Compass Datacenters, which is rolling out $3 billion in new move-in-ready facilities across North America, has turned to concrete technology to reduce the carbon footprint of its buildings.
The system, developed by Nova Scotia-based CarbonCure Technologies, decreases the volume of cement required when mixing concrete for buildings, all while permanently removing CO₂ from the atmosphere.
Compass is the first data centre provider to commit to using CarbonCure in its construction projects. The company picked the solution because sustainability is a guiding principle of its operations.
“Sustainability to us is a holistic process, involving everything from minimizing power usage, using sustainable materials, and minimizing water usage,” said Nancy Novak, chief innovation officer at Compass, which has built more than $4 billion in data centres. “Every company that does construction needs to look closely at concrete’s sustainability because it is such a big carbon contributor globally.”
Cutting CO₂ Emissions
It is estimated that 1.04 tonnes of CO₂ are generated for every tonne of concrete produced. Cement, which is needed for binding materials like sand and gravel, is hugely the reason behind it. Production of cement accounts for approximately seven per cent of the world’s industrial energy use.
The main ingredient in cement is limestone, which is mined from a quarry. The limestone is then heated to 1,500 degrees. During this process, the parts split, and the calcium oxide is refined into cement. However, what remains is carbon dioxide, which expands into the air and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
The CarbonCure technology uses re-captured industrial CO₂ that is injected into the concrete manufacturing process. Once injected, it combines with calcium in the cement to form calcium carbonate—the foundation of rock-like limestone. The calcium carbonate is permanently embedded in the concrete and removed from the atmosphere. The concrete, meanwhile, is extremely strong and of high quality.
There are no bubbles of CO₂ in the concrete, and less cement is needed in the mixing process. At the same time, dangerous greenhouse gas is removed from the atmosphere.
Compass Datacenters uses concrete in many areas, from foundations and sidewalks to pre-cast walls and roofing. Using the technology will reduce the CO₂ footprint by an average of 1,800 tonnes per campus. That’s the equivalent of driving a car four million miles, and 2,100 acres of forest are necessary to sequester this amount of CO₂.
Technology used at Toronto Campus
Compass Datacenters recently used the CarbonCure technology on a $100-million campus completed in the Toronto area. The company evaluated a number of green concrete technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of its usage.
“CarbonCure was the clear choice in terms of sustainability, quality of the end product, accessibility, and other factors,” said Novak. “We hope it becomes a best practice in the industry.”
Data centres are industrial buildings that require substantial concrete foundations, flooring and pre-fabricated concrete walls. Concrete is also used extensively to create the pads for large equipment, the loading docks, and other areas. By using CarbonCure, those concrete elements go from carbon contributors to carbon reducers, which helps lower atmospheric CO₂.
A Key Tool for Companies
Since its inception, Compass Datacenters has embraced sustainability with the efficient use of land, green energy, water-free cooling, and building materials. The company, backed by investors such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, RedBird Capital Partners, and the Azrieli Group, is now building campuses across North America and plans to use the CarbonCure technology going forward.
Compass Chief Technology Officer Adil Attlassy says the company views sustainability from a holistic perspective, including construction and operations.
“By using CarbonCure technology in our concrete, we minimize our environmental impact without sacrificing quality,” he said. “Compass is helping the data centre industry reduce its environmental impact with a holistic lens, supporting stewardship of our environment from construction through operations.”
The technology is currently installed in more than 100 concrete plants across Canada and the U.S., and CarbonCure is aiming to reduce up to 700 megatonnes of CO₂ emissions from concrete production annually.
“We are making the use of CarbonCure concrete a standard element of our construction methodology. We feel strongly that other construction companies should also look closely at the technology and consider using it as a key tool for reducing the carbon footprint of our industry,” said Novak.