Originally posted on Data Center POST

By: Rob Coyle, Global Enterprise Business Development Manager – Data Centers, Distech Controls and Kendall O’Neill, Director of Sales, Atrius®, Acuity Brands

Cloud-based computing is a foundational element underlying almost every aspect of how our society operates today. Commerce, healthcare, education, entertainment, financial markets – all these and more rely on the assurance of fast and reliable data processing. Ubiquitous connected devices, the Internet of Things, and shifts in work, entertainment and consumer trends are just some of the factors driving this growth. 

To power this digital way of life, data centers are being put into production faster than ever, with projected global spending expected to reach $227 billion in 2022. The data center growth rate worldwide has seen a 17 percent year-over-year trend; high demand means these new centers are often leased before construction has even finished.

However, the explosion in data center construction and operations is being accompanied by concerns about their significant environmental impact. Notoriously power-hungry, data centers can use 50 times the energy per floor than a typical commercial space consumes.

These facilities start out with a substantial embodied carbon load, i.e., the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with transporting raw materials, installation, and other construction elements. Once in operation, they typically require intensive amounts of energy for processing data, cooling, maintenance and security. This heavy usage has not gone unnoticed. Backlash in northern Virginia, the biggest data center market in the world, has slowed down planned data center projects as the public vented frustration over facilities’ climate impact. 

Data centers are also being affected by climate change. Due to extreme heat, shutdowns in London and Sacramento this year spurred these operations to pivot to sustainability measures to improve energy performance and protect their assets. Another impetus for improving data centers’ energy use is the pending U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s climate disclosure requirements.

If these measures pass intact, the agency will require public companies to begin reporting climate change risks, including their direct and indirect (Scope 3) emissions, when they file registration statements and annual reports, starting in 2023. Heavy data center users will need to prepare for these rulings, which have the potential to inspire further innovation into lowering emissions across supply chains.

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