Power-hungry data centres and computer rooms are posing a major challenge to efforts to improve the green credentials of buildings. As demand for information and communication (ICT) technology equipment increased, such systems were overtaking lighting as the biggest source of power use in office buildings, Roberts Weaver Group consulting director David McEwen said.
He said improving the sustainability credentials of data centres and computer rooms was vital.
"At a minimum, data centres typically consume at least 20 times the energy used in a typical office per square metre," he told a seminar hosted by CitySwitch Green Office.
The cost of electricity is expected to rise significantly due to increasing demand and as a result of the federal government's proposed emissions trading scheme.
According to industry analysts IDC, within five years the three-year energy cost of running a server may exceed the hardware cost.
"I heard the other day that carbon is expected to tip in at $20 a tonne. At that price, my rough calculation is that is a 20 per cent increase in the price of power straight off," Mr McEwen said.
e warned that ICT could have a significant effect on the NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System) energy tenancy ratings, which are based on energy consumed that is within tenants' control.
"The more ICT load per square metre and the longer the equipment is on each day, the lower the rating will be," Mr McEwen said.
The built-environment manager of the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, Matthew Clark, said that as data centres took up only a small amount of office space, they presented a significant opportunity to reduce emissions.
"Data centres are so energy-intensive you can focus your efforts there and make big savings. Energy efficiency hasn't been one of the strong drivers for IT people. However, that is changing rapidly as they become more aware," he said.
Lowering carbon emissions from data centres and computer rooms is quite a task, considering data centres worldwide are estimated to contribute about 2 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
This is the equivalent of airline industry emissions and greater than the total human-induced emissions in Australia, according to Gartner research.
Significant data centre efficiencies needed to be achieved on two fronts, Mr McEwen said. First, decreasing power demand from active equipment (server, storage and network devices) was essential. This could be achieved by turning off unnecessary equipment, consolidating existing stock and demanding energy efficient hardware from the outset.
Also, online storage could be reduced by archiving and enabling email quotas, and monitoring disk and storage performance.
Power used to run data centre infrastructure, such as cooling systems, accounts for 60 per cent of total power demand in buildings. Data centres could be set up away from the building perimeter, resulting in improved air circulation.
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