MIL01: A sustainable data centre powerhouse

STACK Infrastructure executives highlight the power of partnerships in the industry with Data Centre Magazine at their cutting edge MIL01 data centre

Sustainability is at the core of many data centre business’ outlook as the industry dials up its commitment in working toward net zero goals. Earlier this year, Data Centre Magazine’s Editor Maya Derrick was invited to STACK’s MIL01 campus in Siziano — on the outskirts of Milan, Italy — to see how STACK is establishing itself as a leading developer and operator of data centres with sustainability at its core.

Built in less than a year, MIL01 opened in July 2022 and is powered by 100% renewable energy. This, in the words of STACK EMEA CEO John Eland, solidifies STACK’s position as a trusted development and operational partner.

Sherif Rizkalla has been CEO of STACK’s Italy business since September 2019 and added Switzerland to his responsibilities in November 2022. Welcoming people to the facility alongside other members of STACK executive team and Schneider Electric representatives, he showcases how far STACK’s EMEA branch has progressed, and looks forward to what’s on the horizon.

“We are happy to share what we've built together and we're also excited and eager to hear about how the world is developing in terms of sustainability and digital infrastructure in general,” he opens.

MIL01 and STACK’s focus on sustainability

With shy of 600MW of capacity up running and more developments in the pipeline, STACK’s EMEA operations are expanding with sustainability and ESG at the core.

“We've been very focused on this aspect,” Rizkalla adds, introducing STACK’s VP of ESG, Michillay Brown.

With her role central to driving STACK’s ESG strategy and transformation by collaborating with on the ground experts to ensure ESG is factored into all of STACK’s operations, she professed: “We are currently in an era where digitisation is growing rapidly. Consumers’ priorities, as well as mine, are shifting. Climate awareness is really intensifying. 

“This means that environmental and social sustainability can no longer be an afterthought for us, but it needs to be a business imperative.”

Setting an example with ESG

Understanding that sustainability is core to a business’ longer term success, Brown shares how environmental initiatives have to be administered at both local levels and over wider geographies. All of STACK’s operational facilities, like MIL01, run on 100% renewable energy – a mixture of renewable energy procurement and onsite solar.

“Renewable energy is an essential part of any net zero strategy for any company. When it comes to our greenhouse gas emissions, we are actively exploring the procurement and the usage of green concrete as well as recycled steel.

“Not only that, but most recently we conducted a holistic carbon footprint analysis of all of our operations. That means that we have a closer grip on our emissions hotspots in terms of Scope 1, 2 and 3. It also allows us to now start to directly link that to reduction targets and strategies for EMEA more broadly.”

And that’s not all. STACK in EMEA is reducing its PUE and WE as well as pioneering the reuse of waste heat across Europe.

Empowering innovation

“We are also looking at societal benefits,” Brown continues. “There is no ESG implementation without innovation.” 

In other campuses, for example, excess heat warms local homes and businesses, with plans being rolled out to harvest rainwater to be filtered and reused for data centre cooling systems across all sites.

Green façades are also in the pipeline, which attract and encourage biodiversity of native species in what can often be quite barren landscapes.

“It also allows our campuses to appear in a way that isn't so industrial to the local community,” Brown adds as an alternate benefit. “We talk about pollution, we talk about social community, but we don't talk about the aesthetics of developments.”

One of the biodiversity initiatives being rolled out elsewhere, and already operational in Milan, are tree gardens. 

“We have created a beautiful green space where we've got a number of plants as well as trees that help us to filter the CO2 but also to capture and offset our own carbon. It creates a green space in an area that would otherwise be very barren and industrial.”

As well as this STACK’s beehives support local biodiversity while acting as a reminder of how essential they are to supporting the world as we know it.

Promoting clean transportation and playing a role in society

As well as using 100% renewable energy across MIL01 and its other campuses, STACK also promotes current and future clean transport options in the form of electric vehicle charging points for colleagues, clients and guests. In Milan, these charging facilities are adorned with EV panels which provide additional energy and reduce STACK’s reliance on the grid.

Community impact and respecting the local landscape is something Brown is particularly very passionate about, which she uses to accelerate STACK’s ESG plans. 

“We need to acknowledge our role that we play in society,” she stresses. “As with any industry. I think it’s important that we are putting people first, that we are enabling those societal benefits and that we're investing in the future of the digital economy.”

For example, in Milan, STACK partners and engages with a variety of schools to incorporate data centre knowledge into curriculums to plug the growing skills gap and open opportunities for the workforce of the future. Internships and apprenticeships are also on offer, which – along with signing legislation with the city of Milan on education – further formalises STACK’s commitment to technical education and local job creation. That continues into STACK’s workforce, where DE&I is being pushed across EMEA as well as globally. 

Partnerships and collaboration at core of STACK’s practices

As active members and signatories of various trade associations including the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, as well as the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centre Energy Efficiency, Brown acknowledges that the best way to work towards a more sustainable and conscious future is together. 

“The key thing here is that it’s important for us to not operate in a vacuum,” she stresses. “We cannot operate in a silo. And so it’s important that the initiatives that we are putting out there are actually aligned with industry-based practice.”

Displaying how MIL01 delivers unparalleled levels of efficiency and sustainability as STACK and the wider industry work toward a climate-positive future, SVP of Schneider Electric’s Secure Power Division Marc Garner works closely with STACK representatives in their endeavours. MIL01’s infrastructure is made up of Schneider Electric technology as well as that of its competitors.

Branding MIL01 a “fantastic facility”, Garner stresses the importance of collaboration industry-wide and beyond. “The importance of partnerships is that we continue to challenge each other to improve in terms of how we deliver, build, design, operate and maintain data centres going forward,” he champions. “We want to be challenged, we want to be asked to do things better — to deliver more, to deliver on our Scope 3 ambitions going forward in our sustainability pledges.

“Equally, we want to be able to challenge our customers. Can we do things differently? Can we bring new technology? That's the essence of partnership and how we move forward.”

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