Shrinking the tech footprint

A team collaboration to rework the City of Asheville’s Information Technology Services Department has resulted in a dramatic 75 percent cut to the department’s energy consumption and won the city accolades on a national level.

The energy reduction initiative, undertaken over the course of a year, earned the City of Asheville a Technology Solution award from the Public Technology Institute in the “sustainability” category. IT director Jonathan Feldman and a team of City of Asheville employees from across several departments presented the award to Asheville City Council at its August 14 meeting.

“This would not have been possible without Council’s vision, the work done by our sustainability office, and the help provided by Finance,” Feldman said.

Technological advances in data management like cloud computing and virtualization allowed the IT Services to cut the size of its in-house data center in half. That means the center uses less electricity, generates less heat, and requires much less air conditioning. Heat dissipation was reduced by 26,581BTU’s an hour, an overall drop of approximately 50%, and power consumption dropped by 68,010 kilowatt hours per year, enough energy to power five homes for a year.

The department also customized office computers to the needs of employees, which often meant PCs could be replaced with lower-power units. Without affecting customer service, the move brought a drop of 19,030 kilowatt hours per year and reduction of $108,000 to workstation costs over their lifecycle.

In total, says the city’s sustainability programs manager Maggie Ullman, the overhaul amounts to a big stride in impacting the city’s carbon footprint.

“This is equivalent to the carbon sequestration of 1,359 trees. Next time you look at our mountains try counting that many trees,” Ullman said. “This project has real tangible impact on our community’s carbon footprint and demonstrates national innovation in local government sustainability.”

Asheville City Council has named both energy reduction and fiscal responsibility as strategic goals for the city, and departments throughout the organization strive to uphold those goals while maintaining customer service.