Antarctic Research Station to Include Solar Thermal

A prestigious design competition for the UK’s future research station for Antarctica, the Halley VI, has been settled. The winner, architecture firm Faber Maunsell, plans to incorporate renewable energy systems including solar thermal and planned expansions for solar electric and wind power.

The Halley VI competition attracted 86 entries and was launched in June by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Faber Maunsell’s concept was one of three winning designs for the new station, picked from six short-listed teams and announced on 24th November at the Halley VI Design Exhibition at the RIBA. Located 10,000 miles from the UK on a 150 m thick floating ice shelf, the new complex, replacing the current Halley V Research Station, will be self-sufficient, re-locatable, able to withstand freezing winter temperatures of around -50degreesC and have minimal impact on Antarctica’s pristine environment. The Faber Maunsell design is based on a modular kit of parts that can adapt to the changing external conditions and future science needs. Grouped around a central “living module”, the accommodation, workspace and energy pods form an integrated research facility designed to deal with the extreme conditions on the Brunt Ice Shelf. Each module will be highly insulated and incorporate low energy and sustainable principles to help reduce the station’s environmental impact. The new station will introduce renewable energy to Halley for the first time. Evacuated tube solar/thermal collectors have been incorporated on the two energy modules to augment the hot water heating during the summer months taking advantage of 24hr daylight. The facility will include high efficiency combined heat and power generators fuelled with AVTUR diesel suitable for operation in extreme low temperatures. The services infrastructure allows for the introduction of photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbine energy generation in the future. The building modules are raised on legs clear of the ground and are designed to be relocated to deal with the 1.5m per year snow accumulation and the ice shelf’s inexorable movement towards the ocean. The legs are founded on specially developed skis which enable prefabricated modules to be towed to the site from the edge of the sea ice to minimise the on site construction period. The skis are designed to be man-handleable and interchangeable to allow for future flexibility and mobility. The concept was described by the judging panel as “a strong architectural design. The modular approach enables units to be linked together to form a station that can accommodate user requirements and be easily relocated.” The next step for the team will be a site visit in January 2005 to undertake field-testing and experience the extreme Antarctic environment at first hand. The winning design will be finally announced in September 2005.
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