This ice station moves along the Arctic shelf

Posted by Randy Woods, EarthTechling

Besides saving energy and resources, one of the most important aspects of green building is to create structures that are perfectly suited to their environments.

One unlikely example is this new, amusingly anthropomorphic collection of science labs in the Antarctic called the Halley VI Research Station.

Envisioned by British designers Hugh Broughton Architects for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the research facility is built not only to withstand the fantastically cruel winters of the Antarctic ice sheet but also to prevent itself from being buried in the mountains of drifting snow and ice. In fact, it practically looks like it could crawl away on its own power.

The caterpillar-like resemblance comes from a series of hydraulic legs, which hold each connected module aloft so that the facility is kept above the rising snow accumulations. The foot of each leg contains a ski pad, so that researchers can use Sno-Cat machines to drag individual modules to different locations. This portability feature is crucial for a research station located on the 500-foot-thick Brunt Ice Shelf, pieces of which can break off and float away during the summers.

BAS also calls Halley VI “the most environmentally friendly facility” the organization has ever built. The modular design had a low impact on the local environmental during construction and has an “extremely efficient” life cycle. The modules are roughly divided into living quarters and laboratory spaces that are joined by a central recreation module, where residents can interact and relax in their off hours.

“Halley VI will be a visitor to Antarctica, not a resident,” according to the Hugh Broughton site. “[The design’s] mobility and flexibility means that the new station will survive and perform on the ice for far longer than any of its distinguished predecessors.”

Construction of the site took a total of 36 weeks that were spread out across four summers, when the weather was warm enough to allow work crews to the site. Now complete, the mini modular city contains a series of pods that can accommodate 52 researchers in the summer and 16 diehards in over the dark winters.

The station was opened in early February (during the austral summer) and replaces the 20-year-old Halley V station, which was also supported on stilts but was not capable of being moved, module by module. Currently, the station is located about 900 miles from the South Pole and experiences 105 days a year when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. Temperatures in winter can drop as low as -70 degrees F.

For those interested, a webcam image of the station is updated every four hours on the Halley VI website.

Randy Woods, EarthTechling