Modernisation milestones achieved at UK Antarctic Research Station

Modernisation milestones achieved at UK Antarctic Research Station

Restoration of a 32-year-old Antarctic runway and significant construction milestones on the new Science and Operations building, mark the end of the austral summer season for British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP).

(credit BAM)

Modernisation of Rothera Research Station, the UK’s polar science hub, is nearing the finish line, which BAS and programme partners, BAM, Ramboll and Sweco and their teams have been meticulously planning and delivering since 2017. The transformation will ensure BAS continues to enable the UK to remain at the forefront of climate, biodiversity, and ocean research in the Antarctic. 

Restoring Rothera’s Runway.

Critical to the continued effective operations of Rothera is its runway. At 32-year-old the extreme weather had taken its toll. This season, the planned Ramboll design and carefully sequenced resurfacing and restoration of the runway to its original length was completed by BAM amid challenging weather conditions. The new runway incorporates existing local rock materials from the previous wharf project, aligning with BAS’s commitment to sustainability. The team installed new and improved energy-efficient runway lighting to maintain safe flying operations in the station. The works also included upgraded drainage and a new aircraft turning pad as part of the overall modernisation programme.

Penultimate construction year for new science and operations building.

Scheduled for completion in 2025, the Discovery Building, a state-of-the-art facility for scientific support and operations, with its high degree of insulation took shape internally, with interior partitioning for offices, the medical centre, plant room and storage areas. Externally, glazing and solar panel installations, which will support the station’s energy needs have been completed. Mechanical and electrical, work was also undertaken with four other buildings on the station having new energy-efficient heating systems installed. Designed by Hugh Broughton Architects, internally the building will use colour, light and space to create an environment intended to foster well-being.

Elen Jones, Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme Director, BAS, said: “At the end of a long, productive and challenging season, these strides forward would not have been possible without our incredibly collaborative team. We have progressed to such an extent that we’re looking forward to completing next season’s work, which will see the Discovery Building being handed over and brought into operational use”

For the first time, AIMP team members working on construction joined the existing on-site winterers who operate the station under extreme conditions and prolonged darkness. These ‘overwintering’ efforts see joiners and electricians focus on the interior fit-out of the Discovery Building, preparing the facility for the next austral summer construction phase beginning in November.

“Thank you to everyone involved for their commitment this season and good luck to all our winterers who make a huge contribution in an extraordinary environment,” Elen continued.

Huw Jones, Executive Director, BAM, said: “Upgrading the runway to ensure access to Antarctica for the international science community in one of the world’s harshest and most remote locations is an incredibly complex operation. Our success this season is a result of the collective effort of our team, partners, and suppliers.  We’re proud to be part of a project that aligns perfectly with our own values of building a sustainable tomorrow and that will enable important climate research to continue in the region.”

Natalie Wathen, Framework Manager at Ramboll, said: “It is incredible what the team has achieved this season, it has once again all been down to the collaboration across our partnership. Working to deliver a more sustainable and long-lasting future for Rothera has been extremely rewarding for us all”.

About the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP)

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) is a long-term investment in the Polar Regions, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in Antarctica. The programme is delivered in partnership with BAM, Ramboll, Sweco, GA Barnies and Hugh Broughton Architects. Since 2017, BAS has utilised the expertise and knowledge of the partnership and its wider value chain to ensure the successful delivery of complex engineering solutions in the world’s harshest environment.

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