Green building initiatives have been launched across companies, organizations, and industries throughout the last decades. More webcasts, podcasts, conferences, standards, and classifications have been developed, scrutinized, and codified for the laymen and industry experts alike. By all accounts, the green ‘movement’ has been a success for awareness that has developed into action for developers to designers to builders and more.

With so much information, how do we sift through it all to find the latest and greatest, the best groups, individuals, and information to follow? We have been fortunate to have a plethora of established conferences, groups, and societies that have held the contributors accountable or have them rightfully pushed to improve by rigorous peer review and openness to feedback. Ruthless pushback on proposals and measurements, new and old, has led to better technologies bringing theory into established practice.

Does that sound too intense or callous? Perhaps it should be, but also with the measure that not every project, product, design, or standard will be perfect. Even though not every effort has the momentum, time, or funds to raise the bar above previous efforts for all but should be recognized for raising the average expectations for us all.

The leading certification standard for green and sustainable buildings is set to release its latest version. LEED version 4.1 has been out since 2019 to include communities, cities, and homes as a follow up from release 4 in 2014. Although it was released years ago, v4.1 will never be a stand-alone version of LEED apart from the previous v4. Version 5 is to be the next iteration released by the USGBC, with the first draft for public comment expected to land in late 2024.

Public comment and industry responses have been continuously setting expectations as the reach has expanded globally with more certified buildings being added every year. Data centers are one of the industry specific versions being updated, which follows a larger number of updates from across the other industry standards and resources. We’ll see much more about how calculations are supposed to be simplified yet diving deeper into the nuances for data center IT calculations, which can seem counterintuitive. With many more commenters available and armed with the experience of doing ESG reports, the measures will be challenged with making easier calculations and comparisons for all types & sizes of data centers.

In Washington, DC there are meetings occurring regularly with industry leaders to incorporate an even greater amount of sources as reference, if possible. If you consider the other large industry groups focused on data centers, there is a lot to be gathered and distilled into a unified certification – which can be counterintuitive as hyperscale, colocation, and enterprise data center designs diverge even further based on specific customer needs. Add in lessons learned on design, construction, and operation and the task becomes compounded.

Luckily, we have the best in the industry working on this to improve LEED and how we can get more data centers certified, with an intimidating number of references and years of brutal industry experience. One of the things to be solved is whether comparisons will be done via life cycle comparisons, efficiency, or other means, as well as how IT energy use of software and AI doesn’t abuse play the points system game further, but shows the means by which they improve by a method that can be scrutinized.

LEED has been a useful design tool for new, renovated, and other data center improvements, whether for sustainability or as a measure on energy and water efficiency. Even as data center owners and designers work on projects across vastly diverse geographies, beginning with those basics for expectations can set the pace for architects, engineers, and contractors. Knowing what systems work best, have more cost, or provide the needed redundancy or flexibility can be viewed through the LEED lens for a faster means to reach a sustainable, efficient design.

If we have even more detailed LEED tools to help model data centers, we can expect that the bar for better facilities and performance will be raised further, especially if we are all to scrutinize and push the industry leaders as they have led and pushed us in the past.

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