Fannie Mae Cuts Ribbon on Green Data Center

Fannie Mae Cuts Ribbon on Green Data Center

The Fannie Mae Urbana Technology Center (UTC), a 247,000 square-foot data center and office building, has earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), making the data center the first of this type of facility in the country to obtain a LEED rating.

The data center and office building is part of Fannie Mae's operations strategy in the greater Washington, DC, area, ensuring full-time availability of systems under a wide range of business scenarios. The UTC, which will support 250 employees, includes operations and command center functions, and workspace.

"By forging the way for green data centers, Fannie Mae [has] pioneered a new building type for sustainability," said Max Zahniser, LEED New Construction Certification manager of the USGBC. "It's a considerable achievement and an important contribution to help advance green building into the mainstream."

Designing a data center to meet LEED requirements set forth unique challenges, not only because there was no model to follow, but also because data centers require significant electrical loads to provide adequate support for computers, security lighting, and power redundancy. "We had to be creative in boosting the sustainability factor in every aspect of this project from selecting only the most energy efficient systems to recycling construction waste at the project's end," said Joseph Lauro, senior project architect of UTC at Gensler. "We were able to reduce overall energy consumption by 20%."

All mechanical, electrical, and computer systems selected are rated for maximum energy efficiency. Additionally, in examining the facility's security lighting standards, the team determined it could reduce lighting by 50% while maintaining the same high level of security, resulting in energy and monetary savings.

"The Urbana Technology Center's LEED certification will translate into significant life-cycle savings, while providing our employees with a healthier, more comfortable work environment," said Brian Cobb, Fannie Mae's senior vice president for enterprise systems management. "It also allows us to be a good neighbor within the local community."

Interior materials were also selected for their sustainable features. For example, paint and carpeting are low-VOC (volatile organic compound), and countertops are composed of recycled material and sustainable wood. The UTC's construction used certified wood, with 20% of construction materials purchased from local businesses. Eighty percent of construction waste was recycled. To improve indoor environmental quality, daylight is incorporated into 75% of the interior spaces occupied by people, with building overhangs and roller shades to block solar glare. By placing workstations at the perimeter and offices with transparent fronts around the building core, 90% of the employees will have outside views. Additionally, natural daylighting reduces building energy consumption by 7%.

A number of strategies were employed to minimize the facility's impact on the site and local community. The site is landscaped with native and drought-tolerant plants to conserve water. The irrigation design uses water from captured rain and evaporator cooling towers, saving an estimated 13,000 gallons of municipal water per day. To limit vehicular traffic to the Center, Fannie Mae provides a shuttle service from its Washington, DC, headquarters connecting employees to the UTC, along with bicycle storage areas and changing rooms, and priority carpool parking. Installation of a synthetic white rubber roof contributes to the reduction of the Heat Island Effect. Other sustainable strategies for the UTC include supplying 100% of the building's electric power from a utility that uses a renewable resource for generating electricity.

The UTC's location in Urbana, MD, a historic residential community, influenced design decisions. "Fannie Mae prides itself on being a good neighbor," said Lauro. "So our design both treads lightly on the local environment and respects the community's established aesthetic; the building looks like its always been here." The building's granite exterior, brickwork, and wrought iron fencing are in harmony with the local building vernacular.

Gensler provided architecture, interior design, and LEED coordination services for the project; Holder Construction was the general contractor; EYP Mission Critical Facilities was the MEP engineer; CS Technology was the technology engineer; Haynes Whaley Associates was the structural engineer; and Rodgers Consulting was the civil engineer.