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Plans for new Spanish antarctic base revealed by British design team

The first images of the new Spanish Antarctic Research Station, Juan Carlos 1 were released today by engineering consultancy Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects.

The new base has been designed for the National Research Council (CSIC), which has been operating a summer research station for the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation on Livingstone Island in Western Antarctica since 1988. It will replace the original station, which has now reached the end of its useful life.

Hugh Broughton Architects and Faber Maunsell were selected as winners of the international competition in October 2007. They had previously joined forces to design the new British Antarctic Survey research station, Halley VI, currently being built on the Brunt Ice Shelf.

The design comprises three wings of accommodation arranged around a central core while the science building is a separate structure far enough away to provide a refuge in the unlikely case of a major fire within the habitat. The habitat will provide sleeping accommodation for 24 people in single rooms, with the option to double up and increase the population to 48 in the future.

The base will be constructed from modular fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) monocoque rings. The monocoque structure, similar to that used in Formula 1 racing cars, combines the inherent strength of FRP with the efficiency of a tubular geometry so that a conventional structure is not needed, thus eliminating weight and simplifying delivery and construction. The modular approach maximises flexibility for growth and change so that the station can continue to respond to the changing needs of Antarctic scientists for 20 years or more.

The research base has been designed with consideration to the logistical constraints imposed by the remote location of the base and the strict environmental protocols to the Antarctic Treaty. Water production will combine extraction from a glacial melt stream, which flows next to the base in the summer, with desalination of sea water when the stream is unavailable. All sewage will be treated in a bioreactor on site with only clean treated waste water left behind

The use of combined heat and power generation will minimise energy consumption. Solar and wind generated energy, already in use at Juan Carlos 1, will be extended progressively with the ultimate objective of making the base carbon neutral.

Peter Ayres, Project Director at Faber Maunsell said, "Building in Antarctica presents architects and engineers with unique technical challenges in terms of logistics, climatic conditions and minimising the environmental impact on the most pristine continent on earth. By combining proven cold climate engineering techniques with innovative technology transfers, we continue to set new standards for operational efficiency and sustainable design in Antarctica."

Research at the Juan Carlos 1 research base focuses on geology, meteorology, glaciology and biology with visiting scientists spending up to 4 months on base.

The base is located on Livingstone Island, the second largest island in the South Shetland Islands archipelago, to the north west of the Antarctic Peninsula. In winter temperatures drop to around -25º C and in summer rise to an average +2º C. Strong winds buffet the station, regularly exceeding 160 Km/h. The station is only inhabited during the southern summer, from mid-November to mid-March.

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