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Colo. firm chosen for Wyoming NCAR supercomputer

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MEAD GRUVER | December 16, 2009 10:57 AM EST | AP


CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The National Center for Atmospheric Research has selected a Colorado company to work on a supercomputing facility west of Cheyenne and potentially become general contractor for the project.

Boulder, Colo.-based NCAR announced Monday it had awarded a $70,000 contract to review the project's final design to Denver-based Saunders Construction, Inc.

"They look at the drawings with us. They basically give us their assessment of the buildability, the constructability of the design," project director Krista Laursen said Tuesday.

The contract eventually could lead to Saunders being named general contractor, NCAR officials said.

The supercomputer within the 150,000-square-foot facility will be used to study climate change, air quality, severe weather and other atmospheric science topics. Construction is expected to begin next spring or summer and the facility is scheduled to open in 2011 or 2012.

The facility is expected to cost $66 million, not counting computing hardware. The project is being funded with $20 million from Wyoming state government and federal funds through the National Science Foundation.

Saunders was chosen after a three-month process in which NCAR winnowed the pool of candidates from about 30 to four, then one, Saunders said. A nonprofit run by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, NCAR took a "best value" approach in evaluating the candidates, Laursen said.

"That takes into account a number of criteria that we look at, which of course is going to include technical qualifications, their cost proposal, their experience," she said.

She declined to say whether Saunders submitted the lowest bid.

Saunders has been involved in several large construction projects, according to its Web site. They include a General Motors parts distribution center in Aurora, Colo.; a public safety center for Westminster, Colo.; and several school and college buildings including the Wolf Law Building at the University of Colorado.

The project is a partnership between NCAR, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, University of Wyoming, the state, the economic development group Cheyenne LEADS, Laramie County, Wyoming Business Council and Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power.