can be cooled by a CFC-based air handling system.  Unfortunately our building was constructed years before the non-CFC requirements came into practice and therefore the majority of the facility is in fact in violation of this requirement.  However, we had previously installed two CFC-free air conditioners dedicated for the data center.  Our original plan was to reuse these air conditioners to supplement the cooling in our board room; however, given the LEED requirements we are now going to use one air conditioner for the ambient air handling in the Data Center commercial space, and the other for the Board room.  Had we not possessed these air conditioning units, this would have been the end of pursuing LEED for us.


The second set of requirements that are unforeseen gatekeepers are those around reduction in water use.  Interestingly, we use absolutely no water in the data center as none of our equipment is water-cooled.  We made the mistaken assumption that no water use would be considered a good thing.  We were wrong.  As a result, we are now forced to add in the public shared spaces on the floor for consideration in the commercial space, and then to show not only a reduction down to the required baseline water usage, but then an incremental reduction from the baseline.


Again, this is an older facility, so we have older toilets and water fixtures.  So Mr. Smith is now working on the 5 toilets, 2 urinals, and 5 water faucets we will need to replace to be considered for certification.  I am wondering how the price will impact my overall return on investment calculation.  The cost for the LEED certification itself is approximately $15,000, and now the incremental cost of the water use reduction could be an additional $5,000.   I will refrain from discussing how this is a crappy situation.


To answer this question, I made the decision that logically we would want to spend no more than 1 advertising campaign would cost.  This would be the net cost – in other words, if the LEED portion of this project costs us $20,000 to go through the process, and if our average advertising campaign costs us $5000, then in order to have a $0 incremental cost the investments through LEED would need to save $15,000 through their total lifetime in order to justify the expenditure.  My logic here is that by successfully obtaining an LEED certification for a commercial interior space – the first such certification for NCTD, and for northern San Diego County – I would likely be generating some press and attention through the investment perhaps equivalent to one small marketing push.  The rest of the investment must be justified by some other tangible return.


Brandon and I are working on this question now.  Just for edification, here are the other items we’re considering in order to meet the basic LEED certification requirements:

  • Designating some of our parking spaces for carpools or vanpools
  • Reusing our interior door from the project instead of purchasing a new one
  • Measuring the Solar Reflective Index of the concrete around the building
  • Measuring the shade of the trees on the parking lot


To be fair, I understand the need to consider the overall building in this project.   Given that this is a ‘green data center’ that we are building inside of an existing and rather dated facility, the task of addressing all of the needs of LEED may be insurmountable.  Especially considering my desire to also establish the business case for the project beyond the tangible benefits of the data center itself.  In other words – building the case for green instead of conventional data center practice.


Once we have finished the complete ROI analysis, I will post.  Until then, dual flush or low flow?  That is the question…