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BREEAM Data Centres 2010November 2010

Data centres are hungry consumers of electrical energy. Will a new BREEAM scheme give design engineers the guidance they need? Irena Saniuk reports.

Data centres are prodigious consumers of electrical power. To help designers get to grips with the energy issues, the BRE has extended BREEAM Other Buildings to cover data centre-type facilities.

The BRE took its original BREEAM Data Centres 2008 scheme (launched in 2009) and developed it further in partnership with the world's largest data centre provider, the Digital Realty Trust. The specific requirements of BREEAM Data Centres 2010 were informed by two key features of the building type: high energy use and low occupancy levels. Adjustments have been made to the BREEAM weighting system to reflect the specific environmental and social consequences of data centres.

For a building that largely consists of large functional spaces with significant occupancy, all standard BREEAM issues remain relevant. If the associated function areas are small, along with reduced occupancy, the transport category is filtered out (although a new transport carbon dioxide factor covers some of the transport related activities). Third, if the building has no associated function areas, health and well-being is filtered out along with transport factors.

The weighting for other factors, such as energy, rise up to 44.5 per cent, particularly for buildings without reception and office areas. A new credit, the power usage effectiveness rating (PUE), reflects the efficiency of the plant use to service IT kit. It is calculated by dividing the total facility power by ICT equipment power. The BRE suggests that the typical PUE for existing data centres is 2.2, while the best achievable PUE rating is 1.2.

Cooling servers is the most energy-intensive part of a data centre. While the BREEAM scheme requires designers to reduce the consumption of potable water associated with the cooling process, it's a shame that it's only mandatory for buildings seeking an outstanding rating. BREEAM also awards some credits if the building (or neighbouring developments) re-use heat generated from the cooling process.

Innovation is rewarded by the use of technology, practices, and features. Increased efficiency and enhanced performance will be rewarded through less heat generated and a lower cooling requirement. New forms of cooling, variable power utilisation, greater processing capacity and reduced idle power are all recognised.

While there isn't any such a thing as a green data centre, BREEAM Data Centres is trying to make them a little greener. The credits - and the plaudits - will go to those who try.

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