How SAP achieved LEED Platinum certification for their headquarters in Pennsylvania

As I was in Pennsylvania to attend SAP’s Analyst’s Base Camp event earlier this year, I took the opportunity to get a tour of the new LEED Platinum certified Headquarters building. I was shown around the building by the facilities manager, Jim Dodd, who informed me of the different steps taken to enable the structure to achieve its an impressive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

I videoed the tour and see below for a transcription of it:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, I am here in Newtown Square at SAP Headquarters. I am with —

Jim Dodd: Jim Dodd.

Tom Raftery: Jim, you are —

Jim Dodd: The Facilities Manager for the campus.

Tom Raftery: Okay, now we are standing on a — we are in the new building in Newtown Square.

Jim Dodd: The new LEED Platinum Headquarters’ building, right.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and can you tell me about the floor that we are standing on?

Jim Dodd: In comparison to the floor in the headquarters’ old building, where we used marble that was imported from Italy, what we wanted to do was to reduce that cost and do a sustainable floor. And so this floor is a concrete floor, and it has a mixture of seashells and glass in it on a terrazzo finish and then we polished it and honed it up, so it would be nice and shiny. But it’s considerably less expensive obviously than the marble floor in the main building and we use it in the atrium area in a radiant floor which we’ll talk about in a minute.

But it’s a less expensive solution and yet it’s a very attractive solution in terms of the flooring for both the link to the new building and the atrium that runs the full length of the floor downstairs on the promenade.

Tom Raftery: So, Jim, tell me about the floor.

Jim Dodd: Okay. In the promenade area, below us here, is a radiant floor, we have pipes that run through that floor and we have ten geothermal wells that are drilled in the back of our property. We take the water out of the ground where it comes as a constant temperature and we pump it through the piping on the concrete floor downstairs and the floor radiates heat or air-conditioning depending on what time of the year it is. And it helps to keep this big atrium very comfortable without having to use large amounts of air-conditioning or heating.

Tom Raftery: So it’s just using natural heat or cooling from the earth.

Jim Dodd: That’s correct, yes. So the water really comes out about 55 degrees out of the ground and we can pump that through the floor and that cools the concrete and radiates coolness in the summer time, and then in the winter time what we got to do is heat that water up to about 72 degrees and then we pump that through the floor and it heats the concrete and it radiates heat off the floor, and because it’s on the floor, it affects the employees immediately and it keeps the atrium very, very, very comfortable.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and you’ve got these nice banisters.

Jim Dodd: Yes, it’s an interesting situation here. When the original site survey was done for this building, it would have wiped out of a grove of the mature Chinese chestnut trees that are absolutely beautiful and are part of the aesthetics of the campus. So we moved the building in order to save half of those chestnut trees, but the chestnut trees that we did have to harvest in order to put the building here, we had them milled into handrails for the whole building.

About 90% of what’s in this building to construct it was sourced locally within 500 miles of the building and that’s a sustainability feature again, it provides points on the LEED scale because it cuts down on your carbon output because you are not exporting things from thousands and thousands of miles away.

Tom Raftery: So Jim, tell me about the under floor?

Jim Dodd: Yeah, the difference — the primary difference between the original building and the new building is in the original building the air distribution comes down from the ceiling plenum, and of course, that’s not very efficient because heat rises, so if you are trying to get heat down to where the people sit, it’s not in a very efficient approach. In this building, we use an under floor distribution where the air comes up through the floor and it’s controlled in each location with a vent, so people can control the amount of air coming in their space and by coming up from the floor, the treated air gets to the employee immediately and there is an immediate reaction to that temperature adjustment.

In the other building of course the hot air comes down but it turns around and goes right back up, so it’s not as efficient as this underfloor system is in this building here. We have a wood feature in each of our hallways that separate the neighborhoods and it’s made from bamboo. Again a sustainable wood that’s renewable every seven years in comparison to oak or walnut or some other wood that takes 40 or 50 years to mature. We decided to use bamboo in this building because it’s sustainable.

Tom Raftery: So, tell me about the carpets.

