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Compass Datacenters built upon eco-friendly concrete

Grant Cameron
Compass Datacenters built upon eco-friendly concrete
PHOTO COURTESY COMPASS DATACENTRES—A pre-cast concrete wall being hoisted into place at the site of a new Compass Datacenters campus.

Compass Datacenters is rolling out $3 billion in new campuses across North America and the concrete in the buildings will use technology invented by a Canadian firm that injects re-captured industrial CO2 into the manufacturing process.

The technology, developed by Nova Scotia-based CarbonCure Technologies, reduces the volume of cement required in the mixing of concrete for buildings while permanently removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

For Compass, which provides custom, move-in-ready data centres, the technology was a good fit for a $100-million campus recently completed in Etobicoke, as prefabricated concrete walls were used for its buildings. Concrete was also used extensively to create loading docks and pads for equipment in the buildings.

The company is now building campuses across North America and plans to use the technology on the builds.

Nancy Novak, chief innovation officer at Compass, said the company chose to go with the Canadian technology because sustainability is one of the guiding principles of its operations.

“Sustainability to us is a holistic process, involving everything from minimizing power usage, using sustainable materials, minimizing water usage and more. Every company that does construction needs to look closely at the sustainability of concrete because it is such a big carbon contributor globally.”

Compass 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 amount of CO2 sequestered by 2,100 acres of forest or the equivalent of driving a car four million miles.

CarbonCure technology enables concrete producers to use waste CO2 to produce more sustainable concrete. By injecting re-captured industrial CO2 into the concrete manufacturing process, less cement is required in the mixing process.

Cement is a major component of concrete and its production accounts for seven per cent of global CO2 generated, making it one of the largest contributors to carbon from the built environment. CarbonCure CEO Rob Niven, said the company is on a mission alongside many of the world’s leading concrete producers to eliminate 500 megatonnes of CO2 emissions from concrete production annually.

“We are excited to be partnering with forward-thinking companies like Compass Datacenters to reduce the embodied carbon footprint of the built environment by making construction in the data centre industry more sustainable.”

Compass evaluated a number of green concrete technologies to reduce the carbon footprint of its concrete usage. CarbonCure was the clear choice in terms of sustainability, quality, accessibility, and other factors.

“We are the first data centre provider to commit to using CarbonCure in our construction projects, and we hope it becomes a best practice in the industry,” said Niven. “CarbonCure’s technology is a brilliant solution to the large carbon footprint of concrete.”

All concrete requires carbon for the chemical reactions that enable it to form and cure. Traditional ways of introducing that to concrete were a net contributor to the carbon footprint, but CarbonCure uses atmospheric CO2. The CO2 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.

Novak said data centres are industrial buildings that require substantial concrete foundations and flooring but by using CarbonCure those concrete elements go from carbon contributors to carbon reducers.

AJ Byers, president, international at Compass, said Toronto was chosen as a market for the company’s new data centre because of the amount of cloud computing demand in the market.

Using the new technology did not slow down construction of the project and the centre was completed in record time, he said.

“The largest challenge in completing phase one was the COVID pandemic. We created one of the safest construction environments in the city for the teams working on the project. This included adding 300 per cent more washrooms on the site, additional cleaning stations, and having cleaning crews on site daily.

“We had support from multiple levels of government and local union groups who ensured we had the resources required and that the site remained running.”
Since its inception, Compass has embraced sustainability with the efficient use of land, green energy, water-free cooling and building materials. The company is backed by investors such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, RedBird Capital Partners, and the Azrieli Group.

Compass chief technology officer Adil Attlassy said Compass 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 company is presently rolling out plans for future campus builds and Novak confirmed the CarbonCure technology will be part of the mix.

“Yes, definitely,” she said. “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.”

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