Team starts race against winter to lay foundations for British Antarctic Survey’s Discovery Building

A 20 person team from construction companies Bam, Ramboll and Sweco have arrived by ship in Antarctica to continue constructing the Discovery Building at the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Rothera Research Station.

They have only weeks to finish the second phase of construction before winter arrives at the South Pole during March, locking the continent in ice, darkness and extreme cold.

Their aim this season – the project’s second – is to finish the pre-cast concrete foundations, ground floor slab, rock anchors and stub columns, as well as drainage and the perimeter wall.

To avoid introducing Covid-19 to the research station, the team spent two weeks in quarantine and had three virus tests prior to boarding ship to make the nearly 11,000-km voyage.

The two-storey, 4,500-m-sq Discovery Building commemorates the discovery of Antarctica just over 200 years ago.

It will have preparation areas for field expeditions, offices, a medical centre, a music room and climbing wall, and science workshops.

First task: dig into the site huts (Courtesy of the construction team)

A thermally-efficient envelope will conserve 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 accumulating around the building.

It was designed with bright, open-plan offices to foster collaboration, while roof lights increase natural light to curb the effects of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

The project is being delivered by the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation partnership, which includes 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.

Bam project manager Maurice Siemensma said: "We’re delighted to return for another construction season to Rothera, to undertake the installation of the foundations, the concrete perimeter walls, the underground drainage and completing the earthworks for the Discovery Building. Although this year’s construction season has been shortened, we have put together a programme to ensure we can continue progress on this crucial piece of infrastructure, which will support the construction works in the coming season substantially."

BAS senior project manager David Brand said: "By working in collaboration with our construction partners and colleagues at BAS, we have planned this year’s construction season and overcome a number of challenges, including logistics and maintaining safety for our staff. This short season will see the completion of a vital stage of construction for this new facility at Rothera, which will help generations of scientists understand the future challenges of climate change."

Top image: Render of the Discovery Building at the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station (©HBA-BAS)

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