After doing some detective work in Google, I found out more information about the facility where MyGreenHosting keeps their servers.

The Thor Data Center (THORDC) is located in Hafnarfjordur, just south of Reykjavik in Iceland. The facility is powered by renewable hydropower and geothermal energy. It uses modular natural free cooling, a technology that takes advantage of the naturally cool outside air of the Icelandic climate to maintain the correct operating temperature and humidity level inside the data storage containers. Effectively this hosting environment is 100% green with a zero carbon footprint.

Here is an 8 minute video in YouTube made by AST Modular showing a tour around the data center and describing its technologies. I encourage you to watch it.

Here at SPRNG we are constantly looking at ways to reduce our impact on the environment and on this post I will write about our search for a web-host that would help us make our website carbon neutral.
When most people think about sustainability in graphic design they imagine the amount of trees that could be saved if we used less paper. To stop printing and move our production to electronic devices is seen as a way forward, and people forget about the energy that is needed to run these electronics (plus the environmental issues raised by their manufactory processes which I wont got into in this post).
The internet in fact has become an important polluter. Keeping a regular sized website online for a year emits as much CO2 as driving a petrol car for 1650Km (Roughly the distance between London and Warsaw).
The CO2 emissions of the website come from two sources:

1. The energy resources needed to host the website
2. The energy used every time the site is accessed by a visitor.
The first point we can easily address by moving the website to a “green host” and the second one is more tricky because we don’t have the means to find out under what conditions the website is being accessed by each of our visitors, however we have log files that tell us how many pages are opened and for how long, so we can make some approximations and offset that.

Looking for a “green host”
Every bit of data adds up! With the massive growth of the online world, the amount of energy needed to power and cool the data centres that form its infrastructure has also become considerable. It is calculated that the use of IT and the Internet has nowadays moved above air transport in the CO2 worst offender’s list. The combined electricity demand of the internet/cloud globally is 623bn kWh. This total would rank 5th if you were to put it among a list of countries. The US, China, Russia and Japan would sit above, followed by India, Germany, Canada, France, Brazil, and the UK below it. There is more information on Greenpeace’s dirty-data-report page 9, and on the Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Program 2007, on page 7.

Here are some more stats. Data centres consume between 1.5 and 2 % of the world’s electricity supply. Greenpeace estimates that the global demand for electricity from data centres in 2007 was approximately 330bn kWh, a figure almost equal to the entire electricity demand of the UK during that year. In terms of carbon, the CO2 emissions from data centres in the US alone, are greater than the aggregate of all the emissions of Argentina or Netherlands.
After reading these facts is of no surprise that there are not many “green hosts” to choose from. And finding a host was actually not as easy as we thought. We found different levels of “greenness” and lots of greenwash.
Initially we were let down by finding out that most “green hosting” companies are not directly powered with electricity from renewable resources, what they do is purchase RECs – Renewable Energy Certificates in order to offset the energy they use. Eventually we found two companies which are “off-the-grid” and produce their own electricity from renewables.
1. Aiso.net
2. Mygreenhosting
Aiso.net
– Aiso has been around for 14 years and all this time they have powered their data centre with solar energy. Since they solely rely on their solar panels this is a so called “off-the-grid: solution. Their two solar panel arrays power the servers, office equipment, A/C and other hardware.
– They also integrated other features into their facility, like light tubes to increase natural light.
– Their back-up generators use propane gas instead of diesel.
– They collect rainwater and also are on the process of installing a green roof.

Mygreenhosting
– This company runs on geothermal power and hydro-electricity, offering hosting solution truly 100% CO2 free at least regarding their electricity consumption.
– This is also an “off-the-grid” solution as their source their energy directly. Their datacenter is located in Iceland where they tap into an abundant supply of geothermal and hydroelectric energy sources.
– If you are technically minded is worth to take a look at their website where they explain their data-centre’s technical details.
– Other than the energy generation they claim to use of 100% recycled paper, donate/recycle all their old computer equipment and also that most of their workers telecommute, and none of their staff drive cars to work.
The rest of the “green hosts” that we found use RECs (Renewable Energy Certificates) to neutralise their emissions.
below are some which belong to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program that encourages organisations to buy green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with purchased electricity use.
Greengeeks has the best documented information about their green initiatives. They claim to replace, with wind power, 3 times the amount of energy used by their servers.
Fatcow purchases RECs to offset their energy use by 200%, That means that for every KWH of electricity they use, they buy twice that amount in RECs, which are applied to generate wind powered energy.
– Two other hosts 1and1 and Hostpapa have both partnered with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) in order offset 100% of the energy usage of their data centres again by purchasing RECs.
-Finally I found Dreamhost who actually explains not to have the option to connect with a green power utility so they are purchasing Renewable Energy Credits instead.
Although by purchasing RECs these companies are showing support for renewable energy, in fact they are still being powered by dirty energy. Cynics might think that these companies only use RECs for marketing their “green credentials”, I prefer to be optimistic and believe that purchases of RECs are an immediate easy solution but hopefully in the near future and with more competition, hosting providers will purchase directly or even generate 100% clean renewable energy.
If you know of any other examples and have a suggestion, please add it to this list by leaving a comment below, thank you.

