The Scott Base, New Zealand’s research facility in Antarctica - the strategic hub that contributes to global understanding of climate change, is set to witness a major redevelopment. The project would see the existing base, built in the early 80s and made up of 12 separate buildings, replaced by three large interconnected buildings and a separate helicopter hanger. The architectural design of the new base has been conceptualised by London-based Hugh Broughton Architects in partnership with Jasmax, a multi-disciplinary design practice from Auckland.
It came as a welcome news when the Government of New Zealand committed $18.5 million for this phase a couple of months ago, considering the existing base is reaching the end of its functional life. “At the moment, we have to mitigate increasing points of failure at Scott Base; the buildings, materials and systems are deteriorating with age,” said Senior Project Manager, Simon Shelton, highlighting the constraints.
The base, since its establishment in 1957 in Ross Island by Sir Edmund Hillary as part of the Trans Antarctic Expedition, has been continuously occupied, with the last infrastructure upgrade dating back to the mid-1990s. Located three kms from the principal American Antarctic base - McMurdo Station - it includes laboratories for science, offices, stores, vehicle workshops, and space to organise scientific expeditions going into the field. During winters, temperature drops below -40 degrees with 24-hour darkness that lasts for nearly four months. Despite such extreme conditions, the base is run by a 15-member crew where drinking water requirements are fulfilled through reverse osmosis of sea water.
The new base is expected to accommodate around 100 people at a time. Of the three buildings, as per the proposal, one is for accommodation with a combination of single and twin bedrooms, dining and welfare; the second for science and management, and the third for engineering and storage. With a safe, fit-for-purpose infrastructure supporting the Antarctic science community, the design will foster connect between people and their surroundings, and will provide interactive spaces for living and working.
To counter the amount of snow drift near the base, the structures will be elevated above the ground to allow the wind to pass underneath. A vacuum drainage system, which uses 1.5 litres per flush compared to nine litres of a standard toilet, will be in position to dispose off the waste water.
“The project demonstrates a commitment to scientific discovery of global significance. It will be a beacon of environmental stewardship and will rest modestly in the beautiful Antarctic landscape,” said Hugh Broughton Architects.
An intelligent design and a sustainable approach is envisioned to bring about the new Scott Base in a similar location near the existing base. The detailed design of the project is expected to be completed by 2022.