LEED - the Logo Program for a Green Data Center? Not necessarily

The popularity using LEED to identify Green Data Centers has been interesting to watch.  I had the opportunity to take the LEED exam and add LEED AP to my business card.  But, this is where my renegade/contrarian side kicks in.  I saw the exam as a waste of time, having a LEED associated with what I work on.

Why am I negative on LEED?  Because it is a Logo program where if you meet the criteria you get a logo you can have on your building.  A good demonstration of the problem is in this FastCompany article.

The problems are several. Critics argue that the USGBC ignores important geographical differences, attaching as much importance to water conservation in Washington as in Arizona. For that matter, every feature on the LEED checklist is awarded the same value--so a builder gets the same credit for installing a bike rack as for harvested-rain cooling, regardless of their true impact. But the biggest issue is cost. Design and construction reviews required for LEED certification can cost many thousands of dollars.

These are all good points, and the biggest one I agree with is cost.  Why is LEED so popular in the Data Center industry.  Because of the money made by the people who promote and market LEED.  What is the ROI on LEED?  People convince you LEED Silver isn't enough, Gold is the new minimum, and you should go for Platinum.

Uhhh? What is the ROI?  For the consultants, it is an awesome ROI, spending more time in billable hours discussing alternatives to get more points.  Customers feeling like they are getting something as they get another point for waterless urinals and bike racks - key features that are required data centers. :-)  A lower water use cooling system doesn't count as much as waterless urinals even though the water use is probably 10,000 times more.

What happens if you did what Cornell did and built to LEED standards but didn't get certified?

A Different Shade of Green

A Different Shade of Green

Certifiable Cornell's Alice Cook House, the first of five nearly identical dorms.

Knockoff Construction of a new dorm, Hans Bethe Hall, which has the same green specs but won't be LEED-certified.

Cornell asked that question.

That's why some are looking for ways to circumvent the official process. By the time Cornell University completed the first of five nearly identical dorms in 2004, it had paid $300,000 in consultant and submission fees to get LEED status. Now, it's using that building as a blueprint for the other four--each featuring vegetated roofs, spaces with natural light, and a glycol heat exchanger. They're certifiable, just not certified.


“If one designs with LEED standards, the resulting building will save you money while almost secondarily helping the environment. A savvy businessperson could only make one choice. ” --Lisa L. Reeves

On Earth Day when LEED data centers are a top topic. I am not going to contribute to listing those data centers that make others feel like they need to spend a bunch of money to put a LEED logo on their building.

I've watched this go on for years when I worked at Microsoft and had various roles in Windows Logo Programs.  Microsoft was able to work the system as vendors knew their customers expect a Windows Logo on the box.  Which is a masterful demonstration of using a Brand to market to customers.

Windows Logo Program


Windows Logo Program: Overview

The Windows Logo Program is designed to address the current and future market needs of customers using the Windows platform. The Windows logo signifies the compatibility and reliability of systems and devices with Windows operating system. It gives customers confidence that your product is thoroughly tested with Microsoft-provided tools and ensures a good user experience.

The Windows Logo Program helps partners to innovate and bring a premium experience to market, thereby improving their ability to increase market share. The program strives to continuously improve its processes, responsiveness, and partner satisfaction.

LEED is a marketing program.

Imagine how greener a data center would be if the same amount of money spent for LEED certification was spent on reducing the overall environmental impact.  But, there is no Logo for this.  Just the satisfaction you used your money for a better purpose than being LEED certified.