IBM Boulder Data Center Rated LEED Silver



Part of the 70,000 square feet of new raised floor in the IBM Boulder data center.

IBM has received LEED Silver certification for its data center in Boulder, Colorado, the company said this week. The data center, a 70,000 square foot expansion of IBM’s existing Boulder facility, opened last June and introduced as IBM’s “greenest data center in North America.” Perhaps not for long. IBM hopes to gain Gold LEED certification for its new data center in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

The LEED standard, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program for certifying energy efficient “green” buildings and is overseen by the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC). With the certification, IBM’s Boulder site joins a select number data centers to qualify for LEED status.  

The Boulder facility is part of a $350 million, 125,000 square-foot corporate investment by IBM to expand the site’s hosting capacity from approximately 225,000 square feet to nearly 300,000m, making it IBM’s largest data center site worldwide.

A key practice in LEED certification is to recycle and reuse as much of the original structure as possible. Instead of demolishing the original office space, it was retrofitted and converted into the new facility. Sixty five percent of the material from the original building was recycled and 25 percent of newly purchased material came from recycled products.

The facility gets more than 1million kilowatt hours per year of wind-powered electricity.  When outside temperature and humidity levels are favorable, the data center switches to free cooling mode, using a water-side economizer to reduce energy consumption. IBM uses variable-speed pumps and motors in the air conditioning systems balance cooling capacities to the actual load, further reducing energy usage and costs.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. John Peterson

    LEED 2.2 ratings for Data Centers is deceptive; energy use reduction and equipment selections are misleading as to how they apply. Which points apply to this project, just the low hanging fruit such as bike racks and low-flush urinals? LEED 3.0 will have a specific section related to Data Centers, and it would be interesting to see whether this center would still qualify for certification. It would also be interesting to see actual MW numbers used and mechanical & electrical system innovations. Absorption chillers? Geothermal wells? Which generator type was selected given the deratings from elevation? Water-side economizer is very typical; how many hours are the water side economizer used per year? Variable frequency drives on pumps is also typical; what would be nice to see is the numbers behind energy use reduction. There are a lot of mysteries to press releases like this that leave those in the know skeptical about the true commitment to LEED.

  2. William Collier

    It’s disheartening that IBM one of the world’s greatest technology companies built a new data center and the best they can do is obtain a LEED Silver certification. This is a company that reported some time ago they were committing over a billion dollars to being Green, and the best they can do is Silver! Where did all that money go? Recycling and using recycled materials is merely being a responsible citizen, and shouldn’t be rewarded. The minor mechanical steps they took such as having economizer cycles, and variable speed pumps and fans, aren’t technological advances one would expect of IBM. There’s nothing new here. It would be beneficial to know how many hours of operation were the economizers used during the past 9 months. Having variable speed fans doesn’t mean they’re actually able to use them or that they are saving energy because of them, the same holds true for the pumps. Let’s see some real numbers… As for the wind turbine, what percentage of electricity compared to the overall building requirement does this represent? 5, 10, 15%. Furthermore, using a wind turbine reduces CO2 emissions--certainly a good thing, however, they still need to have that power available from the grid for times when wind is not generating electricity. The real question should be; how much did they reduce the demand kW in the design and engineering of this facility? As one of the largest builders of data centers, IBM should be stepping out of the box with innovative designs. The facilities people need to get their heads out of the sand and do something different than what’s been done for the last 40 years. With IBM’s resources they could have and should have done much better than this. If this is the best they can do for themselves, it’s freighting to think they are likely repeating and touting these trivial improvements on other projects for themselves and their customers. What’s more disappointing, the LEED program, or the fact that IBM considers this an accomplishment? This article sounds as though it’s been captured in part from a press release. If so, IBM should be embarrassed. Readers should not have the “wool pulled over their eyes,” believing this is some wonderful state-of-the-art accomplishment. If the data center industry is going to police itself, it can, and must do better than this.

  3. DJNetLander

    Alright, who really cares what rating did Boulder IBM Data Center got for looks and whistles... What always matters to a customer is Uptime. That is why IBM is leading, for its commitment to provide 99.9%+ which they have been doing very well. When you are able to support multiple customers and provide them support 99.9%+ for a month, that is what matter in business. i5 Mainframe systems are not like other data centers where they have data centers made up of blades and such... Good Job IBM, keep a low key, but keep it coming. Most of what we all use today is thanks to hard and smart working guys and gals of IBM everywhere.