LEED BD+C: New Construction v3 - LEED 2009
LEED Gold 2011
The below stakeholder perspectives address the following LEED credits:
SSc5.1, SSc5.2, SSc7.1, MRc1.1, MRc2, WEp1, WEc1, EAc1, EAc2, EAc3, EAc6
* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.
Goals and motivations
What were the top overarching goals and objectives?
At BendBroadband, the number one goal stressed by the CEO was schedule and getting to market, as this new business focus was dependent upon customer co-location. Voicing the position of the board of directors, however, the second-most overarching objective was to achieve the highest level of LEED certification possible. This allowed the design team to charrette a project without any limitations beyond those known to be physical to the site.
Other objectives and goals included:
- Maximizing opportunities for on-site renewable photovoltaic energy with a rooftop solar array system.
- Incorporating the most energy-efficient HVAC system possible.
- Reducing stormwater runoff to the greatest possible extent.
- Reducing the need for water, a limited resource in the Oregon high desert, for landscape and general facility utilization.
What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?
- Cost/Utility Savings
- Market Competitiveness
- Organizational Priority
Considering the heavy energy consumption of data centers, utilities usage became a major focus in trying to minimize BendBroadband's environmental footprint, while also reducing long-term operational costs. LEED certification was greatly important to BendBroadband in its attempt to be as competitive as possible in the marketplace. As a co-location data center, BendBroadband can appeal to a larger number of customers by illustrating how energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly its facility is.
Photovoltaics immediately became a motivation for LEED certification, as solar was the first sustainable element that executive management latched onto, but more appropriately, it became an ideal attribute to the project that the design team saw as "should" be achieved. With 50% of the building rooftop facing south, the team knew what the physical limitations were and set out to maximize solar-generating capacity based on this.
This 152-kilowatt solar power array covers the south-sloping rooftop. As of April 1, 2011, this system was noted to be the largest power-producing array in central Oregon.
The only real complexity had to do with incorporating an external turnkey effort into a difficult core data center build-out. The application of photovoltaics was deeply influenced by the availability of state- supported financial incentives and the notoriety behind the installation of an array of this size within the region.
What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?
One of the most notable strategies on this project was our integrative site approach. By looking at the site holistically, we automatically qualified for multiple credits. This integrative and holistic approach allowed us to attain multiple LEED credits. For example, there were already bioswales, but we worked with a local landscape architect to add adaptive and local vegetation so that 100% of the landscaping was xeriscaping, resulting in 100% reduction in water use over traditional landscaping practices. Through this strategy and also leaving the land to the south of the site as existing native grasses, we were able to achieve Site Development: Protect & Restore Habitat, as well as Maximizing Open Space, which also qualified us for quantity and quality control to the bioswales. Using permeable pavement, we achieved the Heat Island Reduction: Non-roof credit. For us, it was a big win in applying the integrative strategy to the site and seeing the benefits that credits have toward each other when used together.
Material & Resource credits were a huge highlight for us. From a contractor's perspective, we have never had a project where all credits came back without any audit. This was achieved because from the beginning of the construction process, we had significant buy-in for LEED from the general contractor and support of their responsibility in LEED certification. They made sure all of their subcontractors knew the requirements they needed to meet and the information they would need to report for LEED. To ensure all of the subs would comply, the general contractor (GC) withheld payment until all of our LEED documentation had been received. The GC had one site administrator who helped collect and document all of the LEED material-related items on an online spreadsheet. Each week, I would review the items she had received, let her know if the information provided to her was correct, and inform her if any additional information was needed to meet the LEED requirements. This allowed her to collect information immediately from the subs and also ensured our documentation submittal was detailed and complete.
By working with our contractors to divert from landfills over 95% of the waste generated during the construction and demolition process, we earned two LEED points, plus an additional point for exemplary performance. Having our contractors' buy-in also made it easy to earn points for recycled content, regional materials, and certified wood.
A strategy of note was adaptive building reuse. BendBroadband extended the lifecycle of existing building stock by reusing 95% of the walls, floors, and roof of the existing building on site. We evaluated using a greenfield or an existing space, but due to the fast timeline, decided on a reuse building. We solicited a commercial broker and narrowed site selection to a brand-new, hardly-used, greenfield building designed for a tarp and liner manufacturer. It met the unique requirements of a data center with its size; pressurized, heavy-duty floor; and availability of additional lock space for equipment and future expansion. In addition, this particular building is located in a high-tech business park, in which there is a solar manufacturer and other green energy leading manufacturing facilities. These factors made it a perfect spot for a classified and secure data center.
