With both public and private sector organisations under pressure from central government and industry regulators to reduce carbon footprints, environmental impact assessments are becoming increasingly commonplace.

However, the diverse range of often incompatible approaches to assessments that exists means that many organisations struggle to have a clear idea of exactly what their assessments should entail, claim The Green Grid, which have published a new report ‘report, Data Centre Life Cycle Assessment Guidelines’.

The central problem organisations face is the lack of a universal definition of what a data centre is. In The Green Grid’s report, it introduces a framework that organisations can use to identify and uniformly describe the key elements of their data centres so that diverse methodologies can evaluate environmental impacts in the same way.

“As demand for environmental impact data has grown, industry organisations and regulatory bodies have developed a range of assessment methods,” said The Green Grid EMEA Technical Work Group member Christophe Garnier, who edited the report. “Each of these might focus on different specific environmental factors, lifecycle stages, or products. It is little wonder given this complex landscape that organisations look to reduce their results to a single measurement – but by doing so they sacrifice the detail and clarity necessary to meaningfully analyse assessment results and make effective changes.

“One of the key problems confronting organisations is that, despite the co-ordinated efforts of standardisation bodies across Europe, there is not yet a generally accepted universal definition of what constitutes a data centre. Each study must define its own boundaries, and it can be difficult to compare results across studies of different data centres using different methodologies. The framework will continue to evolve and improve, incorporating real world case studies and collaboration with the organisations developing assessments to eventually arrive at common approved methods. However, this report is a first step towards establishing a consistent set of product category rules for data centres that can be used to complement any given methodology.”