Air quality is not just a challenge for the eyes and lungs

Written by Published 2015-05-07 08:40:00

Issues of global warming and pollution have been the cause of anxiety for scientists and governments alike for a number of years. As the topic gains momentum and media scrutiny increases, the general public has developed a keen interest in the topic. This has increased pressure on leading figures to take action; and more recently has been used for political advantage as candidates attempt to swing voters their way ahead of today's general election.

To the joy, or dismay of many politicians, the topic of global warming reared its head again recently with reports of Saharan dust clouds sweeping through Europe – prompting the UK supreme courts to order government to act on air pollution by the end of the year, after the UK breached European Union limits for nitrogen dioxide.

In fact, health warnings were delivered across the country as early as March when polluted air from Europe added to home-grown smog, causing some very dangerous conditions and it's not just the UK suffering. Even countries like the USA are feeling the effects as lengthy droughts cause severe water shortages.

Whether or not the politicians succeed is anyone's guess, but one thing is clear. There is a problem that needs to be fixed. And businesses have the ability to take a more proactive role doing something about it.

Peter Greaves, Expertise Leader at Aurecon, recently claimed that data centres are responsible for consuming three per cent of electricity globally each year with this figure trending upwards all the time. It's no secret data centres consume energy (they need to) but it's not just energy consumption that's the issue, efficiency plays a large part. By this I'm talking about the green economies of scale that can be achieved by newly built 'intelligent by design' data centres.

Today the majority of the worlds' computing power resides in individual offices or buildings, with separate air cooling facilities; and all with varying degrees of cost and energy efficiencies, which I'd argue is a more inefficient way of managing IT infrastructure. Yes data centres do use power but they also distribute the power and cool the servers more efficiently than the individual set-ups in offices dotted around the country. And with new green data centres being more efficient than their predecessors, the economies of scale are improving all the time.

As more companies find themselves under increasing pressure to enhance data centre efficiencies many are turning to air cooling technologies, over the more traditional and inefficient chiller systems of old. Not all air cooling technologies are created equal however and direct air systems suffer in times of poor air quality and may have to be shut down altogether if pollutants and particles reach levels like those recently experienced.

Some innovative data centres are taking an alternative approach by deploying indirect adiabatic and evaporative air cooling technologies, which use the outside air (temperature) to cool the air inside the data centre. Using advanced indirect 'air to air' heat exchange techniques ensures that the external and internal data centre atmospheres are not mixed, safeguarding against contamination and external pollution and ensuring the running efficiencies can be realised irrespective of outside air quality.

In short, the right data centre, which has been intelligently built uses energy more efficiently, highlighting that choosing the right data centre, which embraces innovative technology, can be one of the first big steps business can take in doing their part to help manage climate change.

It won't change the world over night. But by using the right cooling technologies, data centre providers will not only save their customer's money, but also promote a greener approach to business.