Building Design

We design our data centers to optimize resource use. Our teams test innovative approaches that can lower our footprint or give back to the surrounding community—all while ensuring our data centers provide the uninterrupted service our customers expect. This is what we mean by shaping the data center of the future.

Equinix buildings meet recognized standards for sustainability, like LEED. Our reference design—the blueprint we use for all new builds—evolves as our understanding of our impact improves. We update it regularly to ensure best practices are adopted as we expand.

Embodied Carbon

By the time building materials make it to our construction sites, they’ve already accumulated a footprint of “embodied carbon emissions”—a product of the materials and processes that went into producing them. The embodied carbon emissions of a product from raw material extraction to the point of leaving the production facility are commonly referred to as cradle-to-gate emissions. The most significant portion of our Scope 3 footprint comes from the cradle-to-gate emissions associated with the categories of Purchased Goods and Services and Capital Goods. Since 2022, we have performed whole building life cycle assessments (WBLCAs) across our global portfolio of new build IBX data centers to gain a holistic view of the embodied carbon of our IBX data centers. Our Global WBLCA methodology goes beyond what is required by sustainable building certifications like LEED and includes all significant components of a data center, such as ancillary infrastructure; mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) equipment and distribution; hard landscaping and more.

Throughout 2023 we focused on improving our data, increasing regional granularity and creating an internal dashboard that helps us analyze the data gathered and drive decisions. The WBLCA data points collected by our teams have helped us identify the components of our design and material choices that offer the greatest potential for reducing our impact. This data informs what actions we prioritize in our decarbonization strategy through data-driven decisions about design, construction and purchasing activities. This includes, but is not limited to, making changes to our design standards and contractual requirements and gathering more accurate embodied carbon data from our suppliers across a range of key commodities and markets.

Our approach follows a hierarchy of methods for reducing embodied carbon:



Finding opportunities to dematerialize, thereby avoiding some carbon emissions entirely.



Selecting lower-impact alternatives for the materials that cannot be eliminated.



Exploring partnerships that result in the acceleration and scaling of innovative technologies and materials that have the potential to be complementary to a low-carbon future.

The best way to reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings is to use fewer virgin materials. We now require design teams to explore opportunities to repurpose existing buildings and structures and to maximize reuse of materials in the construction of Equinix facilities.

On a site with existing infrastructure, we piloted a scope of work to explore opportunities for on-site and off-site reuse of demolition waste, leveraging a platform for the exchange of secondhand construction materials. On another project, we are repurposing a structure into a data hall. While we avoid carbon emissions associated with building a new structure, we must consider potential downsides that could result in increased embodied or operational carbon emissions compared to a custom-built solution made to host IT equipment. We are in the process of evaluating embodied carbon trade-offs for such interventions, as part of our WBLCA portfolio analysis—a crucial step toward understanding the overall impact of this solution.

We are also pioneering the application of innovative software that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to track material inflows and outflows at the construction site, using it to quantify cradle-to-gate, transport and waste emissions.

Over the course of 2023, we performed 14 WBLCAs across the Americas; Asia-Pacific; and Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, bringing our total count to 24

Availability of embodied carbon data remains a challenge for certain products and regions. While the industry has made progress in producing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for main construction materials like concrete and steel, embodied carbon estimates for MEP products are more uncertain. At Equinix, we have analyzed the material breakdown of major equipment products that contribute significantly to the carbon footprint of our data centers. In the absence of product-specific EPDs, we use our estimated data, along with appropriate localizations, as a starting point to guide our strategy. Additionally, we are planning to request suppliers of major MEP equipment to provide product-specific carbon data, signaling the industry’s growing need for this information. Our detailed research aims to establish a foundation on which we can lead our industry and supply chain to implement informed and impactful decarbonization measures.

Our future plans include enhancing data quality, expanding our program through increased engagement with our supply chain and growing our strategy to achieve our overarching goals. We will continue scaling our requests for embodied carbon data from our suppliers, leveraging their knowledge of the markets to explore and enact carbon reduction opportunities, assess cost implications of low-carbon alternatives and make necessary adjustments to our design standards and construction processes. Additionally, we will actively seek partnerships that facilitate the acceleration and widespread adoption of innovative technologies and materials that align with our goal of achieving a low-carbon future.

