Blue Waters Data Center Achieves LEED Gold

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An exterior view of the National Petascale Computing Facility where the Blue Waters Supercomputer will reside.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) announced that the National Petascale Computing Facility (NPCF) at the University of Illinois has been earned a Gold-level certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating program for energy-efficient buildings.

Blue Waters

Constructed in 2010 the University of Illinois and NCSA opened the NPCF data center as the home to supercomputers and other high-performance systems operated by NCSA and used by scientists and engineers across the country. The Blue Waters project encompassed the NPCF and a 10 petaflop supercomputer, which was initially a venture with IBM. In 2011 NCSA and IBM determined that the project was too complex to proceed. IBM pulled the plug and NCSA later awarded they contract to Cray to build a XE6 system.

The features of the NPCF data center that led to a LEED Gold certification include a 480V power distribution system for computating equipment, a focus on water-cooled computational and storage equipment, external cooling towers for free cooling, low-impact landscaping with native prairie plants and using best practice construction methods to improve the air quality environment within the facility.

LEED Gold was the target established back in 2010 by the University of Illinois, along with a pledge to take steps toward carbon neutrality, reduced energy use and overall improved sustainability in the future. The NPCF receives chilled water from the University chiller plant and also has outside thermal storage tanks that are cooled approximately 70 percent of the year by mother nature. This is expected to cut the chilled water costs for the facility by about $1 million per year.

About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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