The life cycle assessment of a UK data centre
- 929 Downloads
Data centres are high-energy consumers, and historical assessment of their environmental impact has focused largely on energy consumption. Widely adopted assessment methods consider either single issues or do not comprehensively assess links between issues. One exception is the CLEER Model, which compares life cycle energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of Cloud-based and present-day services. However, there remains the need to verify components for inclusion in a data centre life cycle assessment (LCA), assess quality and quantity of secondary data, benchmark an existing data centre LCA, assess non-Cloud-based services for multiple impacts, and establish facility areas that are sensitive to change.
A hybrid approach, combining process-based and economic input output (EIO) data, was used to perform the screening LCA of an existing UK data centre. The study includes the definition of the goal and scope, modelling assumptions, a life cycle inventory, results and interpretation and a sensitivity check.
Results and discussion
The dominance of the information technology (IT) operational phase to the overall impact and the severity of the impact on human health are concluded. Due to the use of free cooling, the IT-embodied impact is greater than the combined mechanical and electrical operational impact. Electricity production dominates the total life cycle impact; however, the second most significant impact derives from the disposal of metal refining waste products during the manufacture of IT components and electricity distribution networks. The release of carcinogens is one of the largest contributors to the whole life cycle impact and is almost equal in value between the embodied and operational phases. Finally, a sensitivity check found that a Swedish facility optimised for operational energy efficiency with a 1.25-year server refresh resulted in an embodied impact almost double the operational.
It was concluded that current LCI data, software packages and project data allow for a sufficiently accurate data centre LCA model. The results support the need to broaden environmental impact reduction to beyond operational energy consumption for cooling and that building environmental assessment methods (BEAMs) should consider more embodied impacts. It is concluded also that three parameters are sensitive to design changes that influence the overall impact: operational energy for the IT equipment, cooling and power delivery; the energy mix; and the amount of IT equipment across the facility’s lifetime. The results present a clear need to monitor life cycle impact, develop further tools to compare different design/operation options and functional units, improve data and develop an LCA-based BEAM.
KeywordsCase study Data centres Hybrid LCA LCA results and sensitivity Life cycle assessment (LCA) Screening LCA
This paper has been developed with the financial support of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and HP, who have also gone to great lengths to share their knowledge and expertise in the fields of data centres and sustainable IT. Additional support and review of work was provided by supervisors: Dr Robert Tozer, Dr Alan Dunn, Professor Graeme Maidment and Sophia Flucker. A final thank you should go to Almut Beate Heinrich and Walter Klöpffer for their input in publishing this paper.
- Barroso LA, Hölzle U (2009) The data centre as a computer: an introduction to the design of warehouse-scale machines. doi: 10.2200/s00193ed1v01y200905cac006
- Baumann H, Tillman A-M (2009) The hitch hiker’s guide to LCA. Studentlitteratur AB, SwedenGoogle Scholar
- BSI (1964) BS 648:1964 schedule of weights of building materials. BSI, LondonGoogle Scholar
- BSI (2011) BS EN 15978:2011 sustainability of construction works—assessment of environmental performance of buildings—calculation method. BSI, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Chang J, Meza J, Ranganathan P, Shah A, Shih R, Bash C (2012) Totally green: evaluating and designing servers for lifecycle environmental impact. In: Proceedings of ASPLOS’12, the Seventeenth International Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems, New York, USA, 3–7 March 2012. doi: 10.1145/2150976.2150980
