Sustainability in Information Technology

Computing and Information Technology

From research labs to staff desks to student dorms, computers are a way of life here at Stanford. Everywhere you go on campus, you are in the midst of technology. Stanford hosts approximately 40,000 desktop and laptop computers and has roughly 6000 servers used for administrative and research computing. All of this equipment is a significant source of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, especially when every stage of its production and use lifecycle is accounted for, such as manufacturing, transportation, use, and disposal. In addition, computers generate heat and it often takes as much energy to cool computing equipment as it takes to run it. Approximately 15% of our campus electricity energy use is due to our IT infrastructure.

The Sustainable IT program began as a joint effort between the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management and Information Technology Services to address sustainability issues for both IT equipment and the facilities that house these systems. The ultimate goals are to increase the efficiency of our IT infrastructure, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by computing and IT-related activities.

Goals & Results

Making our IT Infrastructure more efficient reduces the electricity needed to run computing and telecom equipment, the cooling needed to keep facilities at the right temperature, the energy used to build the systems, the resources consumed to build-out new facilities, and the electronic waste that results from equipment disposal.

Sustainable IT at Stanford also aims to inform and educate the community on the benefits of more energy efficient computing, and to provide the tools and resources to empower others to lead their own Sustainable IT initiatives.

Results so far:

Desktop Computing & Office Equipment

  • With 40,000 desktop and laptop computers on campus, saving energy one computer at a time can have a big impact. Stanford’s desktop energy saving program includes centrally-funded desktop power management software for all faculty, staff and students, moving backups and patches from night to day, putting computers in sleep mode, and reducing peripheral energy usage by providing special pricing with smart power strips. Turning off monitors and putting computers to sleep when not in use is estimated to save the University over 2 million kWh/year in electricity usage.
  • For computer purchases, 100% of recommended computers are rated EPEAT Gold. Procurement includes Energy Star requirements in all RFPs, where available, and offers an exchange program for older printers.

Datacenters

  • Stanford’s primary datacenter has undergone a year-long energy efficiency retrofit resulting in a PUE of 1.4. With our new instrumentation, we have continuous PUE monitoring and automated controls to maximize outside air cooling. Additionally, we have fully utilized cold-aisle containment to reduce the amount of cooling needed and have installed variable speed drives on all our air-handling units. You can read more about it in 10 Steps to Datacenter Energy Efficiency.

Server Rooms

  • Stanford has dozens of smaller server rooms, which we call Satellite Server Rooms, distributed across campus. Most are run by schools and departments rather than IT Services. In an effort to understand energy use in these rooms, Stanford studied rooms with different cooling methodologies to determine their efficiency. In short, we determined that how you design and run a room can make a 2x difference in how much it costs to run it. Study details and results are in Satellite Server Rooms: Taming the Beast.
  • Based on results from the Satellite Server Room study, Stanford produced a guide to designing and running server rooms, which is available to the public as the Server and Telecom Room Design Guide.

Server Virtualization

  • Whether in a datacenter or a satellite server room, each server running on campus uses energy to keep it running, as well as to cool the room it’s in. Server virtualization allow multiple servers to run on a single server, dramatically reducing energy use. In addition, a virtualized environment provides better hardware utilization, flexibility and recoverability in the case of failures, as well as reduced operating costs. More information about VMware @ Stanford is available for both administrative and academic computing.

Energy Savings Enabled by IT

  • IT Services provides a Work Anywhere Toolkit that allows staff to work remotely and save the greenhouse gas generated from commute trips.
“If we are to leave our children a better world, we must take steps now to create a sustainable environment. So it is critical that we model sustainable citizenship on our own campus.”
— John Etchemendy
Provost, Stanford University
The Energy Retrofit Program has delivered an estimated cumulative savings of over 240 million kilowatt-hours of electricity since it began in 1993—and prevented 72,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
New buildings must use 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less potable water than similar traditional buildings.
Systems retrofits to the most energy-intensive buildings on campus are expected to save $4.2 million a year and cut energy use by 28 percent.
About 40 percent of Stanford Dining produce is organic or regionally grown; some is even grown on campus.
About 60 percent of Stanford’s total contiguous land remains undeveloped.
Recycled paper is less expensive than virgin paper under the campus-wide office supply contract.
From 2002 to 2010, the percentage of Stanford employees driving alone to campus dropped from 72 to 48 percent.
Stanford diverted 64 percent of its solid waste from landfills in 2008—more than 14,500 tons.
Stanford completed 50 major water efficiency retrofit projects from 2001 through 2008, pushing down average domestic use from 2.7 million gallons per day (mgd) in 2000-01 to less than 2.3 mgd in 2007-08, despite campus growth.
The goal of Sustainable IT is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by our IT infrastructure.
The goal of Sustainable IT is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by our IT infrastructure.
Stanford invests IN sustainability through a broad range of initiatives in research, education, efficiency improvement, conservation systems, new technology, student-led projects and more.
New buildings must use 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less potable water than similar traditional buildings.
New buildings must use 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less potable water than similar traditional buildings.
Systems retrofits to the most energy-intensive buildings on campus are expected to save $4.2 million a year and cut energy use by 28 percent.
About 40 percent of Stanford Dining produce is organic or regionally grown; some is even grown on campus.
From 2002 to 2008, the percentage of Stanford employees driving alone to campus dropped from 72 to 51 percent.
Stanford diverted 64 percent of its solid waste from landfills in 2008—more than 14,500 tons.
Stanford diverted 64 percent of its solid waste from landfills in 2008—more than 14,500 tons.
The Energy Retrofit Program has delivered an estimated cumulative savings of over 240 million kilowatt-hours of electricity since it began in 1993—and prevented 72,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
Stanford completed 50 major water efficiency retrofit projects from 2001 through 2008, pushing down average domestic use from 2.7 million gallons per day (mgd) in 2000-01 to less than 2.3 mgd in 2007-08, despite campus growth.
New buildings must use 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less potable water than similar traditional buildings.

Recognition

  • Finalist, Green Enterprise IT Award, for Server Room Consolidation efforts. (2013)
  • Administrative Systems Server Virtualization Project, $32,611 in ERP rebates (2011)
  • IT Services Server Virtualization Project, $32,118 in ERP rebates (2011)
  • IT Services Datacenter Lighting Retrofit, $21,036 in ERP rebates (2011)
  • IT Services Datacenter Energy Efficiency Project, $38,935 rebate from PG&E (2010)
  • Leadership in National Consortium, Stanford’s Sustainable IT presented and led discussions in Educause Annual Conference in 2008 and 2009. The goal of this forum is to share information across universities about opportunities in Sustainable IT. In November 2008, Stanford presented and led the Sustainable IT breakout sessions. The Sustainable IT director was featured as the GreenIT Expert for the online conference, a web-only venue where IT leaders from around the world participate. See Sustainable IT at Stanford - A Year in Review and Topics and Discussion Notes. (2008-2009)
  • Business Continuity Data Center, $48,000 rebate from PG&E (2009)
  • School of Medicine Server Virtualization Project, $33,733 rebate from PG&E (2009 and 2010)
  • Desktop Power Management, $55,000 rebate from PG&E (2008)