Liveability in extreme conditions

Connected Society 18 May 2017 Kate Bunting

Scientists and operational staff from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are at work delivering frontier science that affects us all. Alongside them are Ramboll engineers and consultants, who are preparing masterplans from development at two research stations.

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4 min

Working in the Antarctic is like working nowhere else on earth. It requires extraordinary planning and insight into this unique environment. Attention to detail is vital, because even small things can make a big difference.

That is clear as the modernisation programme to upgrade BAS research stations and infrastructure gets underway in preparation for one of the world’s most advanced polar research ships – the RRS Sir David Attenborough. Two BAS research stations are being redeveloped with masterplans to accommodate the larger vessel and its cargo tender and improve station efficiency and liveability for station personnel.

During the harshest weather, snow accumulating alongside buildings can reach upwards of 5 metres at the largest research facility, Rothera. As such, reducing snow clearance has been a key driver of the masterplan that will improve the wellbeing of and environment for station staff. Furthermore, the new plan links the marine facility to the Bonner laboratory, creating a seamless sea-to-land transition for the scientists and divers.

Contrasting needs

Conversely, Signy is one of BAS’s smaller stations, accommodating up to 12 people in four buildings. Ramboll has carried out a liveability study to understand daily life at these small stations. The concept of liveability is concerned with how well each base supports the wellbeing of its community – physically, socially and culturally – while remaining sensitive to the environment and protecting natural resources.

Community is so important here, because the teams are so isolated. We’ve identified the contrasting needs of those who spend most of their days outside and those who spend most time inside, and we found that the proximity of living and working quarters needs careful planning. This will help base personnel and scientists maintain a clear distinction between the working day and their own time.

David Season, project manager from BAS, explains that Ramboll was chosen not only because of the company’s “multi-disciplinary expertise and global engineering skills but also because its cultural values and teamwork were in alignment with the way we work at BAS. This is an important factor in a working environment as challenging as the Antarctic.”

For more information visit the BAS webpage.