Company Website

Please visit my company website

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Green Sustainable Data Center? Introducing the Digital Environment Sustainability Index (DESI), Version 1.0

I've contemplated the idea of measuring a data center's sustainability as an index score in a similar manner to the LEED credit scoring system.  I've concluded that for the index to be meaningful, it has to have the following characteristics:

  • It has to be all-encompassing of the digital environment of a data center starting with software, servers, and ending with infrastructure (UPS's, and chillers etc....): in other words, spanning IT and Infrastructure.
  • Data center projects are capital intensive with high recurring operation and maintenance costs. It is only worthy to look at sustainability from a point of view of reducing any of these costs within the project life cycle- hence reducing Total Cost of Ownership
  • Emphasis of the individual goals within the index should be biased to the digital environment. Water conservation is awesome; but for a data center, humidification or cooling tower make-up water are far more relevant than installing waterless urinals.  
  • The goals within the index have to be easy to identify and calculate. I'm going to borrow from LEED's example here.  The simplicity of the LEED scoring is what made it viral.
  • The index has to "be in touch" with the Data Center environment. In the grand realm of sustainability, one has to weigh the relevance of proximity to mass transit or material recycling to the overall sustainability of a 3 MW lights-out data center.
  • The goals that make up the index should have different weighting based on relevance to the data center environment.  For example, selecting a higher efficiency chiller has more weight than selecting an ultrasonic humidifier. 
  • The index has to be space & size agnostic, as well as construction type agnostic.  Often, data center project renovations occur within a mixed use building. Such projects can't qualify for LEED New Construction; the index on the other hand, should be able to quantify a sustainability number to the project.  

Along that thought process, I want to introduce a sustainability ranking index that I came up with. The Digital Environment Sustainability Index-or DESI, focuses on six categories with varying weights (Importance) as depicted in the graph above. The index is heavily biased towards Mechanical, IT, and Electrical, and it is right to focus on these energy hogs particularly when in agreement with data from industry publications since 2007. 

Similar to LEED scoring, the user is presented with a menu of sustainable goals and credits.  Each goal is weighted differently depending on its importance and impact to the digital environment.  The sum total of all the goals is 100 and the user picks and chooses the credits that best fit the project and goal.  The closer to 100, the more sustainable the site. 

I believe the goals and credits that make up the DESI score are achievable over a wide range of renovations and new construction projects and are in line with the thought process of data center operators.  This is a Beta Version 1.0 of the DESI score and I am certain that I will be changing my opinion regarding some of the credits; but for now, I intend to start using this Beta version for our existing and potential clients.  

Most of the scores are self explanatory, but I will be blogging about specific goals in the future. 

So here are the categories and different credits and please let me know if you would like more information as applicable to your project. 


  1. Great job with this Ramzi! I noticed that your graph shows mechanical with a maximum of 34, but the spreadsheet shows 36. Other than that, very impressive.

    1. you're right! thanks for the catch. will try and fix.

  2. Why just making commissioning on Mechanical mandatory?

    1. Good question George. No particular reason. just looked at it from the point of view that Cx for Electrical was more for reliability purposes and Cx for Mechanical was for energy/BAS purposes.

  3. What are your thoughts on which fortune 500's would score highest?

  4. Hey Ramzi, this is a great article - my data center management company is trying to go green and improve our commitment to keeping our carbon footprint low. Cloud/virtualization seems to be one of the biggest factors - this is a good concrete tool to use. Thanks!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.