Bare Metal Project

We supported production of the “Bare Metal Project,” a short film highlighting the collaborative work of over 30 digital infrastructure companies working to address embodied carbon.


In our most recent materiality assessment, we identified biodiversity as a key emerging topic to address. In 2023, we ramped up our focus in this area through the addition of a dedicated ecology lead, who is tasked with driving the development and implementation of our global biodiversity and water stewardship strategy. One ambition for this strategy is to better support the ecosystems surrounding our facilities through the choices we make on-site. As a first step, we now require every new build or expansion project to dedicate 7.5% of site area to green space.

In 2023, we took several steps toward ensuring the green space on new sites will be designed to support biodiversity and the local watershed. First, we updated our Global Design Standards, requiring projects to:

  • Use native plants
  • Reduce landscaping water demand and consider alternative water sources
  • Minimize turf grass lawns
  • Provide an operations plan that curtails the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and excess nutrients

The new guidelines also encourage project teams to explore opportunities to manage stormwater on site and consider the use of permeable pavement.

Further, we began development of a “menu” of strategies to support biodiversity in exterior spaces. Strategies range from removing invasive plants and increasing the diversity of native plants on-site to installing green roofs or green facades. We plan to continue to expand this effort in 2024.

At the end of 2023, we began capturing site-specific insights on our existing biodiversity landscaping interventions through interviews with site managers and data collected from pollinator monitors. The data will help inform our strategy as it develops in 2024 and determine how we will further support on-site biodiversity at new builds and existing data centers.

Green Buildings Certifications

We certify our data centers to numerous green building and energy management certification schemes, ensuring they reflect sustainability best practices. All new buildings are evaluated against U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) guidelines and certified to LEED or an equivalent. Sites with LEED Gold or Platinum certification also meet the criteria for an Eligible Green Project under our Green Finance Framework, as achieving certification helps meet and optimize efficiency standards of the buildings. Our commitment to responsible construction has earned us the status of a USGBC Gold member. 

Since 2021, we have consistently pursued green certifications for our projects. We continue to improve the sustainability profile of our new builds while facing the challenges of a global portfolio. In 2023, we expanded our team of sustainability experts and updated our Global Design Standards to provide guidance, minimum requirements and targets across a range of sustainability factors. We anticipate that ongoing efforts will yield a positive impact in the coming years and further raise the sustainability profile of our portfolio.

In 2023, 811,000 square feet of new data centers received green certifications. The table below shows sites that earned certification during 2023:

Green Building Certifications
Data Center Metro Area Rating Scheme Level Achieved
DX3 Dubai LEED Silver
FR11x Frankfurt LEED Certified
LD11x London LEED Silver
ML5 Milan LEED Gold
MX3x Mexico City LEED Certified
PE3 Perth LEED Certified
SE4 Seattle Green Globes One
Region Total Gross sq. ft.
Area of Eligible Portfolio
with LEED Certification
(million sq. ft.)
Eligible Portfolio with
LEED Certification (%)
Americas 13.6 5.2 38%
Asia-Pacific 7.0 4.6 66%
EMEA 9.3 1.5 16%

Case Study

Sustainable New-Build Design in Milan

Our LEED BD+C Gold-certified ML5 data center project showcases environmentally responsible construction practices and exemplifies the broad range of sustainability solutions we apply at our facilities. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Rooftop solar
  • Electric vehicle charging stations
  • Light-colored external finishes and vegetated areas to reduce the heat island effect
  • Dedicated recycling storage
  • Minimally light-polluting external lights
  • Low water demand plant species
  • Low VOC furnishings

Energy efficiency was a focus area for this project. The data center is 20% more efficient than LEED baselines due to its high-temperature cooling circuits and chillers that operate in free-cooling mode without the use of compressors during cool seasons.

We also carefully considered the materials that went into the facility, prioritizing recycled content and products with sustainability certifications. During construction, we employed stringent waste management practices and recycled over 90% of demolition and construction waste.

Design Innovation

We collaborate cross-functionally within Equinix and with peers to develop new ways to reduce our carbon load, drive circularity and optimize for efficiency—ideating and executing the “Data Center of the Future.”