Jim Dodd: So the carpet, in most instances when you install large amounts of carpet, there is volatile organic chemicals in the carpet like formaldehyde that require you to aerate the building for a period of time before you can occupy it. We work with the manufacturer of this particular carpet to reduce or eliminate VOCs in it. So we did not have to ventilate the building for a period of time prior to occupancy.
And it makes for a cleaner environment for the employees overall without the organic chemicals off gassing from the carpet.

Tom Raftery: So what have we got beside us, Jim?

Jim Dodd: This is a filter water system that we put in. A number of years ago we used to provide bottled water for the employees and then we realized how much plastic waste was being generated, and even though it was being recycled. We decided to eliminate bottled water from the campus and we installed one of these Innowave water systems in each of our pantries. It’s filtered and it also cools the water and heats the water. So if you want to make tea, you can get hot water, and if you want cold water, you can get cold water.

But it reduced our cost by over $120,000 on bottled water, and got rid of the plastic issue.

Tom Raftery: So, Jim, where are we now?

Jim Dodd: We are in the chiller room of the new building of the Platinum LEED building and what we do that’s unique in this building in comparison to other buildings is we actually make ice at night and store it in these very big tanks behind me, and we use the system because at night the electricity is less expensive and the pressure on the grid is lower. So we don’t have to run the chiller during the day, because what we do is, we melt the ice during the day when we need air-conditioning and then we use that to cool the building and we don’t have to use our chiller during the day, when the grid is being stressed by everyone else, wanting air conditioning.

Tom Raftery: So Jim, tell me about this garden, where are we?

Jim Dodd: We are on the roof of the new building, believe it or not, and this is a green roof, this is a very unique approach to maintaining constant temperatures in the building. By having a green roof we keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
The other unique thing about this, as you can see we have to mow grass and we didn’t want to have to store gasoline up here, because it’s a hazardous flammable material. So we sought out a company that made a very good electric lawnmower and we mow the grass up here with electric lawnmower. In that way, we don’t have to store any gasoline up here, and it’s quite and it doesn’t just dirt people when they are working, it’s just a very unique approach to roof construction.

Tom Raftery: Jim, what have we behind this?

Jim Dodd: Behind this is the meadow as a part of our 102 acres of property here, and what we did this year, was working with the Triskeles Foundation and One Village, One Farm, these are non-profit organizations; we agree to put in an organic garden. We have enough room. So we put in a 100×50 organic garden with 22 raised beds and we’ll donate the food at the end of this year to all the local food banks.

We expect to produce hundreds of pounds of produce in this garden, and working with organic, no pesticides or anything like that, all natural ingredients to keep the bugs off, and then there is a 6 foot deer fence around it, because we have a lot of deer on the property and the garden would just get eaten to nothing. So we put a fence around it to protect it from the deer.

So we’re doing cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes and peppers, and then, we’ll have a fall planting as well, and all of that food will go to the local food banks.

We have 80 volunteers that have volunteered to take care of the garden. So we have plenty of people to take care of it, and it’s going to work out really, really well, and it’s another sustainable aspect of the property.

We also have two beehives on the property as well. We have a beekeeper that works for SAP and he had asked us if he could put beehives on the property. And we agreed to do that, because we felt that that was another sustainable issue in terms of pollinating and protecting the bees.

There has been a degeneration of bee colonies around the world and so having good bee colonies is very important to the propagation of all the different plant life that we have on the campus. So we decided to put the beehives here as well.

Tom Raftery: So what have we behind us, Sir Jim?

Jim Dodd: Okay, what you see behind us here is a 60,000 gallon cistern, buried in the ground, and we collect our rainwater in that cistern and then we use the rainwater for irrigation and flushing toilets, you know what, they call brown water or gray water, and with all the rain that we’ve had it’s full.

But it’s another way for us to get LEED points, but it’s also a better way to manage our water consumption on campus because we can use that rainwater to irrigate. We have a beautiful courtyard in between the two buildings and we irrigate that with that water. We also irrigate the green roof that you’ve seen with the cistern water. So it all goes into that 2 million gallons of savings of water per year.

Tom Raftery: So why are we standing beside this artwork, Jim?

Jim Dodd: This is part of our social sustainability program where we work with local non-profits to do certain things. In this particular case, we work with a non-profit called Fresh Artists. These are young children, these are not adults, these are children who have painted this artwork that you see behind you.

