GE Achieves Rare LEED-Platinum Rating for New Data Center

GE Achieves Rare LEED-Platinum Rating for New Data Center

[Editor's Note: Updated with content from a media briefing today.]

General Electric lifted the curtain this morning on a $48-million project to make the data center serving its global appliances and lighting business leaner, greener and more capable of growth.

GE held a media briefing today at the new LEED-Platinum certified data center at headquarters for the company's appliances and lighting division in Louisville, Kentucky, which has a track record as an industry pioneer in the use of IT. GE started using computer technology at the site in 1954, when it purchased the first commercially available system.

"We've come a long way since we installed a UNIVAC system here nearly 60 years ago," said James Campbell, president and CEO of GE Appliances and Lighting during the live-streamed news conference.

Fewer than 10 data centers around the world have achieved LEED-Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It is a sliver of a small population: Overall, just 6 percent of the more than 1 billion square feet of LEED-certified space worldwide has earned the USGBC's highest rating.

Data centers, which house the heart and brain for a corporate computer system, are core to the operations of major businesses and present a big challenge to companies that are trying to reduce their energy use and environmental footprint. It takes a lot of power to operate and cool data center equipment.

"It's hard for data centers to achieve LEED certification," said Anita Baldock, GE's data center project lead, in a video about the facility. "If you're making a facility to house thousands of computers, obviously you're going to have a huge power draw."

The data center, which supports the company's $1 billion investment to revitalize appliance and lighting manufacturing, is 34 percent more energy efficient than a typical code-compliant building of comparable size.

Here's a by-the-numbers look at some of the facility's key elements:

  • Who It Serves: The systems used by 27,000 employees in 100 countries who work for GE's appliances and lighting business.
  • Capabilities: Built for high-density computing and virtualization, the facility has more than four times the capacity of the data center it replaces and is designed to accommodate more than 25 years of business growth.
  • Building Recycling: Construction began in 2009 using the skin, bones and shell of an existing building. More than 98 percent of the walls, floor and roof of an unused factory were retained in the project.
  • Water Savings: Ultra low-flow fixtures and other design elements are expected to reduce water consumption by 42 percent. Outside, the company eliminated water use for landscaping.
  • What's In It: Thousands of high-density servers contained in 128 cabinets, each the size of a refrigerator. More than 100 miles of power and network cables. A 4-foot-raised floor cooled by two 500-ton redundant chillers and two 27,000-gallon thermal storage tanks. Two huge generators that can supply 72 hours of uninterrupted backup power. GE power control, switchgear and mechanical equipment.

Although the company didn't disclose specifics on total square footage or the energy intensity of its facility, it said the design enables GE to "pack in more computing power per square foot" and made it possible for the floor of the new data center to be half the size of its predecessor.

Here is a virtual tour of the data center:


Visual content courtesy of GE.