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Proactively Decarbonising Data Centres

Data Centres are prominent contributors to global energy consumption due to their high-power requirements. Proactive planning, close collaboration and adopting sustainable practices from the outset can help the quest for data centre decarbonisation.

For over than 20 years, the data centre sector has been at the forefront of pioneering green technologies designed to combat the adverse climate impacts of traditional power sources. However, while many facilities now harness the potential of solar, wind, and other low-carbon renewables, most data centres can’t operate on renewable energy alone.

In addition, data centres are zero downtime facilities which require power backup systems capable of replacing the grid supply when it fails. Currently this means using generators, 95% of which are diesel powered. The provision of green backup power is a challenge yet to be overcome by the industry as current solutions have not proven to be cost or space effective.

Power Efficiency Strategies

Achieving high power efficiency is the first step towards improving the sustainability of data centres. Not only does this reduce the facility’s carbon footprint, but it also yields considerable cost savings for data centre operators.

" Take regional climate conditions into account rather than applying a universal protocol in terms of HVAC specifications for their facilities.
Fernando Madureira Commercial Director, Deerns Brazil

A key priority lies in directing our attention towards enhancing power usage efficiency (PUE) as an immediate measure to curtail power consumption within facilities, thereby reducing the strain on backup systems. This involves designing the mechanical, electrical, lighting and computer systems to maximise energy efficiency.

However, the concept of power efficiency extends beyond the energy consumption of individual equipment components. To truly maximise efficiency, careful consideration must be given to the design and construction of the complete data centre infrastructure. By implementing building structures that optimise power usage, we can significantly reduce energy waste and create an environment conducive to sustainable power practices.

High Performance Buildings

We recommend that our global clients take regional climate conditions into account rather than applying a universal protocol in terms of HVAC specifications for their facilities. We recently achieved a 30% reduction in operational energy consumption for a client without compromising operations through this approach. This client has actually changed their standard based on our recommendation.

Three aspects that can be explored to optimise power usage in data centres are:

  1. Reducing mechanical and electrical equipment
  2. Efficient spatial design, climatic control and intelligent building operating systems
  3. Sourcing of building materials based on lifecycle considerations

Of the three, it is the selection of materials, sourced locally and produced with minimal energy expenditure, that offers the most unexplored potential for decarbonisation. While certifications are not mandatory at this stage, most clients in the LATAM region require LEED ratings to guarantee that power efficiency targets are reached and to address the sustainable selection of materials.

In a recent project for a global client, we suggested replacing the standard façade required in terms of their guidelines with a precast structure. The lighter panels improved insulation as well as thermal performance by reducing heat transfer to the interior and increasing the reflection of heat.

Here’s where we integrate Sustainability Strategies

At Deerns, we pride ourselves on catering to the diverse needs of our clients. For example, some clients have their own developmental standards while others rely on us to provide these.

For clients with their own standards, our primary responsibility is to ensure that their development projects comply meticulously with environmental and local building regulations. We work closely alongside them, offering expertise and guidance to navigate the complex landscape of regulations, codes, and standards, ensuring that their projects meet or exceed the required criteria.

In the cases where clients who place their trust in Deerns to provide sustainability-focused solutions, we work closely with both the client and all members of the professional team from the outset of a project. We are also able to draw on our inhouse resources and extended network to bring together know-how and experience across sectors. This enables us to ask the right questions and provide impactful recommendations, while remaining mindful of the project’s overall cost objectives.

From concept to implementation, we assist our clients to make informed choices. We actively participate in site selection and constantly work to take advantage of newer, more efficient technologies, ensuring the best possible outcome in terms of sustainability.

Our primary focus lies in striking a harmonious balance between our clients’ core values and the pragmatic realities of the project. This proactive approach enables us to achieve greater energy efficiencies and sustainability, ultimately resulting in a more environmentally conscious and resilient operational framework for data centre projects.

Let’s talk

Mariana Hentz Domingues

Civil & Structure Coordinator