Halley VI Antarctic Research Station – the world’s first re-locatable research facility – is now in use, signalling a new dawn for 21st Century polar research. Opening one hundred years after Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expeditions, the new state-of-the-art research facility demonstrates the UK’s ambition to remain at the forefront of scientific endeavour.
Halley VI Antarctic Research Station is designed by Hugh Broughton Architects with AECOM and constructed by Galliford Try for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The project demonstrates an ability to create ground-breaking architecture characterised by a compelling concept, executed with fastidious attention to detail and exemplary levels of coordination. Pushing the boundaries of design in a life critical environment, it creates a beacon for sustainable living in the Polar Regions to draw attention to some of the most significant science conducted on our planet.
It is the product of an extraordinary and intense 8-year collaboration with BAS which began with an international competition-winning design for a modular facility. The challenge was to create excellent laboratory and living accommodation that was capable of withstanding extreme winter weather, of being raised sufficiently to stay above metres of annual snowfall, and of being relocated inland periodically to avoid being stranded on an iceberg as the floating ice shelf moves towards the sea.
The new research station, which replaces the 20-year old Halley V facility, is the sixth to be built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf in a region that has established itself as an important natural laboratory for studying the Earth’s magnetic field and the near-space atmosphere. It was data from Halley that led to the 1985 BAS discovery of the ozone hole.
The £25.8 million station is built with an innovative concept featuring hydraulically elevated ski based modules, ensuring the station can be relocated inland periodically as the ice shelf flows towards the sea. The station combines seven interlinking blue modules used for bedrooms, laboratories, offices and energy plants, with a central two-storey red module featuring a double-height light filled social space. Interiors have been specially designed to support crew numbers ranging from 52 in summer to 16 during the three months of total darkness in winter when temperatures at the base drop as low as -56C.
Halley VI features in Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science,a touring exhibition curated by the Arts Catalyst for the British Council.
Winner RIBA International Award 2013
Winner AIA UK Excellence in Design Award – Best Scientific Building 2013
Antarctic Research Station Halley VI with Translucent Glazing from OKALUX
Eight years of planning and construction have yielded one of the most extraordinary building projects on our planet: the Halley VI research station of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The extreme climatic conditions prevalent in the polar light zone on the Antarctic Brunt ice shelf place very high demands on man and material. To achieve the aim of offering the research team the most comfortable working and living conditions possible under these conditions, OKAGEL functional glass was used in the distinctive red community module of the station: creating a pleasant atmosphere of daylight in the lounge – with the added plus of exceptionally good insulation values.
In cooperation with the Engineering Office of Faber Maunsell, the British Hugh Broughton Architects Office developed a very flexible concept for Halley VI: the individual modular bodies are connected through short corridors and kept above snow level on hydraulic legs. In addition, the hydraulic legs are mounted on oversized skies to enable quick reaction to breaks or changes in the ice: the modules can be disconnected and pulled to a new location one by one. This significantly increases the expected lifetime of the new station.
The two-storey, red community module stands out in the white vastness of the Antarctic like a glowing entity and offers the team of the research station a place to eat, read, confer and enjoy other leisure activities. The high degree of user comfort in the interior results, for the main part, from the soft daylight evenly diffused into the leisure area through the generous glazing of OKAGEL insulating panes. The advantages of the translucent insulating material come into their own under the extreme conditions of the Antarctic Halley Bay. The nanoporous aerogel is not only lightweight it also offers a high level of heat insulation, noise protection and translucency. OKAGEL exhibits excellent Ug-values which, in contrast to conventional insulating glazing filled with air or gas, are independent from the installation angle. For example, a double glazing with 60 mm aerogel in the cavity has an Ug-value under 0.3 W(m²K).
Despite the prevailing inhospitable climatic conditions, the insulating material ensures cozy warmth in the station while diffusing soft daylight to the interior. Thanks to OKAGEL, the Halley team can enjoy a higher level of comfort in the leisure area.