The pilot scheme for sustainable new data centre builds recently launched by the Singapore government represents a progressive leap forward for the country’s digital economy. It meets the world’s growing demand for data centre capacity and solidifies Singapore’s position as a regional connectivity hub, while also respecting the country’s commitments towards climate change. While data centres have evolved tremendously and data centre operators have made significant sustainability strides over the past decade, there is still room to push the envelope further and accelerate efforts to reduce climate impact. Sustainable data centre builds are about more than achieving low PUE (power usage effectiveness) rates or using clean sources of energy. While developers can design and build data centres so they’re sustainable in isolation, it is critical to look at all factors holistically – from site selection to construction through management and operations – when developing a data centre’s overall sustainability approach. LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINABILITY It starts with design and construction. Historically, the main consideration when determining where to build a data centre was the price of land, as well as its proximity to key customers and connectivity hubs. Today, sustainability concerns rank high, and the environment and natural resources surrounding the site needs to be carefully considered – air, wind, sunlight, and water – and how to use them in a way that not only minimises waste, but also contributes to a circular resource system. Green building certifications such as the BCA Green Mark Platinum, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and BREEM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating systems provide good guidelines on key factors to consider when designing sustainable data centres. These certifications are awarded to buildings which meet certain green requirements or standards and are recognised markers of sustainability achievements. Power considerations come next. In addition to building data centres to high specifications and managing operations to low PUE measures, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels to power the facility is equally important. In Singapore, where the climate is warm and the availability of natural resources such as land, wind and power are limited, renewable energy sources such as solar power offer promise for clean, uninterrupted energy supplies that can help reduce a data centre’s carbon footprint. INNOVATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE OPERATIONS With the foundation for a sustainable facility in place, data centre operators as well as users need to constantly drive towards continuous improvement in operational efficiency, now and in the future. Cooling can consume over 30 per cent of the total energy required to power in a data centre in Singapore. It is in the interest of both data centre operators and customers to utilise more efficient cooling methods. In 2021, significant gains were achieved with a river cooling solution deployed in Marseille. The solution uses surrounding water resources to naturally cool the data centres on the campus, is up to 30 times more energy-efficient than traditional cooling systems and will result in savings of up to 18,400 MWh annually, while mitigating the emission of 795 tons of CO2, the equivalent of 5,560 trees planted each year. In tropical Singapore, where air cooling faces significant challenges, Digital Realty has collaborated with Singapore start-up CoolestDC on a bare metal infrastructure proof-of-concept liquid cooling solution that achieved a significant reduction in power consumption and improved IT performance relative to traditional air-cooled servers. An innovative approach was also adopted to backup power supply at many of Digital Realty’s sites. A distributed redundant UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) design supports greater UPS energy efficiency and meets operational requirements on par with, if not better than, traditional infrastructure setups. The distributed redundant design is also more cost-effective to operate. Turbine generators provide cleaner backup generation at Digital Loyang 2, Digital Realty’s newest facility in Singapore and one of the most sustainable data centres in the region with a designed-PUE rating of 1.3, lower than the BCA Green Mark Platinum requirement. These generators are more space and fuel efficient than their traditional mechanical counterparts and produce cleaner emissions by comparison REDUCE, RE-USE, RECYCLE The 3Rs – reuse, reduce, recycle – apply here, too. Where the infrastructure is available, we look to reuse our waste heat to simultaneously reduce the environmental impact while providing heat to hundreds of thousands of local homes and businesses. In South Korea, district cooling was deployed in Digital Seoul 1 as an innovative means to leverage waste heat and off-peak energy resources. It’s a win-win solution. OUR COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY Growth of the global data centre footprint will continue to accelerate as data becomes THE critical factor for business success. As a sizeable industry player, Digital Realty recognises it has a responsibility to support the needs of our global customer base while driving sustainable innovation to decarbonise the data centre industry Jon Curry is the VP Operations, APAC, Digital Realty