The Discovery Building


The Discovery Building will be a new world-class scientific support and operations facility at Rothera Research Station in Antarctica. This cutting-edge building has been designed with a focus on sustainable and environmental design and will house both the science and operations teams at the UKs largest Antarctic research station.

Work began on constructing the new building in 2019 as part of the wider Rothera Modernisation project with the building expected to be completed in 2025.

The Discovery Building was named in 2019 to mark the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica. The construction of the Discovery Building was started in that year.


A new scientific support and operations facility

 This new two-storey facility (4,500m2) enables scientific support and operations functions to work together under one roof. The Discovery Building replaces a number of older buildings that have reached the end of their life.

The new facility includes:

  • Plant room and energy centre to recover used heat and distribute power to the station, provide fresh water, and house fire suppression pumps
  • Central store to consolidate equipment and cargo stores on station for more effective stock control and efficient cargo management with reduced manual handling
  • Workshops and preparation areas for managing equipment and cargo for support science and field expeditions
  • New operations hub and offices to support the whole station
  • Operations tower to manage communications with deployed Antarctic field groups and aircraft
  • New medical centre designed to modern healthcare standards
  • Improved training facilities including a climbing wall for expedition teams and an education centre
  • Enhanced wellbeing areas including gym, breakout areas, music centre and arts and crafts facility
  • Backup systems for life support and operations

These facilities will be moved to the new building:

  • Operations
  • Field Operations
  • The workshop, carpentry shed, garage and generator shed

Exterior design features

  •  Thermally efficient building envelope which will save in energy/cost
  • Wind deflector, the largest of its kind in the Antarctic. This minimises the accumulation of snow around the building by redirecting wind flow on the sheltered side to scour snow
  • Octagonal control tower provides 360-degree views of the runway, wharf, and station buildings
  • The building’s light colour minimises solar heat transfer to its steel envelope which helps to maintain weathertightness

 Interior design features

  • An end-to-end corridor through the 90m building which reduces the need to access various parts of the building from outside, minimising heat loss
  • A central store located in the middle, providing easier access for all building users
  • Multi-functional spaces and zones for efficient use throughout the year including when the number of occupants decreases during the Austral Antarctic Winter
  • Designed with operational safety and wellbeing in mind including workspaces, breakout areas, training facilities and roof lights to increase natural light
  • Health and safety features with transparent glazed screens between spaces to increase visibility and distinct colours to quickly identify sections of the building
  • Modular design so the building can be adapted for future needs

Feedback from our field staff helped to inform the interior design to enhance working conditions and the strong community spirit needed for working in Antarctica.

Minimising the impact on the environment

We are committed to making sure that the long-term impact of the new Discovery Building on the Antarctic environment is minimal.

Features to improve energy efficiency and reduce our carbon emissions include:

  • New Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant with expected 25% reduction in station carbon emissions
  • Installation of photovoltaic solar panels
  • Thermally efficient building envelope to minimise energy use, with triple glazing and composite insulated metal panels
  • Central store to reduce manual handling and ensure an efficient supply
  • Improved zoning of building functions reduces energy consumption by minimising time spent accessing different areas
  • The location and orientation of the building reduces the amount of resource needed for snow clearing

The Rothera Renewable Energy Project is currently investigating how to reduce the carbon footprint of the station and ways to transition to renewable energy systems.

To make sure that we meet the highest environmental and sustainability standards, we are using a bespoke BREEAM accreditation and assessment system. This has been developed by BAS with support from Ramboll in collaboration with the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

 Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme

The Discovery Building is part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM) Programme, Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), a component of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), this long-term programme will enable a world-leading capability to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in the Polar Regions.

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) is a collaborative partnership responsible for the design and construction of major infrastructure projects. These include the Discovery Building and new Site Wide Services (a distribution network of hot water, seawater and fuel pipework,  data and power cables, bridge crossings, pedestrian walkways, and stairs).

AIMP is comprised of construction partner BAM and their team, design consultants Sweco, Hugh Broughton Architects, with Ramboll acting as BAS Technical Advisers, with their team NORR architects and Turner & Townsend.

A man wearing glasses and smiling at the camera.

David Brand

Senior Project Manager Rothera Modernisation

AIMP, Infrastructure Project Management Teams

A person standing in front of a body of water

Katie Handford

Assistant Project Manager (Commissioning) AIMP

AIMP, Infrastructure Project Management Teams

A person wearing a hat

Kathleen Maclean

Project Communications and Engagement Manager

AIMP, Infrastructure Project Management Teams, Communications team

Katie’s Journey to Antarctica – Part One

2 April, 2024 by Katie Handford

As the Antarctic winter season fast approaches, we’ll be following the journey of one of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme’s (AIMP) Assistant Project Managers, Katie Handford as she gears up to spend winter at Rothera Research Station in Antarctica.

Here we go again…

14 March, 2023 by Christopher Robert Lloyd

Christopher Robert Lloyd, Associate Project Manager at Ramboll is currently working at Rothera Research Station on the construction of the Discovery Building for the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP). In …

First journey to Rothera

1 February, 2023 by Kathleen Maclean

Simeon Anastasov, Principal Fire Engineer at OFR Consultants, is currently working at Rothera Research Station providing site supervision as part of the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP). In this blog …

BLOG: Journey into polar engineering

23 June, 2021 by Katie Handford

This International Women in Engineering Day 2021, Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme Trainee Project Manager Katie Handford shares her journey into polar engineering.  I started in high school designing, building and racing 24V electrically powered …

Modernisation milestones achieved in Antarctica

10 July, 2024

Construction teams have completed significant stages of the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme and joined the over-wintering staff for the first time as the 2023/24 summer season ended.  The improvements, led by BAM and technical advisors Ramboll will transform future science and operations at Rothera, the UK’s largest polar research station in Antarctica.

Modernising our stations: news from Rothera

29 February, 2024

We’ve been modernising our Antarctic infrastructure for future generations of polar scientists. Construction in the Antarctic is challenging and the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) has made great progress at …

Update on construction season in Antarctica

12 May, 2023

Modernising Antarctic Infrastructure for Future Generations of Polar Scientists Specialist construction teams are travelling home to the UK after five months of work in Antarctica to modernise British Antarctic Survey …

New building at Rothera breaks ground

30 January, 2020

In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the first sighting of Antarctica by the British naval officer Edward Bransfield on this date in 1820, a new building to facilitate the …

Rothera Research Station Modernisation

Over the next decade Rothera Research Station will be upgraded to ensure its facilities keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research.