- CIBSE (2008) Guide M: maintenance engineering and management (CIBSE guide M). CIBSE, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Dones R, Bauer C, Bolliger R, Burger B, Heck T, Roder A, Emmenegger MF, Frischknecht R, Jungbluth N, Tuchschmid M (2007) Life cycle inventories of energy systems: results for current systems in Switzerland and other UCTE countries. Data v2.0(2007). Ecoinvent report no. 5. http://www.ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/Life-cycle-analysis-PSI-05.pdf. Accessed 26 June 2013
- Frischknecht R, Jungbluth N (eds) (2007) Overview and methodology. Data v2.0 (2007). Ecoinvent report no. 1. http://www.ecoinvent.org/fileadmin/documents/en/01_OverviewAndMethodology.pdf. Accessed 25 June 2013
- Frischknecht R, Althaus H-J, Bauer C, Doka G, Heck T, Jungbluth N, Kellenberger D, Nemecek T (2007) The environmental relevance of capital goods in life cycle assessments of products and services. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(Special Issue 1):7–17Google Scholar
- Fujitsu (2010) Life cycle assessment and product carbon footprint. Primergy TX 300S5 and PRIMERGY RX 300 S5 Server. White paper. http://fujitsu.fleishmaneurope.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/LCA_PCF-Whitepaper-PRIMERGY-TX-RX-300-S5.pdf. Accessed 1 Feb 2012
- Hischier R, Weidema B (eds) (2010) Implementation of life cycle impact assessment methods. Data v2.2. Ecoinvent report no. 3. http://www.ecoinvent.org/fileadmin/documents/en/03_LCIA-Implementation-v2.2.pdf. Accessed 25 June 2013
- Intel (2009) The problem of power consumption in servers, InfoQ. http://www.infoq.com/articles/power-consumption-servers. Accessed 2 June 2012
- ISO (2006) BS EN ISO 14044:2006 environmental management. Life cycle assessment. Principles and frameworks. BSI, LondonGoogle Scholar
- ISO (2008) BS ISO 15686–5:2008 buildings & constructed assets—service life planning—part 5: life cycle costing. BSI, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Koomey JG (2007) Estimating total power consumption by servers in the US and the world. http://sites.amd.com/us/Documents/svrpwrusecompletefinal.pdf. Accessed 8 Oct 2010
- Koomey JG (2011) Growth in data center electricity use 2005 to 2010. http://www.analyticspress.com/datacenters.html. Accessed 1 Feb 2012
- Langdon D (2011) Spon’s mechanical and electrical services price book 2011. Spon Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
- LBNL (2014) CLEER model—Cloud energy and emissions research model. Public use model. http://cleermodel.lbl.gov/. Accessed 17 Nov 2014
- Sára B, Scimìa E, Cappellaro F, Maccallini V, Masoni P (2006) Life cycle assessment of an innovative uninterruptible power supply system to investigate on environmental performance. Care Innovation, Vienna, Austria. http://www.ecosmes.net/pneumaprj/web/jsp/utils/docsView.jsp?d=30&l=EN. Accessed 29 March 2011
- Shah A, Chen Y, Bash CE (2012) Sources of variability in data center lifecycle assessment. In: Proceedings of IEEE International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technology (ISSST), Boston. doi: 10.1109/ISSST.2012.6227975
- Song Q, Wang Z, Li J, Yuan W (2012) Life cycle assessment of desktop PCs in Macau. Int J Life Cycle Assess 8(13):553–566Google Scholar
- The Green Grid (2012) Data centre life cycle assessment guidelines. White Paper #45, v2. http://www.thegreengrid.org/library-and-tools.aspx. Accessed 20 Nov 2012
- The Green Grid (2013) Electronics disposal efficiency (EDE): an IT recycling metric for enterprises and data centers. White Paper #53. http://www.thegreengrid.org/library-and-tools.aspx. Accessed 7 Mar 2013
- US Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics (2012) Consumer price index. All urban consumers. US city average. All items. ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt. Accessed 2 Feb 2012
- US Census Bureau (2011a) The 2012 statistical abstract: historical data. http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/hist_stats.html. Accessed 2 Feb 2012
- US Census Bureau (2011b) No. HS-36. Consumer and gross domestic price indexes: 1913 to 2002. http://www.census.gov/statab/hist/HS-36.pdf. Accessed 2 Feb 2012
- VROM—Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (2000) Eco-indicator 99 manual for designers. http://www.pre-sustainability.com/content/reports. Accessed 19 Mar 2013
- WRAP (2010) CON900-001: construction, demolition and excavation waste arisings, use and disposal for England 2008. http://www.wrap.org.uk/downloads/CDEW_arisings_use_and_disposal_for_England_2008.1e8085ab.9526.pdf. Accessed 3 Jan 2012