Eleven Criteria in Site Selection – Green Data Center

Here is an excerpt from Douglas Alger’s Grow a Green Data Center book that lists eleven criteria in site selection.

  • Electrical mix: As discussed in Chapter 2, some energy sources spawn much more carbon dioxide when used to produce electricity than others. Deciding to locate your Data Center in a region where electricity has a lower carbon emissions factor is an excellent way to make the facility greener before design work even begins. (More information about electrical mix is provided in Chapter 4: Powering Your Way to a Greener Data Center.)
  • Weather: Some Data Center energy efficiency measures can only be implemented with the cooperation of Mother Nature. For instance, air side economizers that use outside air to chill a Data Center (and are discussed in Chapter 5: Cooling Your Way to a Greener Data Center) are more practical to use in regions where it’s cold much of the year rather than in areas where it’s usually warm or mild.
  • Building codes: Are the green measures that you intend to include in your building allowed by the regional building codes? If they aren’t, are you willing to either do without that efficiency or else invest the time and effort to negotiate for a variance for your project?


    The Robert Redford Building in Santa Monica, California, houses offices of the Natural Resource Defense Council and in 2004 became one of the first buildings to achieve a LEED platinum rating. Design efforts began in 1999 but the 15,000 square foot (1,393.5 square meter), three-story building was not completed until late 2003.

    Green design elements including rainwater collection, the use of recycled plastic piping (in lieu of copper) and the use of waterless urinals all had to be negotiated with the city because they either conflicted with or else were not addressed by building codes at the time.

  • Workforce proximity: Although not a Data Center design issue per se, the distance that employees commute to reach your facility affects how much carbon dioxide they generate every day. It’s for this reason that some environmental building assessment systems award points for features that promote alternative transportation, such as close proximity to public transit or installing bicycle storage units.

Other Data Center Site Selection Factors

As green as you want your Data Center to be, it’s impractical to select a site solely on its environmental merits. Several other factors should be considered, including:

  • Property zoning: Is construction of a Data Center allowed at the location?
  • Natural disasters: Is the region prone to earthquakes, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, landslides, fire or other severe events?
  • Pollution: How is the air quality at the location? Is there any risk of IT equipment exposure to dust, industrial byproducts or other contaminants?
  • Interference: Are there any nearby sources of electromagnetic interference (also called radio frequency interference) such as telecommunication signal facilities or airports?
  • Vibration: Are there any nearby sources of vibration such as railroads, major roads or construction?
  • Political climate: Is the region politically stable or do conditions exist that might jeopardize the safety of employees or operation of a Data Center?
  • Flight paths: Is the property within the flight path of an airport, increasing the possibility of a plane crashing onto the site?

Site selection considerations, including how to evaluate the a property’s risk factors and mitigate them, are discussed in greater detail in my previous book on Data Center physical design, “Build the Best Data Center Facility for Your Business.”

The referenced book has more details.

Chapter 2   Choosing an Optimal Site

Assessing Viable Locations for Your Data Center

  • Building Codes and the Data Center Site
  • Site Risk Factors
  • Natural Disasters
  • Pollution
  • Electromagnetic Interference
  • Vibration
  • Political Climates
  • Flight Paths

Evaluating Physical Attributes of the Data Center Site

Relative Location

  • Accessibility
  • Disaster Recovery Options

Pre-Existing Infrastructure

  • Power Analysis
  • Cooling Capabilities
  • Structured Cabling

Amenities and Obstacles

  • Clearances
  • Weight Issues
  • Loading Dock
  • Freight Elevators
  • Problem Areas
  • Distribution of Key Systems