In Cisco Data Center 2011-Texas, you hear a lot about the pursuit of Gold LEED certification for our new Texas Data Center 2 (DC2) facility. But while people who design and support buildings may be familiar with LEED, not all who design and support IT networks are. Here’s a quick primer and some thoughts on what LEED certification means to our IT organization.
What is LEED? The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) created the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification program to encourage planet-friendly choices in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of buildings. The program provides guidelines for green building projects of various types and offers certification at four levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
Is LEED the only certification program available? Worldwide there are many other certification programs, such as BREAAM in the U.K. and Green Star in Australia. The World Green Building Council (WGBC) and other international bodies support coordination between these programs and their standards. LEED is internationally recognized, with presence in the U.S., Canada, China, Brazil, Italy and India. As of August 2010, there were 35,350 LEED registered commercial projects across 50 U.S. states and 91 countries. In contrast, LEED had only certified 6,602 projects that represent 900 million square feet (83.6 million square meters) of certified building space.
Why is obtaining a LEED Gold certification so desirable? In comparison to the total registered projects, only about 7 percent have certified Gold, making this certification a distinctive achievement. Obtaining certification can offer several benefits to companies, including government incentives and potential carbon-trading monetization. But the key drivers are the rising costs of energy and a concern for human and planetary health. According to the Architecture 2030 website, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that the building sector contributed the largest share (46.9 percent) of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions produced in 2009. Buildings that are designed to meet LEED certification guidelines can help lower energy spending and carbon footprints. A USGBC 2008 study showed that on average, LEED-certified new construction buildings outperformed the U.S. national average in energy usage by 25 to 30 percent, with Gold and Platinum LEED-certified at 45 percent. The study also concluded that with increased focus on the measurement of results, this gap could widen.
How does Cisco IT benefit from the certification of a building? Looking beyond LEED, Data Center 2011-Texas discusses our need to lower costs and our commitment to the environment to reduce our emissions by 25 percent. And while 2 percent of emissions come from the world’s communication and information technology, 46.9 percent come from the building sector. With these numbers, it’s clear that Cisco IT must partner closely with our Workplace Resources (WPR) team and explore global programs such as LEED to achieve our goals in a purpose-built data center facility like Texas DC2, or any other data center worldwide. In IT + Workplace Resources: Three Wins, we share some design innovations for Texas DC2 that are a result of this partnership. And if you’re curious about the process, Gold LEED Certification features members of our WPR team providing an inside look at our experience as we work towards this certification.
While we view certification as a goal, we know the real achievements will be our collaboration during its pursuit, the measured results of lowered costs and commitments met, and knowing we’ve done the right thing for the planet.