Home > News > Project in progress: the race is on to weatherproof a new research station at the bottom of the world before the winter sets in…

Project in progress: the race is on to weatherproof a new research station at the bottom of the world before the winter sets in…
Project in progress: BAS Rothera

It’s not often we come across a project setback quite like this, but yes, one of the challenges currently faced by the team building the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) new flagship research station is two tonne elephant seals, who helpfully keep falling asleep on the construction materials that have been brought in to complete the project.

Part of a £100m modernisation project at BAS’ Rothera location, the build of a huge 4,500m2 operations and science facility – the Discovery Building – is currently underway. Due to the severity of the Antarctic winter, which starts in May, work can only be carried out during a five-month window each year.

The project team working with BAS includes main contractor BAM Nuttall, alongside design consultants Sweco and Hugh Broughton Architects providing delivery design. Ramboll is acting as BAS’ technical advisors with architects NORR providing concept design and Turner & Townsend providing cost management.

The project, now in its fifth season, has finally seen the erection of the two-storey building’s steel frame and the construction of a wharf.

The team arrived in late November 2022, travelling first to the southern tip of Chile before catching a BAS-owned turboprop to Rothera on the Antarctic peninsula.

The first task was to clear the massive piles of snow which had accumulated during the winter, a task which took around four weeks. This was followed by the installation of the Discovery Building’s first floor slab.

The 50-strong team are now racing against the clock to install cladding on the building’s frame before the colder weather sets in. If the envelope is left partially finished at the end of the season, high winds could get into the interior of the building over the winter and rip off the panels.

Waiting patiently to be installed, a whole container of vebroscreed Renovate, which set off on its epic journey to the bottom of the world several months ago.

vebroscreed Renovate has been chosen for installation prior to final finishes in a resin bonded application. The requirement is for the levelling screed to sit on a sub-base of pre-cast concrete planks as thin as possible (20.0 mm) to maximise floor to ceiling height within a plant room.

vebroscreed Renovate is a single part, fibre reinforced, cementitious smoothing underlayment screed, incorporating a blend of graded fillers, fine cements and polymers, with excellent flow properties. The pump applied screed can receive floor coverings in as little as 8 hours and laid from 3.0 to 75.0 mm.

As the plant and machinery located within the facility will require fixing to the concrete substrate, an unbonded screed was not recommended, in case there should ever be a leak.

A bonded vebroscreed Renovate pump screed incorporating glass fibre mesh, was recommended to increase flexural strength and reduce the risk of any potential cracking due to movement in the pre-cast concrete planks.

This will provide a flat floor, which can be laid to SR2 and to which plant can be installed and securely fixed.

We look forward to hearing how the project at BAS Rothera develops over the coming weeks and look forward to hearing how the screed has gone down! Good luck Discovery Building team! Watch out for those pesky elephant seals!

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