Fannie Mae is energy efficient, secure

This is the main entrance to the Fannie Mae data center in Urbana.

Security is a major issue Fannie Mae takes seriously.

The Federal National Mortgage Association also takes energy efficiency seriously and its data center in Urbana has been awarded Bronze Status by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certification is based on the extensive efforts at the $100 million, 250,000 square-foot center -- from water recycling to use of natural lighting and control of emissions from backup generators.

During a tour, Bob Haggerty, director of facilities for Fannie Mae, explained the aspects of the building and grounds.

Since it opened in June 2005, the center has saved $1.7 million in energy costs, a 35 percent reduction for the estimated costs without the efficiency design.

"It is the nation's first LEED certified data center," Haggerty said. About 250 information technology professionals work at the center, which has 40,000 square feet of what Haggerty calls "raised floor" area ----computers and related equipment ----to keep track of more than $1 trillion in mortgage assets.

"This is a Tier 4 data center," Haggerty said, explaining that it meant there was the maximum backup in systems for power. The center is designed to provide a 20-minute immediate backup in the case of a power outage or other problem, and then long-range backup for the entire building.

That includes six generators that put out 2 megawatts of power each. Three would be activated in case of a power need, the other three are backups.

"We have room for buildout," Haggerty said of the building, that would include an additional 20,000 square feet of IT equipment and more personnel. If that happened, four more generators would be added ----two for immediate use, two for backup.

The center has two, 30,000-gallon diesel fuel containers for the generators. A catalyst removes nearly all of the emissions from the generators before it gets into the air.

"This facility is designed like a Department of Defense center," Haggerty said. "It is built to be safe against natural or man-made disasters."

Much of the operation is automated, Haggerty said. "It can almost run itself."

An irrigation storage tank will hold some of the thousands of gallons of water used per day to cool the center. Computers and other equipment create an extensive amount of heat, which is cooled through a chilled system of water.

That water is constantly recycled, but some of the water gets to the point it can't be filtered again.

Then the water goes to the storage tank, where it is used to irrigate the landscaping. Haggerty said some stormwater is captured to be used for irrigation.

The landscaping itself was designed to not only use certain local plants that use less water, but also trees for shade and provide green space. Haggerty said Fannie Mae allows a local youth sports group to use a large area on its land for games.

Area contractors and materials were used in the construction of the building, Haggerty said, describing the center as "purpose built" for information technology and security.

"When Hurricane Isabel hit, the Fannie Mae headquarters couldn't get water because the D.C. water system was knocked out," Haggerty said of the main office on Wisconsin Avenue. He said the issue of water is often underestimated by those who don't know about operations.

The center has bike racks and showers for those who choose to cycle to work, and there are electric charging stations in the parking area.

"We haven't had any electric cars use them yet, but they are there for the future," Haggerty said.

Even during construction, the environment was kept in mind. Haggerty said 80 percent of the construction material left over was recycled.

The center has its own electric substation and its own weather station.

"We use Weather Bug Professional as well," Haggerty said during the tour, "but we want to keep on top of it. If there is a lot of storm or lightning activity in the area, we will turn on the generators ahead of time to ensure everything keeps going."

For reasons of security, Fannie Mae has its headquarters, the data center and its financial center in Reston, Va., about 30 miles apart from each other. Besides exterior and interior security systems, personnel are only allowed to go into areas where they work using security cards.

Fannie Mae, established in 1938 as a federal agency and in 1968 chartered as a private company, works with mortgage bankers, brokers and others in the mortgage field to ensure there are funds to lend to homebuyers. Last year, the U.S. Department of Treasury signed an agreement with Fannie Mae to provide capital to ensure stability in the housing and mortgage markets.

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