Big iron meets green design in Wyoming

23 September 2009  •  NCAR scientists and collaborators may be crunching code by 2011 in one of the greenest computing facilities ever built. Preliminary design concepts unveiled in August gave planners at NCAR and NSF their first looks at the proposed interior and exterior of the new supercomputing center in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Pending approval from NSF, groundbreaking on the new facility is planned for the spring of 2010.

Researchers at NCAR and universities have made use of supercomputers housed in the Mesa Laboratory’s computing center for more than 30 years. That facility is now coming up against constraints in space and power supply, as global models become more sophisticated—integrating more parts of the Earth system and increasing in resolution—and more powerful machines come on board. The Wyoming facility is meant to accommodate these growing demands, incorporating a modular design that will allow for future expansion and upgrades.


“Our goal is to build a world-class scientific supercomputing facility that does not compromise on energy efficiency or sustainability and that is adaptable to the ever changing landscape of high performance computing,” says Krista Laursen, who manages the project for NCAR.

Other priorities in the facility’s design include the use of natural landscaping and materials, a visitor area, a minimum of LEED Gold certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, and power derived from renewable sources as budgets and circumstances permit. The center’s 14,000 square meters (150,000 square feet) will include a data floor spanning 2,200 square meters (24,000 square feet). While several dozen NCAR staff will work permanently at the Cheyenne facility, most parts of the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory are expected to remain in Boulder.