ServerFarm: How Can Design Play a Role in Decreasing CO2 in Data Centers?

  • Rand Ekman
  • Tommy Zakrzewski, PhD
  • Bernie Woytek
  • Allison Smith
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In our modern data-driven economy, data centers are major consumers of energy, contributing to carbon emissions and impacting the climate. How can design play a role in decreasing CO2 in data center design?  

HKS partnered with Mission Critical client ServerFarm on a whole-building life-cycle analysis to determine the impact of reusing existing building stock as compared to new construction. Our report demonstrates that modernizing a data center using an existing building while expanding capacity can deliver embodied carbon savings of 88% when compared with the material carbon cost of the new project. 

Conducting a whole-building life cycle assessment (WBLCA) is a discovery process that examines multiple impacts of building materials, including their carbon emissions potential, over their entire life cycle—from material extraction and manufacturing through recycling and finally, the landfill. Armed with scientific data and credible analysis, WBLCA provides designers and clients with deep insight into a project’s energy savings potential, enabling good decision making related to reducing both embodied and operational carbon.

Rand Ekman

Rand Ekman is a Principal and Chief Sustainability Officer at HKS. Based in Chicago, he brings purpose and generosity to the firm's approach to sustainability with a focus on creating benefit for all stakeholders. A member of the AIA College of Fellows, Rand — who raises chickens at home — believes in rigor, doing the right thing and having fun.

Tommy Zakrzewski, PhD

Dr. Tommy Zakrzewski is Director of Building Engineering Physics at HKS. He leads the integration of sustainable development goals with building engineering physics and analytics as a primary practice focus. Tommy is known for leading energy-focused projects and believes that a low carbon future is forged by integrative architecture and engineering.

Bernie Woytek

Bernie Woytek is a Principal and Director of Mission Critical at HKS Chicago. Bernie is skilled at addressing technical issues, engineering coordination and construction practices on technology-intensive projects. Bernie sits on the Chicago Children’s Choir board of directors.

Allison Smith

Allison Smith is a Sustainable Design Leader at HKS. She promotes responsible material selection and supports materials transparency initiatives including Health Product Declaration Collaborative (HPDC) technical committees, the USGBC Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group (MR TAG) and the mindful MATERIALS Collaborative. Allison is a founding member of the Texas Materials Initiative.