In Pursuit Of New Efficiencies, Honda Drives Green IT Effort

The automaker's new $25 million, 62,000-square-foot data center is one of a handful in the United States that's certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

December 4, 2008

3 Min Read

Many business technology organizations are pursuing green computing, but what does that actually look like? At Honda's new data center in Longmont, Colo., it entails floors made of recycled concrete, office furniture crafted of reused steel and newsprint, low-flow automatic faucets, motion-sensor lights, energy-efficient servers, outside air for cooling, and an Energy Star-certified roof.

Honda isn't insulated from the economic pressures squeezing U.S. automakers; its U.S. sales fell 32% in November compared with a year ago. Honda's green IT push should lead to lower energy costs and other efficiencies, though the bigger impetus is a company-wide commitment to being environmentally friendly, says Jennifer Sepull, CIO of American Honda.

Honda's 61,000-square-foot data center, which opened in October, is one of a handful of U.S. data centers certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system for green building construction. Honda spent more than $25 million on the data center, a price that included a premium for its green design. Because the facility is only 2 months old, Sepull declined to estimate just how much Honda stands to save in energy costs.

Honda selected building materials based on proximity to the data center's location and materials that were produced in an "environmentally responsible manner," Sepull says. And it recycled 73% of the construction waste associated with the project. The company left much of the site undeveloped and replanted trees and shrubs indigenous to the area.

Data center administrators were trained in how to be more energy efficient. For example, they were advised to decommission unused equipment quickly and to use management tools to ensure that servers are optimally provisioned. Honda has found that energy-monitoring tools aren't up to snuff and that the data they generate needs to be more comprehensive. "They're just coming on the market," Sepull says. "We monitor electricity, but monitoring will get more advanced to give us better day-to-day awareness."

The data center is just one example of a broader push. Like other companies, Honda is using videoconferencing in lieu of air travel when possible. The conference room used by its IT department has two flat-screen monitors. Just last week, Sepull avoided a trip to Japan thanks to the setup.

CIO Sepull is rallying the troops

The company recycles everything from old computers to server racks to batteries and overhead projectors; employees lugged in 9 tons of equipment last year from their homes and offices.

It's saving on paper and ink, too. Within the last few months, Honda set defaults to black-and-white and double-sided printing everywhere in the company. That step alone is saving tens of thousands of dollars.

During a town hall meeting last year, Sepull gave her troops a call to action. Soon after, an employee-led "official green club" sprouted to brainstorm and bring in outside speakers to talk about green IT.

Honda's now considering eliminating screen savers in favor of having monitors turn off. It's also looking at desktop virtualization. Consolidation of systems continues, as does an increase in shared services among the company's regional and global divisions.

The drive toward energy efficiency will continue and, along with technologies like demand planning software, will help Honda keep moving forward in a tough economy. Says Sepull, "There's no complacency."

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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