How would a set of “ideograms” for sustainable design look like?
In the following weeks I will be posting here in the blog, a series of environmentally themed ideograms inspired by Ottl Aicher’s work for tourist board of the town of Isny, in Germany . I will be looking at energy generation technologies, passive and active design techniques, recycling, waste reduction and social sustainability.
Here is the first set. Large scale wind turbines installed onshore and offshore.
I am not going to describe the images because they are able to explain themselves. And this, for me, is the key difference between an Ideogram and an Icon. Icons can be shorthand for many things, they symbolise an idea or intention, and depending on the complexity of thing being represented they might need to be supported by written language which expands the message which the icon is specifically representing.
The ideograms, by presenting a “situation” can convey what they are meant to represent accurately. The arrangement of different elements within their canvas makes sure that the viewer gets enough information so that vocal or written language is not necessary for their interpretation.
wind turbines set

I am releasing these graphics and the ones to follow on a Creative Commons licence for free use. If you would like to receive a copy of these vector files, just sign up for our newsletter (we only send it twice per year).


I followed Mel Starrs twitter feed for quite some time and I can’t but marvel at how she was able to memorise so many acronyms and abbreviations. She posted an entry in blog Elemental back in 2008 under the title Acronym Spaghetti, where she wrote: “As an industry, we love acronyms. For newcomers this may be confusing”.
For sure, this language is definitely confusing to me but sometimes amusing as well, because in the short space of a tweet, an acronym has greater importance than in a typically longer text. Most of the time the acronym becomes the protagonist of the tweet and if you don’t know what that sequence of letters means you can pretty much discard the whole message.
I collected all of the acronyms tweeted by Mel from January to April this year. I counted quite a lot, 117 acronyms in total. Shorthand forms of writing like acronyms can only multiply in the future. With so many of us communicating over mobile devices with small screens and small keys, plus spatially constrained interfaces like twitter’s, the use of acronyms will be growing over fertile ground. They are part of the professional language and we have to get acquainted with them so that instead of facing an acronym spaghetti we can confidently play an acronym Scrabble game.
Scrabble board with acronyms
Here is the full list of acronyms:
ACD – Accredited Construction Details
AECB – The sustainable building association (Association of Environment Conscious Builders)
ASA – Advertising Standards Authority
ASHP – Air Source Heat Pump
ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
BCSE – British Council for School Environments
BEAN – Building Environmental Assessment Network
BIM – Building Information Modelling
BIS – Department for Business Innovation & Skills
BRE – Building Research Establishment
BREEAM – BRE Environmental Assessment Method
BSF – Building Schools for the Future
BSJ – Building Services Journal
BSRIA – Building Services Research and Information Association
B&ES – Building & Engineering Services Association formerly HVCA
CCC – Committee on Climate Change
CE – Constructing Excellence
CESP – Community Energy Saving Programme
CERT – Carbon Emissions Reduction Target
CfDs – Contracts for Difference
CHP – California Highway Patrol – just joking… Combined Heat & Power
CIBSE – The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
CIC – Community Interest Company
CIH – Chartered Institute of Housing
CIL – Community Infrastructure Levy
CIOB – Chartered Institute of Building
CoC – Chain of Custody
CPD – Continuing professional development
cSAP – Consultation SAP Software
CSH – Code for Sustainable Homes
CRC – Carbon Reduction Commitment
DCLG – Department for Communities and Local Government
DEC – Display Energy Certificate
DECC – Department of Energy and Climate Change
DEFRA – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
DER – Dwelling Emission Rate
DGNB – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen (German Sustainable Building Council)
DM – Daily Mail
DS – Design Stage
DSM – Dynamic Systems Modelling
EEDO – Energy Efficiency Deployment Office
EEPB – Energy Efficiency Partnership for Buildings
EPBD – EU Performance and Building Directive
EPC – Energy Performance Certificate
EPUK – Environmental Protection UK
EST – Energy Saving Trust
EU – European Union
FEE – Fabric Energy Efficiency
FITs – Feed-in Tariffs
FSC – Forest Stewardship Council
GB – Great Britain
GBB – Get Britain Building Fund
GD – Green Deal
GG – Green Guide to Specification
GHA – Good Homes Alliance
GIS – Geographic Information Systems
GLA – Greater London Authority
GSHP – Ground Source Heat Pump
HA – Housing Authority
HBF – Home Builders Federation
HCA – Homes and Community Agency
HoC – House of Commons
HQI – Housing Quality Indicators
HVCA – Now B&ES
IES – Integrated Environmental solutions
IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
iSBEM – Software Interface for the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM)
MCS – Micro-generation Certification Scheme
MFP – Max Fordham and Partners
NBS – National Building Specification
NEAT – NHS Environmental Assessment Tool
NEF – National Energy Foundation
NHBC – National House-Building Council
NPPF – National Planning Policy Framework
NSIP – Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects
LA – Local Authority
LCA – Life-Cycle Assessment
LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
LES-TER – Landlord’s Energy Statement – Tenant’s Energy Review
LPA – Local Planning Authorities
LZC – Low and Zero Carbon
OFGEM – Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets
PCR – Post Construction Review
PFI – Private Finance Initiative
PH – Passive House
PHPP – Passive House Planning Package
PHT – Passive House Trust
PPS – Planning Policy Statement
PV – Photovoltaics
RBKC – The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
RHI – Renewable Heat Incentive
RHPP – Renewable Heat Premium Payment
RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects
RICS – Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
RMI – Rocky Mountain Institute
RSL – Registered Social Landlords
RTB – Right To Buy
SAB – SuDS Approving Body
SAP – Standard Assessment Procedure for the energy rating of dwellings
SBEM – Simplified Building Energy Model
SMEs – Small to Medium Enterprises
STBA – Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance
SuDS – Sustainable Drainage Systems
SWMP – Site Waste Management Plans
TAS – Thermal Analysis Simulation
TER – Target Emission Rate
TSB – Technology Strategy Board
TWFY – They Work for You
UCL – University College London
UKGBC – United Kingdom Green Building Council
USGBC – United States Green Building Council
VAT – Value Added Tax
WMS – Written Ministerial Statement
ZC – Zero Carbon
ZCH – Zero Carbon Hub