Completing a major structural retrofit of the building to sufficiently support the new utility, PV, and ceiling loads did not come without challenges, however. Capacities were unknown until design was complete, prolonging the lock-down of the structural design and ordering of steel. With the compressed design schedule, understanding loads early enough and developing the structural design was very difficult. Once we understood the design loads, because this was a pre-engineered building with a proprietary design, we had to go back to the original engineer to design out how our steel would be sized and located. The only good thing about this was that the engineer's product deliverable ultimately served as our steel shop drawings, enabling us to skip a step by using these drawings to tell bidding steel contractors what was to be installed. In the end since we were late getting in, we had to spend money on overtime hours to offset schedule impact.
We used a separate design-build (turnkey) photovoltaic system install, which took very careful planning to not interfere with the base project construction. BendBroadband did not want this install to occur after the data center had gone live, due to potential operational risks. A 152.9-kilowatt photovoltaic array was installed on 15,000 square feet of the south-facing roof and generates 3% of the building's total energy power. BendBroadband is purchasing 100% of its power not supplied by the PV panels from renewable sources provided by Pacific Power's Blue Skye Green-e Energy program.
What cutting-edge strategies or processes were implemented?
The results of the project's energy model show a projected 20% total energy savings by cost as compared to a similar code-compliant data center. The main conservation measure on this project was the Kyoto Cooling (by Tridium) air conditioner, considered one of the highest-quality energy-optimized cooling solutions for data centers. Through this and other strategies, the project reduced its cooling load by 35%, interior fan power by 62%, and equipment loads by 5% energy savings as compared to baseline.
The design team opted to use a unique cooling system to minimize maintenance and complexity, while drastically improving efficiency and using outside air economization mode in a data center safe fashion. The data center is outfitted with two 450-kilowatt Kyoto units, each capable of producing well over 50,000 cubic feet per minute cooling capacity utilizing an integrated cooling solution and controls designed for highly-optimized containment-designed cabinets. The main feature of the Kyoto cooling system is a 17.5-foot aluminum mesh heat wheel that allows an air-to-air, highly-effective heat exchange without introducing the outside airstream into the data center and more importantly, no water is used in this process.
The most expensive and critical elements of the data center are these two 450-kilowatt, ultra-efficient Kyoto cooling units (left) and the two two-megawatt emergency power generators (right).
The Kyoto Cooling system uses traditional direct expansion cooling, large-scale ventilators with direct-drive motors, variable-frequency drives, and a rotary-type heat wheel. The heat wheel is a large circular device similar to a radiator with a weight of approximately six tons and a surface area of a soccer field. This device is used in a patented design to provide cooling by rotating between inside and outside air streams and by accepting and rejecting heat across these two air streams. A huge surface area and mass is cooled and then inserted into the inside air stream. Additional cooling, as is required to meet service levels, is applied through direct expansion chillers. The addition of smart controls, containment design in cabinets, and other design precepts provide a highly optimized design. The wheel is capable of producing 450 kilowatts of heat rejection with a two- to three-degree Celsius delta temperature from inside to outside.
The system delivers cost savings beyond the new norm. While the typical ratio of energy required to cool data center equipment versus to power is 2:1, the Kyoto Cooling design offers a 90 percent improvement with ratios of 1.1:1; these values are represented in PUE (Power Utilization Effectiveness). With the data hall currently loaded at roughly 50% capacity, BendBroadband operates under a PUE of 1.2:1, but as capacity expands to 100%, the Kyoto Cooling system will run even more efficiently. The design is a complete cooling solution inclusive of the controls and integrated management, unlike the norm, where components from several vendors are specified and spot-integrated on site.
The premise underlying this is that a ratified and optimized design with controls can achieve levels of quality control and repeatability in addition to the optimization that comes from years of continuous improvement as a complete product solution development and research effort. Designed from inception to support separated air flow distribution, Kyoto Cooling supports passive air cooling cabinets up to 40 kilowatts while maintaining modularity, redundancy, and control through autonomous, self-adaptive, integrated controls. Each change in the data center is adapted to without intervention, resulting in a very efficient and reliable autonomous cooling solution. Created as a complete solution, this system has offered a proven answer to BendBroadband's unique data center cooling challenges.
How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?
