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Megha Nagendra Wells

Technical Director - Information Management

Freezing the risk: The importance of information management in Antarctic construction


At last year’s Digital Construction Week show in London, Megha Nagendra Wells from our Special Interest Projects team (Energy, Water and Environment) shared the stage with BAM Nuttall’s Scott McLean to demonstrate the huge criticality of efficient, end-to-end, information management on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme. Here, the pair provide a ‘digest’ of their fascinating session, and reflect on the role a circular data flow plays in keeping some of the most remote construction projects on the planet moving.


About the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP)

The AIMP is a long-term investment programme that has already delivered a new polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, an upgrade of the wharves at Rothera Research Station and King Edward Point, and upgraded facilities at Bird Island in South Georgia.

Future projects include upgrading the Runway, transition to renewable technologies and upgrade the Hangar. The AIMP is delivered by the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation partnership, which includes construction partner BAM and their team, design consultants Sweco and Hugh Broughton Architects, providing delivery design. Ramboll is acting as the British Antarctic Surveys’ (BAS) Technical Advisors, with architects NORR providing concept design and Turner & Townsend providing cost management. The Framework is expected to continue into the 2030s.

Managing information in one of the most remote parts of the planet

There are many and varied challenges with constructing in Antarctica – the primary risks being environmental standards surrounding the pristine environment, the location and the logistics of getting both people and equipment to site, ongoing Science experiments, and the challenging weather.

Antarctica is an untouched wilderness that has a very delicate eco-system, as such all who travel must ensure they do not bring non-native species to Antarctica. In order to construct, BAM have construction seasons between November and May to make the most of the better weather. Equipment and materials are shipped by Vessel from the UK, which provides another deadline for deciding and purchasing equipment and materials or they may just miss the boat.

Strict information management assists to ensure that the project is delivered in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner. The Wharf achieved the first sustainability CEEQUAL award in Antarctica, for sustainable construction projects, and an ‘Excellent’ rating by BREEAM.

The collaboration between task teams, driven by information management, ensures that a structured approach to managing environmental information, meeting environmental performance requirements, ensuring all materials meets the strict Environmental Requirements, and consistent environmental reporting from site is being met. This enables the project team to take a proactive approach to sustainability, ensuring that the project is delivered in a way that is environmentally responsible and sustainable for the lifetime of the asset.

By planning information delivery, and working closely with the Designer and supply chain in the projects, safety risks were reduced, if not eliminated. This came primarily from receiving drawings and engaging suppliers to pre-fabricate items where possible, over 70% of the Discovery Building MEP is prefabricated. The construction models and constant collaboration between suppliers allowed for constructability sessions to take place, between all parties on station, in order to understand the interfaces on station and help create a robust Construction Programme by those undertaking the work in Rothera.

This information being provided at the correct time, allows for clear communication with BAS and the scientists on station to enable a Construction Programme to avoid excess interference with the science and Air Operations at Rothera.

Extreme weather conditions in Rothera can have a significant impact on the construction process. With temperatures that can drop to -20°C or lower, and with the possibility of strong winds and blizzards, it is essential that all aspects of the construction process are carefully planned and managed. Working collaboratively with all task teams assists in the management and delivery of information related to health and safety, including risk assessments, method statements, and safety plans. This allows time to review and ensure the correct procedures and equipment are in place, and capture any training required prior to departure to station.

Finally, it is essential that the building and its systems are fully commissioned and tested before they are handed over to the end user. Working collaboratively with both BAS, G & A Barnies, and Sweco, the development of commissioning plans, the management of testing and validation, and the preparation of operation and maintenance manuals has been a great success. By working closely with the client, and their Facilities Management team the Delivery Team can ensure that the completed projects are is fully functional and operational, which helps to minimise the risk of issues and ensure a smooth transition at handover.

The Mindset Reset: Achieving a circular data flow

Understanding the Asset Information Requirements from BAS was, and is, the result of strong ‘collaboration in the round’ and knowledge sharing. By understanding BAS’s strategic and operational objectives, the information requirements for all projects could be distilled into clear and precise requirements.

The key benefit of the information management guidance and strategy has been the collaboration between all the AIMP Partners ensuring that all information is being shared, in a useable format with the right people at the right time.

Working closely with the Facilities Management and Estates team, gaining an understanding of the Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) System became easier. This also helped ensure that the data and information being produced by BAM and Sweco would be utilised by BAS going forward, and did not contain excess or unwanted data and information.

In conclusion, Sweco’s IM support has allowed BAM to utilise both PAS1192 and ISO19650 standards to enable successful delivery and handover of construction projects at Rothera Research Station. The coming together to work as one Delivery Team, and not as individual companies, has yielded incredible benefits in the overall Information Management journey of construction in the Antarctic.