Technology facilitates every aspect of modern life. We’re always connected, from phones in our pockets to tech-forward vehicles, homes, offices, and more. The sheer amount of data traveling over networks at any given moment is staggering, and data centers make it all possible.
These structures are the beating heart of the networks we use to send and receive data anytime. Data centers may look like a typical warehouse from the outside, but inside, they’re technological, structural, mechanical, and electrical marvels—and 24x7x365 operations can have a significant environmental impact if not designed, constructed, and operated with sustainability in mind.
In 2022, the International Energy Agency reported that data centers consume nearly one percent of global electricity and contribute to 0.3 percent of CO2 emissions—and the market is growing rapidly. However, the industry continues to work towards additional improvements as new technologies and best practices emerge. This includes the use of more sustainable building materials, exploring alternative energy sources, innovating to create more efficient cooling solutions, and accelerating renewable energy growth and availability to local communities through the creation of added demand.
In this increasingly competitive landscape, companies like Aligned Data Centers are carving out a sustainability niche by pursuing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives. For Aligned Data Centers, this means prioritizing sustainable buildings with a higher standard of operation and achieving the Green Building Initiative’s (GBI) Green Globes certification.
Leading the way in material traceability
Aligned is serious about its responsibility to sustainability in both data center construction and day-to-day operations. As part of these efforts, Aligned has kicked off a program that will track the material traceability of utility equipment and building materials in its data center portfolio.
“ESG informs everything we do, so we’ve been knocking down all the barriers and challenges in the way of living up to our sustainability goals,” explained Phill Lawson-Shanks, Aligned’s chief innovation technology officer. “We’re using Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and other reporting frameworks to evaluate, and ultimately improve, specific items within our facilities.”
As investors become increasingly interested in sustainability, Aligned has implemented a suite of technology that enables better tracking and informs an overall understanding of each facility’s environmental impact. Every year reveals new and more efficient forms of power generation, usage, and storage, and the Aligned team is continually evaluating and implementing new strategies into its growing portfolio.
Supporting the carbon reduction movement
Aligned’s sustainability commitments stretch beyond internal ESG strategies and reporting. The company is also involved with the iMasons Climate Accord, a coalition united on reducing carbon in digital infrastructure to ultimately achieve carbon neutrality. Using a standardized Digital Infrastructure Maturity Mode, Climate Accord members measure and report on progress in reducing:
- Embodied carbon in materials used to build data centers,
- Embodied carbon of equipment deployed in data centers, and
- The hourly carbon intensity of source power used to operate data centers.
“While it is a core part of Aligned’s mission to lead the industry in data center sustainability, our involvement with groups such as the Climate Accord demonstrates an ongoing commitment to raising the bar,” explained Joanna Soucy, executive vice president, brand strategy at Aligned. “Our customers are also helping us lead the charge, and together, we’re making great strides toward achieving ambitious carbon neutrality goals.”
Walking the talk with Green Globes certification
Measurement and reporting are critical components of any ESG initiative. Investors, leadership, customers, and the local community are demanding impact transparency in all sectors, particularly for energy-intensive industries like technology. Third-party green building certifications verify building owners and operators are executing on their commitments and demonstrate accountability to stakeholders.
GBI’s Green Globes is a comprehensive, science-based certification system that evaluates the environmental sustainability, health and wellness, and resilience of a building or portfolio. With certifications for new construction, existing buildings, core and shell, and sustainable interiors, Green Globes offers a transparent and collaborative assessment process and includes validation from a third-party assessor, a site assessment, and personalized recommendations for improvement. Energy is the most heavily weighted Environmental Assessment Area of the Green Globes criteria. Design (new construction) or performance (existing building) are assessed to evaluate major systems, building envelope, alternate sources for energy, along with metering and monitoring, to encourage and reward maximum efficiency.
For Aligned’s Chicago campus, sustainability and carbon impacts informed the build throughout the entire process. The facility prioritizes access to renewable energy options, with 100 percent of the load matched with renewable energy sources.
“Pursuing green building certification was a natural next step for Aligned. We’re proud to lead the industry in power usage effectiveness (PUE) and ESG measurement and reporting, and Green Globes has helped us earn additional recognition for our efforts,” said Michael Welch, Aligned vice president of design and procurement. “Our team appreciates that Green Globes Assessors walk the job site as part of the process. Having another set of eyes making sure we’re building what we say we’re going to build is key.”
Aligned Chicago earned a Three Green Globes rating, (out of Four Green Globes), earning 72 percent of the total applicable points. The project was awarded credit for leveraging Aligned’s air-cooled Delta Cube (Delta 3) technology, combined with a state-of-the-art waterless heat rejection system. Along with water conservation via a closed-loop system, Aligned’s waterless cooling technology offers a near-complete elimination of water treatment chemicals, preventing the risk of exposing operations personnel to potentially dangerous biocides and anti-corrosion coatings. The technology is also more efficient than traditional waterless cooling systems. The Green Globes assessment process also helped uncover additional areas for improvement, including transitioning to refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP), which Aligned is working to implement in its facilities moving forward.
Leading the industry with Green Globes Certification
Aligned’s material traceability initiatives, sustainability partnerships and energy reduction efforts have made the company a recognized leader in data center sustainability. Through a partnership with GBI, Aligned has further reduced the environmental impacts of existing buildings and implemented plans to improve the sustainability of future buildings.
Achieving Green Globes certification has also allowed Aligned to validate its achievements to clients, community members, and other key stakeholders. GBI can help building and portfolio owners with their sustainability and ESG objectives through education and Green Globes whole building and Green Globes Journey to Net Zero Certification programs. Visit www.thegbi.org or contact [email protected] for more information.