Racing to beat the arrival of the Antarctic winter, contractors have completed a major milestone in constructing a new two-story science and operations building at British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station that is designed to withstand polar conditions while being eco-friendly and energy efficient.
Antarctica is about as hostile an environment as you’re likely to come across on Earth. This is especially true when it comes to buildings that have to cope with extreme cold, high winds, snow, and shifting glaciers on a continent that is never very easy to reach.
The new Discovery Building at Rothera Research Station has been under construction for four years as 54 contractors race to complete major construction milestones before they have to leave as the Antarctic winter descends in the next few weeks.
The purpose of Discovery is to replace a number of older buildings with one large 4,500 m² (48,400 ft²) building with an expected service life of half a century. The new structure has now been sheathed in blue metal cladding and an operations tower has been installed that will allow staff to monitor the wharf, base operations, and the airfield.
This single building will not only make science and base operations more efficient, it will also provide a large volume-to-surface ratio for better energy efficiency. The windows are triple glazed and the walls insulated. The design of the building includes special deflectors to keep snow from accumulating on or around it.
In addition, Discovery has its own combination heating and power plant and banks of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. This is a more than usually useful feature in a region where the sun doesn’t set for six months at a base that is largely abandoned during the winter except for a skeleton crew.
According to BAS, the new building will cut carbon emissions for the entire base by 25%. Construction will resume in November of this year and Discovery is scheduled to be completed in 2025.
“To personally see the commencement of the cladding and then continue watching the Discovery Building take shape over the course of this season and ultimately achieve weather tightness as planned, is a major milestone of which the British Antarctic Survey and partners are truly proud of and is testament to our collaborative approach to infrastructure project delivery in Antarctica,” said Elen Jones, AIMP Programme Director at BAS. “Thank you and well done to everyone at Rothera for their cooperation and support during this challenging but rewarding construction season.”
The video below shows the new building going up in elapsed time.