Improving data center design to protect vulnerable plant species, USA

Hexastylis naniflora photo by M Kunz, North Carolina Botanical Garden

Hexastylis naniflora photo by M Kunz, North Carolina Botanical Garden



Jeff Margolin

RHSP, Global Director of Data Center and Telecom Services
M: +1 770 235 8183

Environmental due diligence that catches issues early

During environmental due diligence activities that Ramboll was conducting on behalf of a hyperscale data center in the United States, the presence of a federally listed threatened plant was identified. 

The plant, dwarf-flowered heartleaf (Hexastylis naniflora), is known to be present only in a few locations in the Southeast US, specifically in the upper piedmont region of Western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. This species grows in narrow ravines or along the base of bluffs and hillsides that overlook bogs, marshes and small streams. 

Threats to vulnerable species

The greatest threat to dwarf-flowered heartleaf is conversion of habitat to agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial uses. In addition, habitat for this endangered species is often eliminated through the construction of reservoirs, which floods habitat. The potential planned construction of a large data center would seemingly increase the risk and further diminish the available suitable habitat for this plant.

Designing-in practices to protect habitat

Working with the client, state environmental agency and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Ramboll assisted in modifying the designed footprint of the data center and associated infrastructure, and developed construction management practices to protect the available habitat that supported dwarf-flowered heartleaf. 

Additionally, we created operational plans for the management of process and stormwater so that areas where the plant was known to be present would not be subject to fast-moving water or inundated. 

Data center online without delays, with protected habitat

These activities, in concert with US Fish & Wildlife Service studies and findings, led to an earlier-than-scheduled removal of the data center property from the required species monitoring plan. As a result, the data center project was completed and on-line without schedule delays, and the habitat for the dwarf-flowered heartleaf was protected.


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