GE's new Kentucky data center wins the platinum crown

A refurbished data center supporting GE’s appliances and lighting division achieves a Platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

What does it take for a data center to achieve a Platinum LEED rating – the highest rating set by the U.S. Green Building Council as part of the internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system? Ask GE, which just announced the opening of its revamped data center at its appliances and lighting division in in Louisville, Ky. According to reports, only 6 percent of all LEED-certified buildings around the world have achieved Platinum certification, and within that small population there are fewer than 10 data centers that have achieved LEED-Platinum certification. GE says its data center is the first LEED-Platinum data center in all of Kentucky, and will house systems used by 27,000 employees in 100 countries who work for GE's appliances and lighting business. The stats on the data center may help to explain the rating. For example, rather than build new, GE revitalized an existing building at GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville, which opened doors in the 1950s and is where GE invested in the country’s first commercially produced computer, the UNIVAC. During the recent revitalization, GE says it was able to maintain 98.3 percent of the walls, floors and roof of unutilized factory space. The company sourced half of the construction materials regionally, and built with 30 percent recycled materials. During construction, GE diverted 85 percent of on-site generated construction waste from the landfill via recycling and other methods. The data center energy savings is 34 percent better than a typical code-complaint building. GE is purchasing off-site renewable energy which the company expects will offset the data center’s predicted annual energy consumption by 35 percent. The center houses high-efficiency cooling systems, including a 4-foot-raised floor cooled by two 500-ton redundant chillers and two 27,000-gallon thermal storage tanks. GE is installing high-density servers so it can pack more computing power per square foot and reduce by half the size of the data center floor compared to the data center it replaces. The servers, contained in 128 cabinets, are designed to operate at 18 to 24 kilowatts (kW) per cabinet, compared to the industry average of 4 to 7 kW per cabinet. Ultra low-flow water fixtures are expected to reduce the center’s water consumption inside the building by 42 percent compared to industry baselines. Outside the building, GE says it is reducing water consumption by 100 percent (GE says it altogether eliminated water use for landscaping). Other aspects of the data center include the implementation of information systems that will support lean manufacturing processes aimed at improving operational efficiencies.

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