HLRS Recertified for Environmental Management

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HLRS successfully completed a comprehensive audit of its environmental management plan and activities.

Reflecting its continuing efforts to maximize energy efficiency and environmental performance, the center’s certification under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) has been renewed.

In 2020 the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) became the first supercomputing center to be certified under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). Developed by the European Union, EMAS is the most demanding environmental management framework worldwide, specifying strict standards and requiring continual efforts to reduce environmental impacts. HLRS’s initial certification reflected its implementation of a comprehensive environmental management plan that is now used to guide its activities — from the operation of its supercomputer and cooling systems, to supply chain management and waste management, to preservation of species diversity on its campus, and more.

One requirement of EMAS certification is a commitment not just to fulfill legal requirements, but also to strive continually for improvement in environmental performance. To verify this, HLRS undergoes annual environmental audits and completes a more extensive recertification process every three years. Following a successful, comprehensive review by an external environmental auditor, HLRS has now received recertification under the EMAS framework.

HLRS’s EMAS recertification is complemented by other environmental certifications including the Blue Angel Ecolabel, and the international standards ISO 14001 (environmental management) and ISO 50001 (energy management).

“HLRS has been a leader among supercomputing centers in implementing a comprehensive environmental management system,” said Prof. Dr. Michael Resch, Director of HLRS. “This recertification is a sign of how seriously we take our environmental responsibility as well as the importance of improving energy efficiency in the IT sector. This issue is relevant not only for achieving carbon neutrality but also with respect to stresses Germany is currently facing in its energy supply.”

Strategies for new gains in environmental performance

Since its initial EMAS certification in 2020, HLRS has undertaken a number of new projects focused on improving its own operations and sharing its knowledge with the wider community to enable additional sustainability gains.

Research projects launched since 2021, for example, have been focusing on strategies for increasing energy efficiency. In ENRICH, HLRS and collaborators are investigating energy consumption in software, strategies for optimizing the performance of software on high-performance computing systems, and opportunities for saving energy through the use of intelligent networks. The project is also developing a digital atlas of the state of Baden-Württemberg to predict the growth of its IT sector and identify opportunities for improved energy efficiency more broadly.

Another project called DEGREE is testing a new approach developed jointly by HLRS and the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Building Energetics, Thermotechnology and Energy Storage that dynamically controls cooling circuit temperatures for its supercomputers based on the temperature outside the building. The goal is to continuously adjust temperatures within the cooling system to optimize the use of energy efficient free cooling, while at the same time ensuring that computing system performance and durability is not reduced by the higher operating temperatures. The project also plans to publish guidelines that result from its findings to support other data centers interested in reducing their energy demand.

In addition, HLRS recently began working in a more focused way with local cities and municipalities to understand how high-performance computing tools and methods could support more sustainable city planning and energy transformation at the local level. This has included organizing and participating in public events for representatives of local governments, city planners, and the public focusing on the use of urban digital twins. In a new University of Stuttgart Research Initiative called DiTEnS, HLRS will also use digital twins to facilitate informed, productive dialogue among stakeholders within local communities in the decision making processes needed to make energy and heating infrastructures more sustainable.

As HLRS looks to the future, energy efficiency and other sustainability concerns are also central to its ongoing development. With the next EMAS recertification audit scheduled for 2025 and a new supercomputer and building due to be completed in 2026, sustainability and environmental certification of its systems, facilities, and operations have been integral in all planning discussions. This includes plans for using the heat generated by the center’s supercomputer to warm other buildings on the University of Stuttgart campus.

Christopher Williams

Learn more

Click here to learn more about sustainability at HLRS.