The nature of this project required owner commitment from the beginning, particularly because this was a co-location data center that's customer-driven and had a certain operational deadline. We had the luxury of full buy-in and a sense of urgency that the owner be fully engaged as needed.
A specific example of the success of the integrative approach was how we managed the challenges of weather restrictions on when landscaping and the pervious driveway could be completed. Given the project timeline, we had to do all of our primary site work, finishing landscaping, and concrete and asphalt work toward the latter part of winter. But the asphalt batch plants close during the winter months, so our local contractor negotiated with the plants to open earlier than normal. We had a three-week period of time when the plant was tentatively scheduled to open and produce for us, but without being able to predict the weather, we didn't know when it would actually open. In the end, we laid asphalt a week before we got our substantial completion and occupancy permit. The integrative approach of the contractor and other team players enabled us to successfully overcome this obstacle.
We achieved the Preliminary Integrative Project Planning pilot credit, which none of us had gone after before. While we did not have a formal IPD contract, we used an integrative approach. As the LEED consultant, we didn't come on until later in the game, but jumped into a team that was already working well together. There was good owner buy-in and involvement, and when we joined, we were able to meet with the owner and hear their goals and high expectations, which were team drivers.
The team worked together in a more integrative way than any I've worked on before, which allowed for a lot more transparency, ease of communication, and collaboration when issues arose, as opposed to a silo'ed effect where everyone tackles responsibilities on their own.
Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?
The biggest success of this project was achieving the schedule requirements. This meant completing construction by no later than April 1, 2011, for BendBroadband to meet contractual obligations with its customers and avoid financial penalties. As a co-location data center, BendBroadband's business model is dependent upon its customers, who lease out IT infrastructure to support their data environments. In hindsight, setting a completion date of April 1 was not a wise choice considering the many challenges faced, but BendBroadband's revenue projections were based on getting the data center operational for its customers as soon as possible; once that date was released to customers, it was a commitment. Construction was six months in duration, beginning October 2 and concluding with Substantial Completion and Certificate of Occupancy on March 30, 2011.
This success was significant, particularly because of a number of challenges faced, including:
- Bringing in a new 4,000-amp service to the site within nine months. We were successful because we coordinated with the utility company early in the process and they recognized the importance of this project to the local community.
- Completing a major structural retrofit of the building when design load capacities were unknown until design was complete, therefore prolonging lock-down of the structural design and ordering of steel.
- Integrating long lead-time equipment, including two-megawatt emergency power generators with the largest above-ground fuel tanks made and 450-kilowatt Kyoto cooling units built in Germany.
- Commissioning challenges, primarily due to the complex nature of the onboard and complications with integrating the proprietary Kyoto control system into the building-wide Siemens building management system.
- Integrating a separate design-build (turnkey) photovoltaic system, requiring very careful planning to not interfere with construction.
- Schedule being driven by the weather for when asphalt batch plants were open and when landscaping and pervious driveway could be completed.
- Changing the architectural firm, which was also serving as the LEED administrator, at the transition from construction document completion to permitting and commissioning.
What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?
The most important long-term strategy deployed was the Kyoto cooling system, considered one of the highest-quality energy-optimized cooling solutions for data centers. Through this and other strategies, the project reduced its cooling load by 35%, interior fan power by 62%, and equipment loads by 5% energy savings as compared to the traditional baseline model. The results of the project's energy model showed a projected 20% total energy savings by cost as compared to a similar data center.
This system's air-to-air heat exchangers are projected to save BendBroadband hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in electrical costs for cooling the data center. Since cooling is the most expensive controllable cost in a co-location data center, it was the largest single opportunity for BendBroadband to reduce ongoing operational costs and control power consumption. There is no doubt that this will produce the best ROI of all the investments made on the project. In addition to the cost reduction aspects of the units, because they use relatively simple components, BendBroadband expects reliability to be excellent, as well. Another benefit is that due to the heat exchange approach, use of water for evaporative cooling is not necessary. This is an important attribute for a facility located in the dry climate of the high desert.
Important short-term strategies include the 152-kW photovoltaic system to offset up to 3% of the building's energy consumption, and using a xeriscape design approach for the landscaping to eliminate the need for irrigation.
What project challenges became important lessons learned?
