Computer Facility Wins Green Award


A computing facility co-founded by Harvard and four other universities in Massachusetts uses outside air to chill its computers, 25 percent recycled content in its building materials, and a hydroelectric power source—features that have earned it national recognition for sustainable design.

Read this article in the Harvard Crimson.


The Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, opened in Holyoke, Mass. in Nov. 2012, has become the first university data center in the nation to receive LEED Platinum certification—the highest green building ranking awarded by the United States Green Building Council—according to a press statement released by the USGBC on Monday.

The building is the “first facility in the nation of its kind,” according to a press release by the MGHPCC, because it brings together academic institutions, private companies, and the Massachusetts state government. Harvard joins MIT, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts system, and Northeastern University in utilizing the center.

“The MGHPCC is a key component of the University’s ongoing green IT and sustainability efforts,” Colin B. Durrant, Harvard’s sustainability communications manager, wrote in an email. “It’s also an excellent example of how Harvard can partner with peer education institutions, government, and business to amplify our impact.”

Computing and data centers require “intensive energy and water needs,” Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO of the USGBC, said in a press release. Durrant also noted that Harvard’s investment in research can often take place in facilities with immense greenhouse gas emissions, an energy cost the University is trying to reconcile with its commitment to sustainability.

A Green Information Technology sub-committee has been meeting regularly to develop “guidelines and recommendations reducing energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the University’s IT infrastructure,” wrote Durrant. The MGHPCC is one of “the highest profile examples” of the sub-committee’s efforts.

The USGBC developed the LEED system to rate buildings on their environmental performance. Platinum is the highest rating, followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified. In addition to its cooling efficiency systems and renewable energy sources, the MGHPCC was recognized for features such as cooling fans that change speed depending on the temperature and building chillers that only run at off-peak hours.

The computer center helps researchers at Harvard and other institutions “break new ground in understanding the mysteries of our world and universe,” Fedrizzi said. “It is only fitting that the center is also on the cutting edge of sustainability.”