Construction Season Starts at UK’s Largest Antarctic Research Hub

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Construction Season Starts at UK’s Largest Antarctic Research Hub

13 January 2021
The next stage of building a scientific support facility in Antarctica began this week. To avoid the risk of introducing COVID-19 to British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station, the construction team spent two weeks in quarantine and had three Covid-19 tests prior to making the almost 11,000 kilometre voyage by ship.

A 20 person-plus team from BAS construction partners BAM, Ramboll and Sweco is working on the second season of building the cutting-edge science and operations building. Construction can only take place during a short window during the Antarctic summer months, avoiding the harsh, dark winter. This season the team aims to complete the pre-cast concrete foundations, ground floor slab, rock anchors and stub columns, as well as drainage and the perimeter wall, before returning in December 2021 to complete the outer structure.

Team shot (Jan 2021).jpg

The new scientific support facility, named the Discovery Building, commemorates the discovery of Antarctica just over 200 years ago. The project is part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP). Facilities in the new two-storey 4,500m2 building include preparation areas for field expeditions, offices, a medical centre, recreational spaces (music room and climbing wall) and science workshops.

The Discovery Building has a unique design, such as a thermally-efficient envelope to minimise energy use, along with heat recovery generators and photovoltaic solar panels. It also has a snow and wind deflector – the largest of its kind in Antarctica – to minimise time spent removing snow accumulation from around the building.

Bright, open-plan offices foster collaboration and improve health and wellbeing of staff living in remote locations. Roof lights increase natural light and reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The project is delivered by the AIMP partnership, which includes BAS’ construction partner BAM and their team, design consultants Sweco, Hugh Broughton Architects, with Ramboll acting as BAS’s Technical Advisers, with their team NORR architects and Turner & Townsend.

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation programme is commissioned by UKRI-NERC (Natural Environment Research Counci)l. It aims to keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research and will last between 7-10 years and is worth an estimated £100m.

Find out more information on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation programme on the British Antarctic Survey website.