Information communication technology (ICT) offers the chance of enhancing the efficiency of public services and economic processes. The use of server-based computing is supposed to reduce the energy and material consumption in ICT services. This hypothesis will be investigated and quantified looking at the whole life cycle of the products. In this paper, server-based computing in combination with thin clients (SBCTC) is compared to a typical desktop PC (DPC) workplace over a time period of 5 years.
Materials and methods
The LCA method used in this paper is focused on the impact category of global warming potential. The calculations were performed using the Microsoft® Excel-based methodology for ecodesign of energy-related products tool. This tool includes the requirements of energy-related products (Directive 2009/125/EC). Moreover, an input-orientated method—material input per service unit (MIPS)—is applied which allows for an additional comparison between the two ICT solutions.
Results and discussion
Electricity consumption could be identified as a crucial environmental impact factor of DPC and SBCTC with both methods. Depending on the user behavior, more than 200 kg CO2e can be saved by switching from DPC to SBCTC. Over 80 kg CO2e can be saved in the material and extraction life cycle stage. The largest savings are achieved in the material category electronics (about 70 kg CO2e). A correlation analysis between the results of global warming potential (GWP) and the MIPS category “air” shows that both indicators GWP and air lead to the same conclusions when evaluating life cycle stages and ICT material categories.
Taking into account all assumptions made in this paper, SBCTC saves more than 65 % of greenhouse gas emissions compared to DPC during the entire life cycle. To ensure further profound comparisons of the ICT solutions, current data on the energy demand and detailed information on the composition of the IT products should be made available by industry.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Andrae ASG (2011) European LCA Standardisation of ICT: Equipment, Networks, and Services, Towards Life Cycle Sustainability Management, 2011, Part 8
Andrae ASG, Andersen O (2011) Life cycle assessment of integrated circuit packaging technologies. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16(3):258–267
Andrae ASG, Anderson O (2010) Life cycle assessments of consumer electronics—are they consistent? Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:827–836
Andrae ASG, Moller P, Anderson J, Liu J (2004) Uncertainty estimation by Monte Carlo simulation applied to life cycle inventory of cordless phones and microscale metallization processes. IEEE Trans Electron Packag Manuf 27(4):233–245
BMU (2012) Langfristszenarien und Strategien für den Ausbau der erneuerbaren Energien in Deutschland bei Berücksichtigung der Entwicklung in Europa und global, Schlussbericht BMU-FKZ 03MAP146, Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (BMU), Berlin
Directive 2009/125/EC of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products (Ecodesign directive)
Ecoinvent database (2008) Name in db: desktop computer, without screen, at plant/GLO U
ETSI (2011) ETSI TS 103 199, V1.1.1 (2011–11) Environmental Engineering (EE); Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of ICT equipment, networks and services; General methodology and common requirements, European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)
EU (2011) Methodology for ecodesign of energy-related products MEErP 2011: final report. Delft, Brussels
Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT (2011) Thin Clients 2011—ecological and economical aspects of virtual desktops, Oberhausen
Gartner (2007) Press releases. Gartner estimates ICT industry accounts for 2 percent of global CO2 emissions. http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=503867. Accessed 21 Dec 2010
Global Action Plan (2007) An inefficient truth—report December 2007, London
Hertwich EG, Roux C (2011) Greenhouse gas emissions from the consumption of electric and electronic equipment by Norwegian households. Environ Sci Technol 45(19):8190–8196
IPCC (2007) Fourth assessment report: Climate Change 2007, Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC)
IVF, Industrial Research and Development Corporation (ed) (2007) Lot 3 Personal Computers (desktops and laptops) and computer monitors—final report (task 1–8)
Joint Research Centre (JRC) (2010) EU Commission, International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD): analysis of existing environmental impact assessment methodologies for use in Life Cycle Assessment, Ispra
Kristof K, Hennicke P (2010) Endbericht des Projekts “Materialeffizienz und Ressourcenschonung“(MaRess). Wuppertal, Germany
Lüke D (2007) Energie effizient nutzen–Zentrales Power-Management für Client-Bestände« in: LANline Sonderveröffentlichung “Green IT”. November 2007, Konradin IT-Verlag GmbH, Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany
Murugesan S (2008) Harnessing green IT: principles and practices. IT Prof 10:1
Ritthoff M, Rohn H, Liedke C (2003) Calculating MIPS—resource productivity of products and services. Wuppertal, Germany
Ruth S (2009) Green IT more than a three percent solution? Internet Comput 13(4):74–78
Schmidt-Bleek F (1994) Wieviel Umwelt braucht der Mensch? MIPS—das Maß für ökologisches Wirtschaften. Berlin, pp 302
Schmidt-Bleek F (1998a) Das MIPS-Konzept: weniger Naturverbrauch—mehr Lebensqualitat durch Faktor 10. Droemersche Verlaganstaltm Munich, pp 320
Schmidt-Bleek F, Bringezu S, Hinterberger F, Liedtke C, Spannenberg J, Stiller H, Welfens MJ (1998) MAIA Einführung in die Material-Intensitäts-Analyse nach dem MIPS-Konzept, Berlin
Sinivuori P, Saari A (2006) MIPS analysis of natural resource consumption in two university buildings. Build Environ 41(5):657–668
Stutz M (2011) Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) Assessment of a Dell OptiPlex 780 Desktop—results and recommendations. In: Finkbeiner M (2011) Towards life cycle sustainability management. Heidelberg, London, New York
Teehan P, Kandlikar M (2012) Sources of variation in life cycle assessments of desktop computers. J Ind Ecology 16:182–194
The Climate Group (2008) SMART 2020: enabling the low carbon economy in the information age, paper presented at the Global Sustainability Initiative, Brussels
Volchkov A (2002) Server-based computing opportunities. IT Prof 4(2):18–23
Weber CL (2012) Uncertainty and variability in product carbon footprinting. J Ind Ecology 16(2):203–211
Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (2003) Material intensity of materials, fuels, transport services, version 2
The authors would like to thank the team of the material efficiency and resource conservation (MaRess) project (Kristof and Hennicke 2010). Their support was extremely helpful for the calculation of the MIPS values. Other important tools were the MEErP calculation sheet and data of the thin clients which were provided by Igel Technology.
Responsible editor: Michael Z. Hauschild
About this article
Cite this article
Maga, D., Hiebel, M. & Knermann, C. Comparison of two ICT solutions: desktop PC versus thin client computing. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18, 861–871 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0499-3
- Environmental assessment
- Thin client