* Mel Starrs sadly passed away last month, I never met her but I learned a lot from reading her words.
A Justgiving page has been created for donations to her favourite charity, Cancer Research. Please consider giving a donation.

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The acronyms’ post, got me thinking about the role and effectiveness of the different icons and symbols that are used in sustainability reports.
 They all convey information visually and as such have the potential of communicating information unconstrained by verbal language barriers. Well designed icons can work as way-finding tools within a document or a complex schematic drawing.
 A common use of icons in a report is to serve as markers to identify certain chapters or sections, for example the helical compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) representing ‘energy saving’ or the wind turbine (as seen below) representing ‘renewables’.

wind turbine icons
Icons like these are an excellent tool to quickly place the reader into context. They work well when defining large categories but what happens when you need to describe a specific technology or a process that consists of several steps or elements? How to draw, for example, an icon for a ground source heat pump or rainwater irrigation system?

Ottl Aicher, the designer of the influential 1972 Olympic games pictograms wrote: “A symbol is like a term, an appeal, and not like a description. It is more compact, a conclusion without flourish and coincidence.” This is exactly what icons like the CFL bulb do, they become a statement.

cfl


 But a process needs a description and creating a successful iconic image that would represent a process in a recognisable and graphically economic form is a challenge. The best solution, I believe, is actually found in Aicher’s later work.


In 1979 he embarked on a set of drawings for a poster series commissioned by the tourism authority of Isny, a small German town in Bavaria. These ‘ideographic drawings’ (depicting people, animals, plants, buildings, recreational scenes and the landscape in general) created ‘reportage’ on the town*. The expressive quality of these graphics, is spectacular. By just giving them a glance they can convey their main message, but when look at closer, the original message becomes a whole story, which makes them truly fascinating.

Here we have forests, but not any forest we can make out the types of trees by the texture of the tree trunks, in the bottom left corner we can see tall pine trees, casting their shadows under the afternoon sun (since the light is falling down the west side), We can hear the sound of the water from the stream below the wooden bridge in the center image, thanks to those delightful bubbles of foam. And we can also hear the clacking sounds of the heavy beer glasses, so called Maßkrüge, as they connect with each other in the busy beer-garden (center top). I could go on talking about these images but I’ll invite you to look at them yourself.

Image credits:
1. Wind icon images, from left to right:
– Wind icon. Will County Green.
– wind turbine icon. GL Stock images.
– Wind Energy Power Symbol. Change agent.
– Vector wind turbine icons. Colourbox.
– Energy icon wind. The Whitehouse.
2. CFL icon: The Noun Project from The Noun Project collection
3. Isny pictograms: Otl Aicher

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