The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center uses minimal energy to keep its computers cool.
The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center uses minimal energy to keep its computers cool.
Courtesy MGHPCC

The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke is now the first university research data center in the country to earn a LEED platinum certification, the highest rating a building can receive from the US Green Building Council. Only a dozen other data centers have achieved the same status.

“As our name indicates, environmental sustainability and stewardship are a huge part of who we are,” said John Goodhue, the year-old center’s executive director. “They also reflect an environmental commitment shared by our founding universities, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our private-sector partners, and our host community of Holyoke.”

The 90,000-square-foot center was funded jointly by the state, EMC, Cisco, MIT, Harvard, Boston University, Northeastern, UMass, and federal tax credits. It houses high-performance computers that aid complex research at the member schools — equipment that typically guzzles energy.

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But the building was designed with energy-saving features, including a cooling system that uses outside air to chill the water needed prevent computers from overheating. About 70 percent of the time, outside air is sufficient to keep the computers cool. When it isn’t, the cooling system draws from a cold-water storage tank that replenishes its supply during off-peak hours, when electricity rates are lower.

In addition, a quarter of the center’s building materials were recycled, and the construction process included remediation of contaminated land on site.

Rick Fedrizzi, chief executive of the nonprofit Green Building Council, called the computing center’s platinum certification “a fantastic achievement for any project, but particularly notable for one with intensive energy and water needs.”