Data Center of the Future: Co-innovation Facility

Since 2021, we have worked with our innovation partners to develop new digital infrastructure solutions at our Co-Innovation Facility (CIF). The CIF is a prototype environment within the confines of a live data center where we can assess potential technologies, such as liquid-cooled cabinets, in conjunction with select equipment and customer partners. This ensures that technology has reached sufficient maturity before it is deployed across our customer base.

Liquid cooling—a technology initially explored at the CIF—is now being enabled at over 100 Equinix data centers globally. Liquid cooling requires less energy than running fans for air cooling, potentially driving down PUE and enabling a higher proportion of our total energy load to go toward computing. Heat output from liquid-cooled devices can also be recovered and exported. We collaborate with CIF partners and other peers to encourage our industry to perform liquid cooling at higher temperatures. See Energy Efficiency for more information.

In 2024, we plan to expand our pool of CIF partnerships and investigate the viability of sodium cells as an alternative to lithium batteries, due to the association of lithium batteries with certain conflict minerals.

Case Study

Industry Collaboration for Design Innovation

Our strong reputation and proven track record as a sustainability enabler give us the opportunity to spur the development and adoption of next-generation technologies. CIFs are just one of many ways we engage within our industry to make data centers more sustainable.

Other examples include:

  • In 2023, we worked with our supplier ZutaCore to guide product development  transitioning from a high GWP two-phase fluid to a new liquid with significantly lower global warming potential.  Our next ambition is to employ PFAS-free coolants once they become available in the industry.
  • Through the Sustainable and Scalable Infrastructure Alliance (SSIA), we collaborated within our industry to bring standardization racks to streamline data center operations. In 2023, the SSIA launched a platform that allows for more efficient power conversion and distribution.

Heat Recovery and Export

Customers’ IT infrastructure in our data centers generates heat. We are developing partnerships and processes to recover and redeploy this heat to benefit local communities wherever possible, reducing energy use and improving PUE. We believe our heat recovery and export program is industry leading. We have been exporting heat for over a decade and are building in-house expertise to keep ahead of impending regulations. Today, we are ready to scale our impact.

In 2023, we expanded the number of our sites contracted to export heat from one to four sites across our global operations and now require all of our new-build sites to be enabled for heat recovery and export.

We need to work with others to bring a heat export project to life—in particular with utility companies, local municipalities and at times the prospective heat customers to ensure there is a meaningful impact in the communities where we operate. The heat we provide to communities replaces more expensive and carbon intensive energy sources like gas and coal that would otherwise be used to heat homes. Our business benefits from reduced environmental impact and improved public perception from the delivery of lower-cost, renewable heat to the community. Additionally, we are always looking for new opportunities and partners to enable heat recovery and export benefits in the communities we serve. We plan to export heat captured from one of our data centers in Helsinki, Finland, to the community, potentially avoiding up to 4,000 MTCO2e1 of emissions annually that would have been otherwise generated through fossil fuel sources such as coal. This is equivalent to taking approximately 3,000 cars off the road2.

1 Calculation based on displacing 10,000MWh of heat generated from fossil fuels with carbon intensity of 400 kg/MWh.
2 Calculation based on annual carbon dioxide emissions of 1.2 kilograms per car per year with the average annual driving distance in the EU estimated at 10,000 kilometers. The average carbon emission factor is assumed to be 120 grams per kilogram.

Case Study

Community Impact Through Heat Recovery

Heating homes is just one facet of the community impact from our recovered heat. At one of our Paris-based data centers, recovered heat warms an on-site greenhouse that supplies produce to solidarity grocery stores and associations, providing food to 1,600 people in the community free of charge. The project helps address food insecurity and showcases the possibilities of urban farming.

Another Helsinki-based Equinix data center is an active example of our vision for the future of heat export. We partner with a utility that offers a cooling supply, eliminating the need to install chillers to address heat from data center operations and saving space on-site. By constructing the facility without chillers, we avoid roughly 3.5 GWh of electricity consumption on-site annually and also benefit from reduced operating costs as we have no chillers to maintain. Furthermore, the utility uses heat exported from our data center to supply warmth to the local community. This site shows how we can combine innovative technologies with purposeful partnership to serve our community, reduce on-site electricity consumption and lower our operating costs.