Illinois breaks ground on new Petascale Computing Facility

11.25.08 -

Heavy machinery clanged and dust swirled as the University of Illinois held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $72.5 million Illinois Petascale Computing Facility on Nov. 5, 2008. Work on the 88,000-square-foot building that will house the Blue Waters sustained-petaflop supercomputer is already under way at the corner of Oak Street and St. Mary's Road in Champaign. (Watch its construction with our live webcam.)

Speaking at the event were University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence Eppley, University of Illinois President B. Joseph White, Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Richard Herman, Vice Chancellor for Research Ravi Iyer, Provost Linda Katehi, and IBM executive Connie Shoemake. Video of their remarks is available online.

When Blue Waters comes online in 2011, it will enable scientists across the United States to make extraordinary leaps in knowledge and discovery: predicting the structure of complex biological systems, designing new materials atom by atom, predicting climate and ecosystem changes, and improving intricate engineered systems such airplanes. Project partners are the University of Illinois and its National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), IBM, and the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation. The project is supported by a $208 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The state-of-the-art Petascale Computing Facility, scheduled for completion in 2010, will house Blue Waters and other NCSA infrastructure in its 20,000-square-foot machine room and will provide space for about 40 technical staff. The facility will combine top-flight physical and cybersecurity with the open, collaborative research attitudes of a public institution.

Energy efficiency is an integral part of the project; because the Blue Waters system will be directly cooled by water, rather than air, IBM estimates a 40 percent reduction in energy consumption. The PCF will achieve LEED Silver or Gold certification, a measure of green building practices, and the facility will take advantage of an on-site water, further reducing power use by using nature's cooling power during the cold winter months.

EYP Mission Critical Facilities (EYP MCF) and Gensler are the PCF engineering and architectural firms. Clayco/Nova is the construction manager.

Media coverage of the Petascale Computing Facility:

National Science Foundation

Blue Waters is supported by the National Science Foundation through awards OCI-0725070 and ACI-1238993.