Greenwatch Latin America: Greening the digital infrastructure

Nicolette Mueller
January 27, 2017

January is the time of year when we ask ourselves what we hope to see in the coming year. For the green building market in Latin America, we expect to see the investments in learning and early adoption of tools such as Arc, LEED v4 and EDGE pay off with more green building projects across the region. 

What is the one thing that building owners, LEED professionals and investors alike could do to make Latin America a little bit greener in 2017?  Get more data centers to become green buildings. There are nearly 40 data center projects participating in LEED in Latin America, with the majority of LEED-certified centers in Brazil. It’s a major area for growth, providing value to the market and impacting the environment.

Why are green data centers important for Latin America?

1. They're a fast-growing segment of buildings and infrastructure. According to industry experts, the number of data centers and demand for high-speed internet will see strong growth in Latin America, and may even represent the strongest growth market globally. One report found that investment in data centers rose by 12 percent in Latin America in 2014, compared to the global average of 8 percent, with investment growing regionally to 20–25%. Markets where we see the highest concentration of LEED projects are also home to a growing number of data centers in major urban and industrial centers, such as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Buenos Aires.

2. Billions of kilowatt-hours mean a big impact on traditional and renewable energy markets. "The Cloud" is now more like the Pan-American highway, connecting us to one another and to information whenever and wherever we like. But instead of roads and bridges in the landscape, and cars and trucks polluting the air, data centers are the infrastructure and the engines powering our economies. A 2014 study found that U.S. data centers consumed 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity - about 2 percent of national annual energy consumption. That's triple the amount of energy consumed in 2000.

3. It’s a proven way to slow energy demand. A 2016 report found that electricity consumption by data centers increased only 4 percent from 2010 to 2014, demonstrating the industry’s ability to find efficiency measures and implement them to minimize demand. Instead of doubling energy use every five years, the research shows that implementing best practices can make a 620 billion kilowatt-hour difference, the equivalent of $60 billion USD. 

4. Latin America has the resources that data centers need to be green. Companies looking for places to build and invest in data centers need locations with a skilled workforce, a solid and resilient infrastructure and a source of clean and reliable power. Latin America has these things in abundance.

Follow the leaders in 2017

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are just a few of the companies who recently announced major achievements in greening their data centers. Google, which reportedly consumed the same amount of energy in 2015 as the City of San Francisco, has vowed to be completely powered by renewable energy in 2017.  

Brazil meets nearly 45 percent of primary energy demand through renewably energy sources, paving the way for less volatility and carbon impact. The renewable energy sector is growing, with the highest global rate of mergers and acquisitions worldwide, according to a report. Energy-rich Latin America is betting on a renewable energy future, and so are investors. The region is prepared with a growing supply of renewable energy to meet the demand for energy from data centers.    

LEED-certified data centers

LEED has adapted both the New Construction and Operations and Maintenance rating systems. To learn more, check out data center-specific requirements:

See the minimum energy performance calculator specifically for data centers.

Minimum energy requirements: Determine the power utilization effectiveness (PUE) value of the proposed design. For this prerequisite, a minimum of 2 percent of the 5 percent energy savings must come from building power and cooling infrastructure. 

Learn more about green building in Latin America