We make a donation, substantial donation to fresh artists, so they can buy supplies and easels and paints and brushes for their children, and then we in turn purchase their artwork to hang in this building.

So except on the executive floor, all other floors of this building have examples of this artwork from these young children and some of them are quite attractive and fun. But it’s a social sustainability thing as a part of our work with the community.

And the IT systems?

Jim Dodd: It’s a dashboard.

Tom Raftery: Right.

Jim Dodd: And it tells you the consumption of electricity in this building, the consumption of electricity in the other building, and it tells me what my PUE is in my data center, which is a –

Tom Raftery: I know PUE.

Jim Dodd: Okay, you know what that is. So it tells me how we’re operating, whether there’s some kind of anomaly, we’re using more electricity than usual. We can get just a quick glimpse of how the building is functioning, and what its consumption rates are in both buildings.

But then they go far beyond that and they can drill down to an individual air handler, right to the motor and determine if it’s running, how fast it’s going, how much power it’s using. We monitor over 10,000 points of information of data on all the systems in the building.

Full disclosure – SAP paid my travel and expenses to attend the SAP Analysts Base Camp


Colt Technology and Verne Global’s dual renewably sourced data centre in Iceland

Icelandic landscape

Iceland’s a funny place. Despite the name, it never actually gets very cold there. The average low temperature in Winter is around -5C (22F) and the summer highs average around 13C (55.5F). Iceland is also unusual in that 100% of its electricity production comes from renewable energy (about 70% from hydro and 30% from geothermal).

I have written here several times about the high carbon cost of cloud computing, so when I received an invitation from Colt Technology to view the new data centre they had built with Verne Global in Iceland, I nearly bit their hand off!

The data centre is built on an 18-hectare (approximately 45-acre) complex west of Reykjavik, just beside Keflav?k Airport. The site is geologically stable and according to Verne:

The facility is situated on the site of the former Naval Air Station Keflavik, a key strategic NATO base for over 50 years and chosen for its extremely low risk of natural disaster. Located well to the west of all of Iceland’s volcanic activity, arctic breezes and the Gulf Stream push volcanic effects away from the Verne Global site and toward Western Europe.

Cold aisle contained racks in Verne Global's Iceland facility

Cold aisle contained racks in Verne Global's Iceland facility

The data centre was built using Colt Telecom’s modular data center design. This is essentially a data centre in a box! The modular data centre is built by Colt, shipped to site, (in this case, it was literally put on a ship and shipped to site – but the modules fit on a standard wide-load 18-wheeler), where it is commissioned. In the case of the Verne Global data centre, the build of the data centre took just 4 months because of the modular nature of the Colt solution, instead of the more typical 18 months. Also, modularity means it will be relatively straightforward to add extra capacity to the site, while keeping up-front data centre development costs down.

The data center has an impressive number of configurable efficiency features built-in. In the Verne Global facility, cold aisle containment is used and it is a wise choice in this environment. The facility uses only outside air for cooling (no chillers) so it makes sense to vent the hot air from the servers into a room being cooled by outside air. In winter, if the outside air is too cold, it can be mixed with hot air from the servers before entering the underfloor space to cool the servers.

The underfloor space is kept free of plenums and obstructions to allow an unimpeded flow of air from the variable speed fans – this minimises the work needed to be done by the fans, increasing their efficiency.

From an energy perspective, though, what makes the site very unique is that it sources its electricity from dual renewable sources (hydro and geothermal). Iceland is in quite a unique situation with its excess of abundant, cheap renewable power. Energy is so cheap in Iceland that aluminium smelting plants locate themselves there to take advantage of the power. These plants require roughly 400-500MW of constant power, so adding even 10 large data centres to the grid there would hardly be noticed on the system!

Another unique aspect of the Icelandic electricity is that because it is renewably sourced, its pricing is predictable (unlike fossil fuels). In fact, the Icelandic electricity provider, Landsvirkjun, offers contracts with guaranteed pricing up to 12 years. Also, the Icelandic grid ranks 2nd in the world for reliability and has the most competitive pricing in Europe (currently offering $43/MWh for 12 years as public offering – with better private offerings potentially available).

