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Sustainable Design for the Environment Part 2

By BECKY MORONES posted Mon April 24, 2023 12:46 PM


The goal of IBM’s 4th Design for the Environment is to develop products that minimize resource use and environmental impact by selecting preferred materials and finishes. In sustainability terms, this is all about dematerialization (reducing the number of raw materials).

4.      Develop products that minimize resource use and environmental impacts by selecting environmentally preferred materials and finishes.

IBM does this reduction of materials in various aspects of our hardware, including how we package and ship our hardware. For over 40 years, IBM has voluntarily prohibited or restricted substances of concern even before regulations require it. IBM has also taken a precautionary approach to ensure the materials we select and allow in our hardware are safe for use and have the least environmental impact. The Product Environmental Profile group controls this through IBM Environmental Deliverables specifications for our suppliers and are integrated into our Environmental Management System. Our suppliers' documentation allows us to monitor substances used within our research, development, manufacturing, and products. IBM has a robust process in place before the use of new chemicals or materials.

Since the 1980s, IBM has focused on our packaging. IBM has incorporated this design of dematerialization in our crates and pallets. The pallet IBM uses for Power, Storage and Flash Systems is a patented Hybrid pallet which has been shipping since 2018. This pallet has reduced 250 metric tons of wood waste annually by replacing the top deck with lightweight paper material. IBM System Z crate can be reused up to five times to ship a system, and this crate was designed with less wood reducing weight by 27%. This reduction in weight helps lower the carbon emission from shipping. When a product is shipped, the carbon emissions is based on the weight of the product. Reducing the overall weight of the crate creates a reduction in carbon emissions. IBM is dedicated to dematerialization of our products and their packaging. 

The fifth goal of Design for the Environment is to develop and manufacture economically and technically viable products that use recycled or renewable materials.

Develop and manufacture products that use recycled or renewable materials where they are economically and technically justifiable.

Various recycled materials are referred to as post-consumer recycled resins. These materials are recycled from everyday plastic items and blended with virgin materials to form a new polymer molding. These resins fill various applications within our hardware, such as bezels, hooks, and latches. IBM hardware development has a self-imposed 30% PCR content criteria while maintaining reliability over the product's life. This means our bezels, latches, and other plastic piece have up to 30% PCR content where feasible. To decrease virgin raw materials, IBM strives to incorporate these resins into our product.  This makes this not just a recyclability design but a dematerialization as well. One notable example of the use of recyclability is IBM’s Z mainframe door. This door was designed to increase airflow for cooling and reduce noise. The door has a multi-layered aluminum system (easily recycled) and acoustic foam shapes. The acoustic foam since 2017 has had 10% renewable content in its design. IBM is continually identifying and testing new materials to increase PCR content and renewable content in our products and parts. 

The sixth Design for the Environment goal is all about Energy Efficiency.

6.      Develop products that are energy efficient.

When IBM is designing our next generation of products, they are being developed to improve the computing power delivered for each kilowatt hour of electricity consumed. This means the new systems can do more with less energy. IBM Power 10 processor delivers up to three times the capacity and energy efficiency improvement within the power envelope as the Power 9. This makes Power 10 a greater performer. When comparing our new Z16 to our Z14, it uses 18% less power.

IBM has been a charter member of EPA’s Energy Star program since 1992 and helped develop the first criteria. IBM has six Power 9-based servers certified to Energy Star, six storage products certified to energy star and IBM just got certification on four Power 10 servers.

Not only does IBM get Energy Star-certified hardware, but IBM also ensures its power supplies for its hardware are 80 Plus Certified. This 80-plus ecolabel incorporates high-efficiency power supplies into our Power and Storage brand products. Since 2018, IBM Storage Systems have included Platinum-certified power supplies. Since 2020, IBM Power Systems has incorporated Titanium certified power supplies.

IBM’s commitment to helping our clients get better energy efficiency is also done using IBM Energy Estimators. These energy estimators are web-based tools which calculate the energy consumed and the cooling requirements. This will estimate the typical power requirements for a specific configuration at a user-defined utilization and idle. Clients can use these estimators to assist them in understating electricity usage at their configuration.

As one can see, IBM’s Design for the Environment is a sustainable design program to which IBM has been committed since 1991. This is something to be proud of as IBMers since we have been doing this before it was the green thing to do.