2015 OCEA Project Finalist – The Halley VI Antarctic Research Station

September 15, 2014

The Halley VI Antarctic Research Station is a finalist in the 2015 ASCE’s Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) award. Established in 1960, the OCEA Award recognizes a project that makes a significant contribution to both the civil engineering profession and society as a whole.


Photo Credit: James Morris

Located on the 500-foot-thick Brunt Ice Shelf floating in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, the Halley VI Research Station is run by the British Antarctic Survey to study Earth’s atmosphere. Measurements from Halley led to the discovery of the ozone hole in 1985. In an extreme environment where temperatures plummet to -69°F and wind speeds of 100 mph, the first 4 bases constructed since 1956 had been buried in snow and had to be abandoned.

Designed by AECOM and Hugh Broughton Architects, the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station, launched in February 2013, is the first fully relocatable Antarctic research station in the world. The futuristic, $43 million state-of-the-art research facility is segmented into 8 modules, each sitting atop ski-fitted, hydraulic legs designed to cope with rising snow. These legs can be individually raised to overcome snow accumulation, and each module towed independently to a new location.

The central red module contains the communal areas for dining and relaxation, while the blue modules provide accommodation, laboratories, offices, generators, an observation platform, and many other facilities. Remote scientific equipment, set up for long-term monitoring, is housed in a number of cabooses around the perimeter of the site, which also contains numerous aerials and arrays for studying atmospheric conditions and space weather.

Halley VI is packed with inventions, innovations, and technologies transferred from other industries, including a prefabricated integrated building envelope composed of 9-inch-thick closed-cell polyisocyanurate foam insulation to help to keep the extreme cold out; translucent glazing using nanogel technologies developed in the aerospace industry; and an aerodynamic design to improve snow management. The building is highly energy efficient and has a low environmental impact. All waste is treated for disposal or recycling on site, so that no physical waste whatsoever is left on the pristine Antarctic snowscape.

Wrote the OCEA jurors: “Probably the most innovative project of all the [OCEA] entries, the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station provides a living environment that must function in the most extreme of weather conditions. The ability to move the station with just two people in a week’s time makes it truly an amazing project when considering its size. In terms of sheer wow factor, this project is a winner. This project is really unique, includes some interesting innovations – such as the hydraulic legs on skis that can lift the building out of drifts of snow – and was built under very difficult conditions. [It] includes a number of novel energy efficiency features.

“This impressive structural achievement, which has been deemed a ‘once in a lifetime project,’ sets out to establish a place for important science research in one of the world’s most punishing terrains. Merging sophisticated logistical planning with high-end engineering, the project’s vast campus spatially accommodates renowned scientists and thinkers [so they can better] analyze relevant and urgent changes in nature. Worth noting, the structure includes self-contained sewage treatment, water systems and combined heat and power generation. The complex also includes a workshop, a vehicle garage, storage units, and an accommodation module. The research conducted here could result in lasting advancements.”

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