Speaking to Verne Global’s Lisa Rhodes, while in Iceland, she told me that because Verne had guaranteed energy pricing from Landsvirkjun for the next 20 years, they would be able to pass this on to Verne’s hosting customers and, in fact, she claimed that hosting in the Verne facility would cost 50-60% of the cost of hosting in the East coast of the US.

On the connectivity front, Colt announced that they were putting a Colt POP in the Verne facility, so it is connected directly into the Colt backbone.

Also, the Emerald Express fibre-optic cable which is due to be commissioned late this year has been designed to support 100x100Gbs on each of its six fibre pairs, which should easily meet any connectivity requirements Iceland should have well into the future.

Interestingly, one of Verne’s Global’s first customers is greenqloud – a company offering green public compute cloud services (an AWS EC2 and S3 drop-in replacement). With this, can we finally say that cloud computing can be green? Unfortunately, with cloud’s propensity to promote consumption of services, no, but at least with Greenqloud, your cloud can have a vastly reduced carbon footprint.

Full disclosure – I had my travel and accommodation paid for to visit this facility. And Colt has a POP in CIX, the data centre I co-founded in Cork before joining GreenMonk.


Friday Green Numbers round-up 10/01/2010

Green Numbers

Photo credit trindade.joao

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

  • Maintaining a diverse fleet of power plants in California and taking advantage of the complementary nature of wind and solar power are two of the findings in a renewables portfolio standard (RPS) integration study recently released by the California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO).

    ?This study provides a thorough analysis of the capability of the power grid to effectively manage an oncoming wave of highly intermittent energy resources and confirms the ISO is ready to manage the grid reliably under 20 percent RPS?

    The ISO and its study partners, including GE Energy Consulting, gained insights about grid dynamics through the ?Integration of Renewable Resources?Operational Requirements and Generation Fleet Capability at 20% RPS.? The study assumes California will add 2,246 megawatts of solar and 6,686 megawatts of wind resources by 2012.

  • Northern Ireland just outlined how it hopes to get 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and, apparently not to be outdone, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond thinks that’s not an ambitious enough target. Speaking to Reuters, Salmond said Scotland should be able to produce 100% its electricity from low-carbon sources by 2025.

  • A new report by Oceana outlines, as previous studies have done, just how bountiful the offshore wind power potential of the Atlantic coast of the United States is. While it varies from state to state, a handful of states could generate more electricity than they need, and more could supply a large part of their demand. Overall, offshore wind could generate more power than than the economically recoverable oil and gas reserves in the same locations.

  • Big oil companies and other special interests have spent millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation, according to a new analysis released Monday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

    The study ?Dirty Money? found that the top 35 spending companies and trade associations invested more than $500 million in lobbying and campaign contributions from January 2009 to June 2010 to defeat clean energy legislation.

  • Aviation emissions contribute to this health problem, according to a new study that suggests that airplanes flying at a cruise altitude of around 35,000 feet emit pollutants that contribute to about 8,000 deaths per year globally.

  • They’re not as photogenic as pandas, nor as captivating as tigers: among conservationists, plants have tended to attract rather less attention than animals. That could start to change with the publication this week of the first list of extinction risks for the world’s plants.

    The Sampled Red List Index for Plants indicates that 22 per cent of all wild plant species face extinction, comparable to the figure for mammals (21 per cent) and higher than that for birds (12 per cent). Of the threatened plant species, 63 per cent are found in tropical rainforest areas which could soon be cleared.

  • A group of businesses including British Airways, BT and The Co-operative as well as NGOs and MPs have issued a statement saying the GIB must be designed with a clear picture of the low carbon economy wants to achieve and over what timeframe.

    It said the government must ensure the GIB is sufficiently capitalised by at least ?4bn-6bn over the next four years.

  • Using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide (5,220-mile-wide) solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind, the team hopes their concept could generate 1 billion billion gigawatts of power, far more power than humanity needs — if they can get that power back to Earth.

  • Time is running out to register for the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme.
    Businesses have until September 30 to register for the CRC, the mandatory scheme to reduce the carbon emissions and improve the energy efficiency of UK businesses and organisations.

  • One of Ireland’s biggest utility companies, GT Energy, has announced plans to build the country’s first geothermal electricity plant.

