GM Data Center Goes Green for LEED

GM Data Center Goes Green for LEED

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In-row cooling that reduces the need for electricity contributes to a 70 percent reduction in energy use at General Motors’ world-class Enterprise Data Center, which has earned Gold certification by the U. S. Green Building Council’s LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, program.

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 3:30pm


It’s rare that an organization like NASA is mentioned along with General Motors, so please allow us this moment to talk about both in the same sentence.

To get on the proper path toward Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, members of GM’s data center team looked to governmental and IT organizations with state-of-the-art  command centers – like HP, IBM and NASA — to identify best practices in greater efficiency that would help them in its data center redesign.

The result of this research is a data center on our Technical Center campus that reduced its energy use 70 percent, which is a big deal since data centers are notorious for being energy hogs. This one’s LEED Gold status ranks it among the top five percent of data centers in the U.S.

At the center of this shift is a clean power system run entirely by mechanical fly wheels that have replaced nearly 12,000 car batteries as the main source of back-up power.  This unique technology is found in less than two percent of data centers globally.

If you’ve ever been in a data center, you know how hot those servers can get as they run on a 24/7 cycle. With in-row cooling, heat is contained in a smaller area so that less air is moved, reducing electricity consumption. The cooler climate in Michigan allows GM to pump water outside to chill it naturally. This means the servers’ cooling system has to operate for only a quarter of the year when temperatures are at their hottest.

Beyond these design elements, the facility continually measures and analyzes its power use in real time for optimal efficiency. The data center, and a mirror facility under construction in Milford, Mich., will eventually serve as dual nerve centers integrating all aspects of product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and OnStar applications around the world. GM has about 20 such locations today, down from 23 when construction on the Warren center began.

We won’t be building spaceships any time soon. But some of the innovation at our facilities is out of this world.