05/10/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Open the Window to Sustainable Facilities

If you're not in the technology world, the term "data center" may sound a bit mundane. But these powerhouses are driving our digital lives - delivering your texts, storing your emails, executing your stock trades, and hosting your games. They are also a hotbed of innovation in sustainable technology. And the lessons learned in the data center have implications for other big technology infrastructure projects like hospitals, utilities and even entire cities.

According to Gartner, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector is responsible for about two percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including product manufacturing and use. Traditional data centers, on average, use several thousand megawatt hours per year. The 451 Group has stated that if data centers were classed as a separate industry, they would be the sixth-largest user of electricity. As data centers can be one of the largest users of electrical power and generators of carbon emissions for large companies, HP has been hard at work to set a new standard for data centers globally. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab professor Dr. Jonathan Koomey conducted extensive research in 2007 estimating the significant power and energy demands data centers create, offering companies a blueprint for curbing these demands.

The industry has risen to the challenge. There is now a healthy competition for the mantle of "greenest" in the IT sector, with all of the major vendors driving continuous improvement - this is good for everyone. In late 2009, HP hit another milestone with the opening of our most energy-efficient data center yet in Wynyard, UK, which was also the world's first such wind-cooled facility. The work that went into the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of this data center should appeal to other businesses and organizations that have strategic commitments to sustainability - and to those that simply don't like waste. We hope that the work we did at Wynyard will inspire others as they plan for facilities of any type.

Data centers serve as a good model for other big technology infrastructure projects as they tap innovation across the full portfolio of software, hardware and services. Our HP Enterprise Services group, in particular John Finlayson, data center director for Wynyard, and Maurice Julian, facilities director for the UK, applied a systems approach to the entire building in Wynyard and its surrounding environment. One key innovation was air-cooling; put simply, it's opening a window to let the cool air in and hot air out, using the naturally cold air coming in off the North Sea to lower the temperature of the facility to avoid overheating. We also re-used cladding and concrete, replaced existing paved parking areas with permeable landscaping, increased biodiversity through planting and habitat improvement, installed an intelligent lighting system to reduce artificial lighting needs, and harvest rainwater to maintain correct humidity levels.

The advanced servers and software used at Wynyard are part of the stream of innovation coming out of HP Labs, which place sustainability at the core of all of their efforts, and specifically the work of Chandrakant Patel, director of the Sustainable IT Ecosystem Lab. The results are well worth the effort, with energy cost savings at Wynyard expected to be 40 percent as compared to conventional data centers, the attraction of new customers, and less environmental impact from our operations. Environmental sustainability continues to be a smart business strategy.

Innovation in the ICT sector offer solutions that address our most pressing societal problems including energy conservation and security, climate change, and environmental and social sustainability. HP is committed to continuing to drive environmental sustainability within our own operations and products, and to working with other stakeholders in addressing broader sustainability issues across the world.