Todd Boucher, rrincipal with Leading Edge Design Group (, says:
Over the past year we have seen over a 30% increase in the number of customers expressing interest in obtaining a LEED Certification for their new data center build out or renovation. This change is illustrative of the continued integration of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability into data center design requirements, but moreover presents a new challenge for owners undertaking the site selection process.

While traditional priorities in a site selection process – power redundancy, natural disaster protection, cheap energy costs, etc – will never change, the impact of sustainability has been steadily increasing. For example, organizations like The Green Grid publish ‘free cooling’ maps, helping owners understand which geographic regions will allow them to maximize economizer usage throughout the year. In addition, organizations that have set LEED certification goals must take into consideration how proposed sites will impact their overall LEED scorecard.

Under the LEED 2009 Commercial Interiors rating system, a project must successfully obtain a minimum of 50 points (out of a total 110 total available points) to achieve a LEED Silver designation. While a target of less than 50% of the total available points may seem marginal, anyone who has completed the LEED process know and understands how challenging it can be to earn 50 points, how every point becomes critical, and why site selection is an integral part of achieving LEED certifications.

Site Selection accounts for 21 total available points on a LEED project. If you have identified LEED certification as a project goal for your data center, it is highly recommended that you work with your design team to evaluate the proposed site(s) against the LEED Site Selection requirements. While evaluating your proposed site(s), here are some things to think about in the context of the LEED Site Selection Requirements and the implications it may have on your lease negotiations:

SSc1 – Site Selection (1-5 Points) – In this you have the option of selecting to place your data center in a building that is already LEED certified, in which case you will achieve all 5 points. If the building does not meet this criteria, you will need to obtain points through items like stormwater design & management, green roofs or roofing with high solar reflectance index, onsite renewable energy, and water efficient landscaping. Thus, if you are leasing space and have LEED goals, it will be important to identify if the building owner will accommodate any site changes required to obtain some points under SSc1.

SSc2 – Development Density and Community Connectivity (6 points) – This credit is important from a site selection perspective because it is impacted by the community that surrounds your site. The intent is explicit – “to channel development into urban areas with existing infrastructure, protect greenfields, and preserve habitat and natural resources.” If your data center site is in an urban area, you may meet the density requirements (60,000 sqft per net acre).

If not, your site will need to meet the following three “community connectivity” requirements:

  1. Be located within 1/2-mile of a residential area or neighborhood with an average density of 10 units per acre net
  2. Is within 1/2-mile of at least 10 basic services (supermarket, place of worship, bank, etc)
  3. Has pedestrian access between the building and the services.

You are required to submit scaled maps and pictures outlying the location of services, residential areas, and pedestrian access, so it is critical to measure the ½ mile requirement to verify you are compliant.

SSc3 – Alternative Transportation (10 total points) – this credit is divided into three separate subcredits that all revolve around enabling building occupants to find means of alternative transportation to your site. For example, 6 points are earned if you are within a ½ mile walking distance of a rail station. Two points are available if you provide the required amount of bicycle storage and shower/changing facilities. Two additional points are available if you provide the minimum amount of preferred parking for van/carpools.

Achieving LEED certification is a challenging but worthwhile achievement for a data center project. It is clear that the location of your data center (or the building housing your data center) site will have a significant impact on your ability to meet LEED certification goals. If you have set LEED certification as a goal, it is highly recommended that you work with your design team to fill out a preliminary LEED scorecard. This will provide you with a perspective of your potential certification.

In addition, it will allow you to identify areas which may require negotiation with your landlord, as they will be an important stakeholder in the process and their participation is critical. This is all work that needs to be completed up front (ideally before a final site is selected) to ensure that you can properly identify an achieve LEED certification and successfully negotiate those requirements into the design and lease negotiation process.

* Note – All statements made in regard to the LEED rating system are specific to the 2009 rating system.