LEED certification insights for data center professionals

The best way to minimize your data center’s energy needs and costs is to obtain LEED-India certification. Know how you can get one for your own data center.

If you own or run a data center, you may want to obtain Indian Green Building Council's (IGBC) LEED certification for the building that hosts it. Accomplishing that would translate to substantial reduction in total energy requirements of your data center.

That further would lead to reduction in the data center's TCO and act as a catalyst for turning it into a ‘Green data center'.

In this article you will learn about:

  • Data centers and IGBC's LEED-India certification
  • IGBC's rating system
  • LEED certification steps and costs involved

Data centers and IGBC's LEED-India certification

Data centers typically consume high levels of energy. To reduce that and bring down the data center's power usage effectiveness (PUE) levels, organizations are increasingly employing efficiency measures in their data centers such as air flow using hot aisle/ cold aisle isolation, use of energy-efficient UPS and lighting systems, blanking panels, uniform electricity distribution, etc.

Effectiveness of these measures can be increased by ensuring that your data center building operates with minimum carbon footprint. LEED certification awarded by IGBC helps you achieve that objective. The LEED certification is a proof that your building meets the highest environmental and energy performance standards.

Currently, IGBC offers two LEED certification-flavors based on building ownership:

  1. LEED-India for New Construction: If your data center is/ is going to be in a building that you rent, go for this certification.
  2. LEED-India for Core and Shell: If your data center is/ is going to be in a building that you own, go for this flavor.

Both certification-flavors offer different levels, Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, to the building based on the cumulative points earned. These point-requirements are different for each flavor.


IGBC's rating system

IGBC's rating system for LEED certification is organized into six categories which comprise pre-requisites and credit requirements, each qualifying for points. Total points earned result in a cumulative score.  The higher the score, the greater the contribution towards reduction of your data center's overall energy consumption. These categories, along with a brief description of their requirements and how exactly they help reduce your data center's PUE levels, are listed below.

A. 'Sustainable building site' meets the following objectives:

  • Prevents loss of soil during construction by storm water run-off and/ or wind erosion.
  • Prevents sedimentation of storm sewer or receiving streams and/ or air pollution with dust and particles.

This reduces negative impacts on water and air quality, thereby helping to improve the data center's water cooling efficiency and air flow.

B. 'Water efficient building' meets the following objectives:

  • It uses only captured rain or recycled site water to eliminate use of potable water for site irrigation (except for initial watering to establish plants).

This limits/ eliminates the use of potable water by over 50% not just for irrigation but also for the data center's water cooling systems.

C. Energy and atmosphere: A building that meets the objectives of this category ensures that the fundamental building elements and systems are designed, installed, and calibrated in an energy-efficient manner. A few examples are:

This has a huge impact on reduction in energy consumption of the data center, both at the time of its construction as well as its ongoing use/ maintenance.

D. Materials and resources: A building meeting the objectives for this category provides an easily accessible area that serves the entire building and is dedicated to the separation, collection and storage of materials for recycling including (at a minimum) paper, corrugated cardboard, glass, plastics, and metals.

This facilitates systematic management of waste generated by the data center as it collected and finally disposed of in landfills.

E. Indoor environmental quality: A building meeting the objectives for this category meets the minimum requirements of voluntary consensus standard ASHRAE 62.1-2004 Ventilation for acceptable indoor sections 4 through 7 of Air Quality. Mechanical ventilation systems are designed using the ventilation rate produce or the applicable local code, whichever is more stringent. Naturally ventilated buildings comply with ASHRAE 62.1-2004.

This helps establish minimum indoor air quality (IAQ) performance to prevent the development of indoor air quality problems in buildings. This not only contributes to the well-being of the occupants but also ensures efficient air flow in the data center.

F. Innovation and design process: This category provides design teams and projects the opportunity to be awarded points for exceptional performance above the requirements set by the LEED India Building Rating Systems.

Measures taken inside the data center to improve its energy efficiency would help you earn these extra points.


LEED-India certification: Steps and costs involved

Obtaining LEED-India certification is a four-step process as summarized below:

  1. Registration: Upon registration, project contacts receive LEED-India templates, reference guide and other necessary tools. Projects can be registered online at IGBC site.
  2. Credit interpretations: Project teams then apply LEED-India credits to their project by utilizing the reference guide and CIR (Credit Interpretations Rulings) page for previously logged CIRs on relevant credits. In case of unanswered queries, they submit new CIRs.
  3. Certification and documentation: Project team submits all project-related documentation (including diagrams) for review. Upon reception, review is done in two phases:
    • First phase (preliminary review): Submissions are reviewed for compliance and CAA (Credit Achievement Anticipated) is prepared (pending or denied). Also, up to six prerequisites/ credits are selected for physical audit.
    • Second phase (final review): Supplementary material addressing concerns/ corrections from preliminary review are reviewed.
      Physical verification is carried out first during construction and then prior to award of the rating to ensure implementation of all features considered during the design stage.
  4. Certification Award: Project team is given 15 working days to accept or appeal the awarded certification. Upon the project's acceptance, or if the rating hasn't been appealed within 30 days, the awarded LEED certification is considered final.
    LEED Certification costs can be found here.


Further reading

Definition: LEED certification

Tip: Green data centers tackle LEED certification

Tutorial: Green data center guide for managers

Tip: Tier-3 data center cooling checklist

Tip: 5 common data center power design mistakes

Tip: Designing data centers for energy efficiency

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