LEED Spotlight: IBM's Canadian Leadership Data Centre (CLDC) certifies LEED Gold

We spoke to Luisa Simonin, CB Richard Ellis Limited on the IBM Account, about both the internal and external benefits of certifying their first LEED building, and how they approached minimizing power usage in a type of building that is traditionally known as an 'energy hog'.

1) Tell us a little bit about the project and its unique features, particularly those that led to it certifying LEED Gold.

Floor Area: 26,363 m2 (Total Building Area)
Building Footprint: 26,188 m2
Property Area: 740,990 sf (Total Site Boundary)

The IBM Canadian Leadership Data Centre (CLDC) project, located in Barrie, Ontario, is the first LEED building for IBM Canada. It is a one-story mission critical facility completed in 2012. The building consists of the ground floor lobby space, office space, mechanical support space, and an engineering shop, as well as the first phase of the 25,000 SF data centre or "white floor".

CLDC was awarded LEED Gold certification with a total of 60 points. The project targeted points in all five categories, as well as additional innovation credits for exemplary and innovative performance strategies. As a commercial building, special attention has been focused on improving occupant health and well-being of employees by providing a high level of indoor environmental quality. Some of the strategies that were employed are:

  • Nearly two-thirds of the site (excluding the building footprint) has been restored, promoting biodiversity by protecting existing environments in which species native to our region thrive.

  • The large expanse of vegetated open space aligns with this strategy as well as provides adequate space for the stormwater retention pond which has been designed to an Enhanced Level of Protection with 80% long term removal of total suspended solids as required by the Ministry of the Environment. Allowingstormwater to permeate the ground is the best way to allow the natural filtration process to occur as intended.

  • High albedo materials cover the majority of the effective roof area to mitigate urban heat island effect by reducing the heat gain through a building's envelope.

  • Specifying products and materials with low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) content to further improve indoor air quality and occupant health.

  • Using efficient water fixtures and appliances, which reduce water consumption.

  • Implementing a construction air quality management plan that focuses on reducing indoor air contaminants and further improves the building's air quality at a time when the majority of contaminants are known to enter the building.

  • Implementing a construction waste management plan that diverted 83.4% of waste from landfills.

  • Using refrigerants that are low ozone depleting and do not contribute to global warming.

  • Underfloor systems, installed at the CLDC, bring the air delivery closer to the source to be cooled. This saves a significant amount of energy through one of the simplest methods available, an increase in the allowable temperature set point of the building. Nowadays buildings spend a majority of their energy rejecting heat from people, equipment, and infrastructure. A higher building set point reduces the running time of energy consuming conditioning systems.

  • Provided infrastructure for a recycling program within the building.

  • 51.33% of materials were sourced and provided regionally with high recycled content (e.g. workstation furniture from Teknion), reducing the need for virgin materials and carbon footprint resulting from transportation.

  • Specifying and installing certified wood with FSC content of 100% of all wood-based products.

2) Why did you choose LEED certification?  

The (LEED) Green Building Rating System is a third party, international rating benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. IBM aligns itself with organizations with integrity and LEED has become the recognized sustainable measurement internationally.

3) What value does LEED certification bring to your building, both as an owner and/or property manager and for those who occupy it?

As an employer, IBM's employees in this building will enjoy a high level of indoor environmental quality, since LEED focuses on improving occupant health and well-being of employees. This is accomplished by providing an environment with low VOC's. Good air quality is maintained by green housekeeping policies and increased ventilation which makes for a healthier workplace.

4) What was the biggest lesson learned from building a LEED project that you think would be valuable to other building LEED?

IBM has traditionally subscribed to the integrated design process with their outsourced project management service provider CBRE on all Canadian projects. At the initiation of every major project, all disciplines were involved at the planning stage of the process. Integrating the LEED component into this new build for IBM was rather seamless and was a component of every stage of the project process.

One of the benefits of the LEED certification is that it provides both internal and external education. The LEED signage applied throughout the building educates the strategies employed in the construction on the building. The education is also visible to all new clients that visit and tour the facility. The IBM client team is well versed in the LEED strategies and they do highlight some of the strategies in their client presentations.

5) Is there anything else you'd like to add about your building or LEED in general?

Two unique strategies were employed in this data centre. In a concerted effort to minimize power usage for a building type that most would consider an 'energy hog', IBM implemented a two-step process:

  • All server equipment that was deployed on the raised floor was required to be ENERGY STAR rated. This first step ensured a minimized demand load for the building infrastructure needs.

  • Once the total estimated load was significantly reduced, energy performance of networked equipment was optimized throughout the data centre floor. With an integrated smart server control system that allows the collective devices to "talk to each other", sharing power needs together instead of individually.

This resulted in a 20% reduction in energy demand which is an exceptional achievement for a facility of this type. Most energy reduction strategies focus on building infrastructure as the primary load. With data centers, the equipment is traditionally more than 75% of the buildings energy spend.