Antarctic science support facility construction concludes its third successful season

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) team; BAS (British Antarctic Survey), Ramboll, BAM and Sweco complete another successful season in Antarctica, constructing the new Discovery Building. The new science support facility will support Science and Field Guide deployments across the Antarctic.

In December 2021, the team departed for Rothera following their COVID isolation period to embark on the third season constructing the 4,500SM new Discovery Building. Across six months, the team successfully completed the outer skeleton, ground-floor slab and the build of the Site Wide Services (SWS) which included electrics, potable water, drainage, fuel and communications.

Visualisation of the new Discovery Building at British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera Research Station, the Hub of UK science in Antarctica. © Hugh Broughton Architects

This crucial season marks an important milestone for the project and paves the way for installing the external envelope and communications tower next season, before the internal fit out and commissioning.

This season’s completed work on the new Discovery Building that will support Science and Field Guide deployments across the Antarctic. 

When complete, the Discovery building will bring many advantages in the way BAS operates at Rothera, the UK’s largest science hub on the continent. The two-storey building provides flexibility to BAS teams managing multiple operations at varying times of the year to support Science and Field Guide deployments across the Antarctic. Supporting the station’s work, the building will house preparation areas for field expeditions, workshops, offices, a medical centre, recreational spaces – including a music room and climbing wall – plus space for plant and machinery. The building uses latest design methodologies to reuse and reduce carbon to deliver the life support systems for Rothera Research Station, including a thermally-efficient envelope and renewables, including photovoltaic solar panels.

David Brand, Rothera Modernisation Senior Project Manager says: “It is a great achievement for BAS to have successfully delivered another construction season with our construction partner BAM, their design consultants Sweco, and technical advisor’s Ramboll on the external build of the Discovery Building and SWS. We now have just two seasons remaining of the build before we commence the final finishes, commissioning of the building’s services, and BAS can move in”.

Christopher Robert Lloyd, Ramboll’s infrastructure programme manager for Rothera Research Station said: “It was great to have Ramboll people support the team on site again in Antarctica providing site supervision and leadership for the project. Working in Antarctica is always challenging. Meticulous programming goes into each season to ensure the construction delivery goes to plan, especially considering the extreme weather conditions the team can face. We are hugely proud of the team’s achievements this season, once again they have come together to deliver on the shared ambition to deliver the planned work at Rothera. The new Discovery building is a crucial element in the AIMP that will support our leading scientists to deliver frontier science for the future”.

In 2020, the AIMP team completed work on the new Rothera Wharf for BAS, which enables the new ship, the RRS Sir David Attenborough to berth safely. The ship completed its maiden voyage to Antarctica during the summer field season, where it berthed at Rothera for the first time in December 2021.

RRS Sir David Attenborough arrives at the new Rothera wharf for the first time in December 2021. Image: Will Clark.

Delivering the new energy-efficient building is the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme  partnership, which includes construction partner BAM and their team – design consultants Sweco, and Hugh Broughton Architects providing delivery design. Ramboll is acting as British Antarctic Survey’s Technical Advisors, with their team – architects NORR providing concept design and Turner & Townsend providing cost management. The partnership encompasses a range of suppliers and subcontractors providing knowledge, materials and equipment to execute the project in extreme conditions.

Commissioned by the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the AIMP is expected to take over 10 years to complete, with an investment of over £300m.

Learn more about The Discovery Building.