First Place: NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center Recognized for Outstanding Design Implementation

International recognition lauds sustainable design and implementation

April 3, 2013

News Release


BOULDER—The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has taken top honors in the prestigious 2013 Green Enterprise IT (GEIT) Awards.

The center’s NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center won first place in the “Facility Design Implementation” category for its sustainable approach in designing and building the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC).

The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which opened last year, has received international recognition for its sustainable approach. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

The closely watched GEIT Awards, bestowed by the Uptime Institute, showcase organizations for pioneering projects and innovations that significantly improve energy productivity and resource use in information technology. The Facility Design Implementation Award recognizes cutting-edge data center projects that demonstrate energy and resource efficiency in a new, operational data center.

“We are honored and pleased to receive this recognition for the NWSC,” says Aaron Andersen, Deputy Director of Operations & Services at NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory. “Nearly 10 years of planning and hard work went into designing this facility to be as sustainable as possible, and it is gratifying to have the facility in production use and be able to share what we’ve done. We hope this facility advances the entire industry.”

“Our goal is to meet the highest standards possible for sustainability in supercomputing while advancing scientific knowledge,” says Thomas Bogdan, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF). “The GEIT Award suggests we’re on the right track, and we are deeply gratified by this international recognition.”

H+L Architecture and the engineering firm RMH Group shared the award with NCAR for their role in the design of the facility and its systems.

Construction of the NWSC was made possible by the sponsorship of NSF and a unique collaborative partnership between local, state, and federal government entities and private industry to provide project funding and governance. The NWSC is operated by NCAR on behalf of NSF and UCAR.

“The State of Wyoming is proud to be a partner in this supercomputing facility,” says Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead. “The designers did an excellent job putting to work Wyoming’s natural advantages for data centers, and I join in congratulating them on this award.”

interior NWSC
The NWSC's complex mechanical systems were designed with performance, flexibility, and energy efficiency in mind.  (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

“My congratulations to the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center for its international recognition as a world-class facility,” says Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia M. Lummis, a long-time supporter of the center. “NWSC's design capitalizes on Wyoming's climate and availability of renewable resources while also incorporating other best practices to achieve an energy efficient and sustainable facility. Considering the leading computational research conducted at the NWSC, it seems only fitting that the facility housing this research be recognized for its key role in enabling advancements in the field of supercomputing.”

The NWSC, which is home to one of the most powerful supercomputers dedicated to Earth system science, also achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification from the US Green Building Council last year. LEED certification depends on a number of sustainable criteria, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and the use of recycled or locally sourced construction materials.

“Our organization set out to build a world-class data center for scientific computing that would raise the bar in sustainability, longevity, and manageability,” says NCAR interim director Maura Hagan. “Today we are excited to be advancing science through supercomputing from a facility that is living up to those goals.”

The 2013 GEIT Awards are sponsored by Sabey Data Centers. Entries were thoroughly reviewed by an international committee of independent judges following a double-blind process.

NCAR will receive the award at the eighth annual Uptime Institute Symposium in Santa Clara, California, in May. As part of the symposium’s agenda, NCAR and a portion of the design team will present a case study about the NWSC to the event audience.

NWSC Design Highlights

Sustainable materials: During construction, more than 70% of construction waste was diverted from landfills and used for recycling. The building itself is made with over 510 tons of recycled concrete, 60 tons of recycled wood, and 26 tons of recycled metal.

Water: The ultra-efficient cooling tower configuration as well as use of native species for landscaping enables water savings of up to 6 million gallons per year.

Infrastructure and Space Use: The center's super-efficient use of energy means that the mechanical systems, electrical systems, and office space expend less than 10% of the total power consumption.

Heating: Waste heat from the supercomputer is captured and reused to heat the building and melt snow and ice on exterior walkways and loading docks.

Cooling: During design, project planners estimated that Wyoming’s cool, dry climate would allow natural cooling of the facility for 96% of the year. Early experience with the facility indicates that 98% to 99% is achievable.

Power: Renewable wind energy provides direct power to the facility, starting at 10% of supply with the ability to raise that percentage as conditions permit.

Flexibility and Longevity: The design of the NWSC includes “future proofing” to anticipate adaptation to evolving technologies and deployment of future supercomputing systems yet to be developed. The design is also highly modular, allowing critical power and cooling components to be provisioned only when needed. This enhanced flexibility helps minimize capital expenditures by providing only what is needed when it is needed.

Combining all of these factors, the NWSC not only minimizes the environmental footprint but also directs operating funds toward productive scientific work while reducing overhead expenses.

About Uptime Institute

Uptime Institute provides independent thought leadership, certification, education, and professional services for the global digital infrastructure industry. It serves all industry stakeholders, including enterprise and third-party data center owners and operators, manufacturers, service providers, and engineers. Through Uptime Institute Professional Services, Uptime Institute delivers due diligence assessments and certifications of site infrastructure and site management in accordance with the Tier and Operational Sustainability Standards.

Uptime Institute is a division of The 451 Group.  Headquartered in New York, The 451 Group also owns 451 Research, a leading technology-industry syndicated research and data service focused on the business of enterprise IT innovation, and Yankee Group, the preeminent research and advisory firm equipping companies to profit in a mobile world.


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The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.