  • More than 10 million children’s toys have been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the toys’ manufacturer Fisher Price, the CPSC announced today.

  • The 10:10 climate change campaign have given us the scoop on this highly explosive short film, written by Britain’s top comedy screenwriter Richard Curtis, ahead of its general release.

    It’s most definitely striking and if you haven’t watched it yet ? taking into account the warning that it contains scenes some people may find disturbing ? do so now, before I give too much away.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


Friday Morning Green Numbers round-up 04/16/2010

Green numbers

Photo credit Unhindered by Talent

And here is this week’s Green numbers:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


Google Energy to start disrupting the utility industry?

Google Energy

Photo credit filippo minelli

There is no doubt about it but Google is a disruptive company.

First Google disrupted search, then advertising, then video (with their acquisition of YouTube), and then Office applications with the launch and continued development of Google Apps for Domains. Most recently Google has disrupted the mobile phone industry, first with the launch of their Android operating system and just a couple of days ago with the launch of their Nexus One mobile phone.

What then should we make of Google’s recent creation of a subsidiary called Google Energy LLC and Google Energy’s request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to buy and sell electricity on the wholesale market [PDF]?

Given Google has already invested in solar power generation, given further that Google has invested in wind and geothermal power generation technologies (as part of its RE < C project), and given that Google has already launched its first product in the Smart Grid space, Google PowerMeter, should we now expect Google to start disrupting the utility industry as well?

Curious about what all this meant I contacted Google spokesperson Niki Fenwick to try to get some answers – see my questions and her responses below:

TR: What was the thinking behind Google’s setting up Google Energy? Why is Google applying to the FERC for permission to trade in electricity?

NF: Google is interested in procuring more renewable energy as part of our carbon neutrality commitment, and the ability to buy and sell energy on the wholesale market could give us more flexibility in doing so. We made this filing so we can have more flexibility in procuring power for Google’s own operations, including our data centers.

TR: Google has made some investments in renewable generation (solar, geothermal and wind), does Google hope to take on the utilities by selling electricity? How does this tie into Google’s PowerMeter project?

NF: This move does not signal our intent to operate as a retail provider and is not related to our free Google PowerMeter home energy monitoring software. We simply want to have the flexibility to explore various renewable energy purchase and sale agreements (that means we can buy electricity wholesale, rather than through a utility).

TR: Will Google Energy be used to develop more Smart Grid products?

NF: We don’t have any plans to announce at this time.

TR: How does this tie into Google’s partnership with GE?

NF: This move isn’t related to our partnership with GE.

So there you have it, according to Google this application to trade in electricity on the wholesale market is simply to gain more flexibility in procuring power for Google’s own operations, as part of Google’s carbon neutrality commitment.

Google have no plans to become a retail electricity provider.

For now. Things change.

After all, it is not so long ago that Google were denying rumours that they were developing a Google phone!

Related articles:


REALLY Smart Meters!

Smart meter

Photo Credit yewenyi

Smart electricity meter projects are being rolled out all over the globe at this stage (here’s a map of the Smart Meter projects in the US), and with the Smart Meters, come Smart Grids and Demand Response programs whereby the utilities implement peak shaving programs (and in certain cases demand stimulation) to match demand and supply curves. This will lead to a more stable grid and therefore increase the amount of variable generators (i.e. weather based renewables) it is possible to add to the grid. Great.

However, this is not nearly ambitious enough as far as I am concerned. First off, as I have said previously, cheaper electricity typically has a higher % of renewables in the generation mix. Therefore, if I am getting a smart meter, I want it to be a very smart meter. I want my meter to be going out across the grid, checking the realtime price from all utilities and dynamically sourcing the energy from the cheapest supplier at any given time. Nothing too new there, I have written about that concept previously.

Taking that idea to the next level. Imagine if utilities were mandated to publish, not only the price of electricity in realtime, but also the generation mix. I could then have a Smart Meter which would actively chose the greenest electricity for me at any time. Or the one with the best price/renewables mix.

And if we had a SuperGrid in place, then that Green electricity might be coming from Danish windfarms, Icelandic geothermal generation or North African solar farms.

Now that would be a Really Smart Meter!

UPDATE – I have been asked the relevance of the photo above – it is subtle, anyone care to guess?