29 June, 2004

Operational Note – Media Briefing 10.30 am 29 June 2004, Royal Institute of British Architects 66 Portland Place, London.

A major international competition to design a new scientific research station at one of the Earth’s most extreme environments – Antarctica – is launched this week by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Located 10,000 miles from the UK on a 150 m thick floating ice shelf, the new complex will be self-sufficient, able to withstand freezing winter temperatures of around -30ºC and have minimal environmental impact on Antarctica’s pristine environment. There is a growing risk that ice on which the UK’s Halley Research Station sits could break off in the next decade. The new station will allow long-running research on global change to continue at the site where the ozone hole was discovered. The enormous logistical challenges of building on a floating ice shelf that is accessible only during the Antarctic summer by ship, requires innovation and creativity in design, engineering and technology. BAS hopes this international design competition, will attract the best ideas from architects and engineers worldwide.

Director of BAS, Professor Chris Rapley says,

This is an ambitious project. Our new station will not only have to cope with Antarctica’s extreme environment, but must also be functionally efficient and an aesthetically stimulating place to live and work. Both BAS and RIBA share a common mission to pursue excellence. This project will be a fusion of science, architecture, technology and engineering that lends itself perfectly to an international design competition.

The competition begins with a call for Expressions of Interest from multi-disciplinary design teams. A shortlist will be invited to submit Concept Proposals and selected teams will then be commissioned to further develop their proposals. The winning design will be announced in September 2005. Deadline for Expressions of Interest is 3 August 2004. Details from www.ribacompetitions.com.

Notes for Editors: Press Briefing 29 June 2004, RIBA 66 Portland Place, London 10.30 am followed by presentations to architects, designers and engineers. The President of RIBA, The Director and members of British Antarctic Survey will be available for interview on 29th June. Picture Editors: Stunning stills and broadcast images of Antarctica and the location of the new research station are available from the BAS Press Office.

British Antarctic Survey is a world leader in research into global issues in an Antarctic context. It is the UK’s national operator and is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council. It has an annual budget of around £40 million, runs nine research programmes and operates five research stations, two Royal Research Ships and five aircraft in and around Antarctica. More information about the work of the Survey can be found on our website: www.antarctica.ac.uk

The Royal Institute of British Architects, one of the most influential architectural institutions in the world, has been promoting architecture and architects since being awarded its Royal Charter in 1837. The RIBA has vast experience of organising competitions on behalf of a wide range of clients. The service offered by the RIBA is independent and impartial, bearing no allegiance to a particular design team or method of procurement. The involvement of the RIBA ensures that correct procedures are followed and that the process of selection is seen to be fair. More information can be found at www.ribacompetitions.com

Background notes: Site Conditions And Special Considerations The Brunt Ice Shelf is 150 m thick, flows at a rate of 0.4 km per year northwest from Coats Land towards the sea where, at irregular intervals, it calves off as vast icebergs. Scientists predict a major calving event around 2010. There is a growing risk that the current research station could be lost due to a calving event in the next decade. It is necessary therefore to design and build a replacement station for initial operation in 2008/09. The current station will be removed.

Logistics Challenges Winter darkness and frozen sea makes access to the station possible during the Antarctic summer only. During this time the station is re-supplied once, and sometimes twice, by ship with all essential items (fuel, food, etc). Cargo is offloaded onto sea-ice from where it is transported by sledge and tracked vehicles (Sno-Cats) on to the thicker more stable shelf-ice. Sea-ice restricts cargo loads to a maximum of 6 tonnes in good conditions and only 1 tonne in poor conditions. The optimum re-supply distance with current modes of transport and re-supply method is approximately 12-20 km between the ship and station. However, several kilometres of this can be on sea-ice (The 2003/04 relief included an 8 km route over sea-ice).

BAS Environmental Policy British Antarctic Survey’s Environmental Policy is to undertake a programme of world-class scientific research with the minimum environmental impact. The design, construction of the new Halley Research Station will be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment as required under the Antarctic Treaty’s Environmental Protocol. The station will be designed to minimise the amount of fossil fuels consumed and greenhouse gases produced, as well as maximise energy efficiency and the amount of power produced from renewable energy resources.