Green Design

The MGHPCC was the first university research data center to achieve LEED Platinum Certification, the highest level awarded by the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Program. The MGHPCC made two major investments that led to the Platinum designation:

Energy Efficiency

Making every megawatt count
For a data center like the MGHPCC, energy efficiency means minimizing the amount of non-computing “overhead” energy used for cooling, lighting, and power distribution. Energy modeling during the design phase estimated a 43% reduction in energy costs compared to the baseline standard (ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007), and a 44% reduction in lighting power density for building exteriors below the baseline standard (ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007), with overall savings yielding a 30% reduction in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. Operationally, this has translated to a state of the art Power Usage Effectiveness.

Minimal Chiller Usage

Chillers are typically the most energy-intensive equipment in a data center. The MGHPCC uses “free cooling” to minimize the amount of time that its chillers are in use. When it is cold enough outside we can turn the chillers off and use water from the cooling towers to cool the computer room. New England's relatively cool summers, allow the MGHPCC to leave its chillers off more than 70% of the time.

Hot Aisle Containment

Hot aisle containment increases cooling efficiency by reducing the distance between the computers and the cooling units to less than 2 feet. It also prevents hot air generated by the computers from mixing with cold air from the cooling units, which further improves efficiency.


Computer Room Temperature

Until recently, it was common to maintain “meat locker” temperatures of 70ºF or below in a data center. Today, 80º is the norm for data centers that use modern servers and hot aisle containment to improve cooling efficiency. That gives the MGHPCC more days of free cooling, further reducing energy use.


Monitoring and Control

The operation of every element of the cooling system is continuously monitored and adjusted so that it is delivering just enough cooling to keep each area of the facility within its operating temperature and humidity range. In the computer room, the cooling units in the hot aisle containment pods are networked to one another so that they can react within seconds to changes in cooling load.


Thermal Modeling

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models of the air flow within a hot aisle containment pod made it possible for designers to verify the placement of the cooling units and check their performance in various failure scenarios. It also helped to identify improvements to the mechanical design and operation of the hot aisle containment pods that reduced susceptibility to air leaks that would otherwise have reduced the efficiency of the cooling system.

High Voltage Power Distribution

The MGHPCC uses a high voltage power distribution system, which increases efficiency while operating within voltage ranges that are supported by all modern computing equipment. Higher distribution voltages mean lower current for the same amount of power, which reduces energy loss and heat generation in the wiring. They also make it possible to eliminate an entire tier of transformers from the facility.


Uninterruptible Power Supply

Another important source of energy loss in many data centers is the Uninterruptible Power Supply units that keep the facility running in the event of sudden loss of utility power. Many UPS units consume significant amounts of energy by doing a “double conversion” when they are not in use. The MGHPCC uses UPS technology with an operating mode that eliminates this kind of loss with no impact on performance.

Efficient, Comfortable Work Areas

Sensors are installed in all spaces to turn the lights on or off based on actual occupancy, and daylight sensors in the offices and meeting rooms adjust the lighting up or down in response to the amount of supplemental sunlight entering the space. Occupants in the office areas are able to adjust airflow to meet their needs with individualized controls.

Low Environmental Impact

Design details that add up
Environmental design for LEED Certification requires attention to numerous details, including construction methods and materials, landscape and site design, and water conservation.

Site Remediation

The site is part of downtown Holyoke’s former industrial district and was first used for manufacturing textiles in the 1880s. The site has also endured other operations, such as tool, cutlery, steam pump, and trolley track manufacturing. These uses have led to a contamination of the site, which was remediated as part of this project.

Bioretention Landscape

Native plants such as Inkberry, Sweetgale, and Meadowsweet remove contaminants and sediment from stormwater, preventing erosion and slowing runoff so water can soak into the soil instead of adding to the municipal storm water system.

Encouraging Energy Efficient Transportation

Strategically located just blocks away from the Holyoke Transportation Center which offers public transportation connections throughout the Pioneer Valley, and to Boston, and New York, we also have bicycle racks by the front door and preferred parking for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.

Potable Water Use Reduction

Plantings were selected so that the site does not require a permanent irrigation system. This saves both resources and expenses that would normally be needed to maintain the landscape. Additionally, this measure helps save the cost associated with installing and maintaining the irrigation system itself.

Plumbing Systems

The project installed water fixtures that contribute to an estimated water savings of 33% in indoor potable water use as compared to EPAct 1992. That’s an estimated water savings of 26,680 gallons of water. Water efficient water closets with a flush rate of 1.28 gpf were used (saving approximately 6,000 gallons of water per year). Also, waterless urinals were put in place. These fixtures use a sealing liquid that is less dense than urine. Therefore, the urine sinks through the oil, trapping the odor below the oil layer and preventing it from escaping out into the rest of the bathroom. Without the need for water, these fixtures help save 11,320 gallons of water per year.

Research projects

Dusty With a Chance of Star Formation
Checking the Medicine Cabinet to Interrupt COVID-19 at the Molecular Level
Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold But Still, Is It Just Right?​
Smashing Discoveries​
Microbiome Pattern Hunting
Modeling the Air we Breathe
Exploring Phytoplankton Diversity
The Computer Will See You Now
Computing the Toll of Trapped Diamondback Terrapins
Edging Towards a Greener Future
Physics-driven Drug Discovery
Modeling Plasma-Surface Interactions
Sensing Subduction Zones
Neural Networks & Earthquakes
Small Stars, Smaller Planets, Big Computing
Data Visualization using Climate Reanalyzer
Getting to Grips with Glassy Materials
Modeling Molecular Engines
Forest Mapping: When the Budworms come to Dinner
Exploring Thermoelectric Behavior at the Nanoscale
The Trickiness of Talking to Computers
A Genomic Take on Geobiology
From Grass to Gas
Teaching Computers to Identify Odors
From Games to Brains
The Trouble with Turbulence
A New Twist
A Little Bit of This… A Little Bit of That..
Looking Like an Alien!
Locking Up Computing
Modeling Supernovae
Sound Solution
Lessons in a Virtual Test Tube​
Crack Computing
Automated Real-time Medical Imaging Analysis
Towards a Smarter Greener Grid
Heading Off Head Blight
Organic Light-Harvesting Antennae
Art and AI
Excited by Photons
Tapping into an Ocean of Data
Computing Global Change
Star Power
Engineering the Human Microbiome
Computing Social Capital
Computers Diagnosing Disease
All Research Projects

Collaborative projects

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Outreach & Education Projects

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100 Bigelow Street, Holyoke, MA 01040