Forget about having your own printer, coffee pot or a mini-refrigerator in your office. Heck, you can forget about having your own office, too, because you’ll probably get assigned a modular desk in a big, open space.

That’s what it’s like to work in a green data centre. IT workers are finding that they have to make sacrifices for the greater good of cutting back on energy usage in these facilities.

Operators of the nation’s greenest data centres say it takes time for employees to get used to working in environmentally friendly ways.

"It takes a lot of marketing and education" to get employees used to working in a green building, says Chris Long, director of health, safety and sustainable development at the Environmental Protection Agency’s facility in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

"We have a very highly educated workforce, and what we found is that when people do have the data, it makes a difference," Long says. "They find out that it makes a difference if they turn off their computer screen when they are out of the office. Some of us even have motion strips that turn off our computers when we leave the room."

Most green buildings don’t look like typical office buildings. They often have stark, modernistic designs and are made of Space Age materials.

That’s what employees discovered at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md., which opened in June. NSOF recently earned a coveted gold certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

"There’s not a lot of color in the finish of the building. We asked the architect to give us a high-tech feel, and it feels very industrial. But employees would like more color," says Paul Pegnato, project manager for NSOF.

NSOF is unusual because it has a "green" roof, with soil and plantings on top of the building. Most green buildings have drought-resistant plants rather than a conventional lawn.

"Our landscaping is 80 to 90 percent natural wildflowers and native plantings. People don’t drive up and see this beautiful green lawn that’s associated with an office building," Pegnato says. "But by using natural plantings, we’re able to reduce fertilisers running off into the Chesapeake Bay. And we’re reducing the amount of mowing required, which reduces noise pollution and fuel usage."

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