The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM) programme supports world-class science through an upgrade of British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research stations and infrastructure. It includes preparations for one of the world’s most advanced Polar research ships - the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
The BAS technical advisory team led by Ramboll, which includes NORR architects and Turner & Townsend are providing specialist engineering and consultancy services for the AIMP. At Rothera the modernisation work includes a new wharf to accommodate the new RRS Sir David Attenborough and upgrading station infrastructure with a new Rothera Masterplan. This includes several new buildings, and site wide services to reduce operating costs and keep Rothera fit-for-purpose to facilitate world leading research for at least the next 25 years.
Rothera research station, on the Antarctica Peninsula, is the largest BAS research facility and supports a wide range of BAS, UK and international collaborative science programmes. Science supported at Rothera provides vital information on climate change. Because the western Antarctic Peninsula has been the most rapidly-warming region in the Southern Hemisphere, Rothera is ideally suited for real time climate change research. The station currently has 16 buildings and houses up to 130 personnel during the summer months.
Construction of the new Wharf at Rothera began in the 2018/19 Austral summer by BAS’s Construction Partners BAM. The Masterplan construction works are due to begin in 2019/20.
The redevelopment of Rothera includes a new, larger wharf necessary to accommodate the new RRS Sir David Attenborough. At 128m long the new ship is 30m longer and with greater draught than its predecessors. The new wharf will also have a crane and enhanced cargo handling facilities to accelerate relief times and improve facilities for the deployment of small boats and gliders for scientific use. As part of the BAS sustainability strategy the new wharf construction will make use of existing rock fill and a digital model developed by BAM helps to visualize the planned construction sequence.
A glimpse into the first successful construction season of the new wharf
Wharf geotechnical site assessments
In preparation for the design of the new wharf, Ramboll worked closely with divers to assess and obtain a clear picture of the new quay wall’s proposed location. Having developed a dive methodology and inspection plan, two divers measured and visually captured the rock’s fracture spacing and geological features. The survey had to overcome several difficulties caused by the natural elements of the site with rubble and overhanging ice cliffs restricting access to a section of the sea bed and the eastern side of the quay wall. Aiming to minimise any environmental impact, Ramboll carried out an initial assessment of potential quarry locations to identify if local rock could be used to infill the wharf. Preparations for the new wharf also required a survey of proposed bollard locations and examination of rock type to ensure it could withstand the forces of the new ship when anchored.
Many of the buildings at Rothera are either past or nearing the end of their design life, resulting in increasing operational costs. Ramboll has developed a masterplan and assessment study to ensure the replacement of buildings including the operations buildings, hangar, marine facility and accommodation block as well as site wide infrastructure, deliver the best outcomes for BAS and those working at the station.
We’ve gained thorough and vital end user input through meetings, workshops and one-to-ones to ensure the masterplan and assessment study addresses the specific needs of the station users. This has included reduced fuel usage, maintenance costs, snow clearance and manual handling. We have also addressed the needs of improving station liveability and interaction between teams.
Flexibility in design
The operations building has been designed using a steel frame to allow for future flexibility in reconfigurations. The inclusion of precast concrete in several the buildings also enables quicker on-site construction and higher quality control.
To deliver improved energy efficiency, Ramboll undertook a site wide energy strategy. Using a specially developed digital tool – a parametric Energy Simulation Workflow (ESW), Ramboll has identified the optimal sustainable designs for heating and powering the research station. The ESW combines CIBSE best practice energy modelling methodology with genetic algorithms to goal seek and find the best possible solution within stated parameters. The tool evaluated solutions from over 5 million scenarios in a matter of weeks, ensuring that no stone was left unturned. An interactive user interface enabled BAS to easily interrogate the dataset, enabling easy and efficient decision making. The proposed solution delivered, not only meets energy demands, it reduces fuel consumption by more than 35%, a key component in the Rothera modernisation.
After undertaking the energy modelling, Ramboll designed the mechanical and electrical services strategies, using the optimal solutions to deliver the best energy efficiency, whilst ensuring they are simple to maintain. The solutions proposed include waste heat recovery from electricity generation, which will be fed into a district heating network and distributed around the station. A mix of CHP units and solar PV has also been included in the proposed design. We are also undertaking BREEAM pre-assessments with the target to achieve an excellent rating.
Snow clearance can cause major disruption to operations on the station. From data gathered through snow modelling and station user input, the team has ensured the orientation of the buildings and their main access points have minimal impact from snow accumulation. The main operations building has been designed with an innovative snow deflector at the highest verge of the roof and along the full length of the south elevation. This will direct wind down the south elevation and scour the snow away from the building. This will help to assist and reduce time and effort required to manage snow removal.
Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the long-term modernisation programme of the BAS facilities will enable a world-leading capability and ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in the Polar regions. Together with the commissioning of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, the modernisation programme at the UK’s Antarctic research facilities represents the largest Government investment in polar science infrastructure ever.