Turning the Tide: “Sound Environmental Design makes Business Sense”

I was at the Green Data Centers Conference in NYC  last week. Among the many interesting discussions, we saw a talk by John Killey, Head of EMEA Citigroup Realty Service, on Citi’s LEED Platinum Frankfurt Data Center.

Their energy efficient data center defies the conventional viewpoint that a cost effective solution needs to cut out luxury items like Green IT and sustainability. As John pointed out, you can only achieve best results for an energy efficient data center by embedding sustainability from “day one” into design, construction, and operation.

Citi made the effort collaborative through their entire supply chain and were careful to point out that the goal needs to be clearly in mind from the start of planning. This extended from site selection to the choice of contractors for construction. The up-front care paid off: the energy efficiency and sustainability goals enhanced key criteria of reliability, performance, and cost effectiveness.

Some of the interesting learning from their data center: no batteries in the UPS system. Frankfurt, with inherently higher labor costs, was chosen above other sites (though still maintained a bottom line advantage). Although the initial plan did not include achieving Platinum LEED level, they were in a position of “friendly competition” with a comparable US data center, and were able to “ante-up” when it counted.

What’s the takeaway? Per the Q&A after the talk, data centers comprise approximately 25% of Citi’s total corporate carbon footprint. If you believe, as do many experts, that it’s a matter of when, not if, we will face increased pressure for corporations to reduce their carbon footprint, efficient design will be a critical component of managing a company’s bottom line – not to mention its public image. Congratulations to Citi for taking such a bold step!