One aspect to the project design that was probably overlooked by the leadership, due to such heavy focus on the data center and infrastructure associated with it, was the landscape design. It was really completed in a bit of a vacuum with only input from the original architect. The landscape never really got much attention until a revised LEED scorecard was developed half-way through construction. As the reality of what could legitimately be achieved for certification was beginning to set in, we began questioning Water Efficiency Credit 1, where we had two credits in the "Maybe Yes" column and two credits in the "Maybe No" column. We always felt that this would be an easy credit to achieve for a maximum number of four points, but found that the original design was not even close to meeting our intent. In fact, BendBroadband really wanted a native landscape with only minimal maintenance the whole time, and that wasn't really the case in this design.
With owner buy-in and motivation to not risk losing LEED Gold certification, we quickly hired an experienced, local, design-build landscaper to incorporate a drought-tolerant, native landscape with ultimately no irrigation. Going with a design-builder was an excellent decision, because it kept the entire scope under his umbrella, not detracting from the construction already underway. Plus, due to the nature and public status of this project, the contractor was happy to be a part of the team and did the job efficiently and cost-effectively. While the overarching lesson learned was to pay attention to all aspects of the design from day one, the secondary lesson was to not give up. Solutions do exist; it is usually more a matter of determining the best approach depending on the circumstances. The project received all four points for Water Efficiency Credit 1 and although planting didn't go in until after substantial completion, BendBroadband ended up with exactly what it wanted.
There were complications with integrating the Kyoto cooling system into the building-wide Siemens building management system (BMS). The unknown quantity of the Kyoto unit was a big challenge because no one's really worked with it; there's only one other installation in the United States. We were able to speak with the commissioning agent from that other project and Kyoto helped write some of our commissioning requirements. We had to work as a full team to determine how to commission this system. In addition to commissioning the system itself, it was a challenge to make it work with the Siemens BMS. Kyoto is really its own little ecosystem (which offers the benefit of being a maintenance-free, worry-free system) but as such, it's not easy to have it be controlled by outside entities. In going for Tier III Facility Certification, we had to prove that the system could be backed up by another BAS and that it could be redundant, performing and commissioning in way that it could have field component failures and still survive and maintain proper operating temperatures. Working with the owner, commissioning agent, and the Uptime Institute (which did its own commissioning process to certify us as Tier III data center) made it extra challenging.
The decision of which commissioning agent to bring on was critical, due to the complexities surrounding the mechanical and electrical systems. In addition to the Siemens building management system and data center cooling by Kyoto, there were office air handling and humidification units, as well as various electrical components and power distribution units, all needing to be working on a fast timeline. The commissioning agent we selected, Glumac, was proactive, engaging highly qualified personnel who helped in many ways. One way was by providing valuable feedback to the design and challenging key design strategies early, thereby preventing many issues from arising at highly inopportune times. Another way that they really assisted the process was through early field coordination, driving the integration of various controls technologies, thereby performing a considerable amount of early debugging, reducing the back-end schedule. In the end, we satisfied not only LEED commissioning requirements, but also got the Kyoto system talking to the Siemens system, and earned the first official West Coast Uptime Institute Tier III Facility Certification.
What was a pivotal moment that impacted the project's direction?
I came onboard on this project just after schematic design was complete. In doing so, I was provided a LEED scorecard that reflected an over-ambitious Platinum target from the then-LEED administrator and project architect. The LEED charrette had already occurred. A Platinum certification was never a legitimate option, due to site and budgetary constraints; becoming only the fifth data center to achieve LEED Gold or better required significant focus and integration. At a point after construction documents were complete, we were forced to terminate the contract with the project architect and LEED administrator, a single firm, for various reasons. This was a serious decision since the project completion date was set and action had to be taken to make sure construction could continue without any delays, meaning Architects Supplemental Instructions and RFI and submittal responses all had to occur in a timely manner. In the meantime, the process for achieving the LEED goals was suffering and far behind schedule. Prior to making the decision, we already had commitment from the Mildren Design Group that they would come onboard as our new project architect. Considering the lack of any project design knowledge, they stepped up and responded to key construction needs, meeting regulatory requirements, and coordinating final finishes with the owner.
On the LEED administration side, things couldn't have gotten any worse. The owner had already been promised LEED Platinum certification, which wasn't possible, and time was not on our side for getting traction on scorecard updates, team buy-in, and implementation. Therefore, through referral, we quickly brought on reBuild. They led a LEED team and updated charrette meeting with all of the players to set the objectives and track who needed to do what and when. As a result of this decision, we completed a solid LEED submission some four to six weeks after construction was substantially complete and after sorting through minor comments, we received Gold certification.
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