How Microsoft is going green

Microsoft, with 70,000 employees spread out across the world, is deep into a corporate-wide evaluation of how it can become a more environmentally friendly corporation.

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"My role will be to provide more structure, guidance and assistance in helping people think through the problems and challenges and how to address those," Bernard says. He plans to start building out a staff in January to facilitate the mind-set shift. "The real scale comes when we take hundreds of employees and get them to work on the issues in the context of their jobs," he says.

Results are mounting

Microsoft is getting results already. A shuttle-bus service for employees launched in September at its Redmond headquarters takes 30,000 commuter miles off the road per day. More than 30% of Microsoft's workforce is in commuter programs or groups, according to the company.

A 2006 solar-power retrofit at its research centre in Mountain View, California, provides 15% of that building's energy needs and generates 400 kilowatts of power at peak capacity. Microsoft's Quincy, Washington, datacentre runs on hydro power and the facility's trucks on biodiesel. The Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher programme is turning out 5,000 refurbished machines for reuse per month.

Microsoft also is committing billions of dollars for new datacentres around the globe that, although they use a lot of energy, incorporate cutting-edge power efficiencies. New facilities are planned for Ireland and Russia's Siberia region, and ground was broken in 2007 for another in San Antonio, Texas.

The company, which will say only that it has between 10 and 100 datacentres, has used software to create a map of the world that aggregates 35 factors, such as power costs and climate, to determine the best places to build. The map is a living artefact that changes with world affairs, utility prices and other events.

The showcase

The showcase, however, may be in Northlake, Illinois, a 430,762 sq.-ft. energy-efficient building the company will move into in April 2008. It was built by Ascent to house multiple tenants, but Microsoft will lease the entire building to support datacentre operations for Windows Live, Hotmail and MSN Video.

While Microsoft will install its own green design inside the building, the structure itself has unique qualities.

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