Architecture in Antarctica Part I: Prefabrication
Prefabrication is the construction of a building or of its parts before being placed on its site. When the project is then constructed on site, the pieces of the whole are already created and the parts can be assembled much more efficiently.
There are several advantages to building this way including the speed and simplification of construction, minimal construction waste, and increased safety on the construction site. When tasked with constructing a building in Antarctica, these factors become especially important. With extreme climatic conditions and almost total isolation, prefabricated construction allows builders to face the elements for less time and ensures that you won’t fall short on building materials- because there isn’t a Home Depot down the street.
The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 which created a set of regulations for the use of Antarctica as it is a continent virtually uninhabited and not owned by any country. Among many things, the Treaty states that Antarctica should be used for peaceful purposes only, for scientific investigation and observation, and protection of its natural flora and fauna. Because of this treaty, if a country wants to build on Antarctica, it must be used for scientific purposes. And because there are strict guidelines on waste management and secure construction sites, the controlled environment that prefabrication allows for makes it an ideal method of construction.
McMurdo Station is an American Antarctic Base designed by Oz Architecture. This massive station is essentially a small city located near the Ross Ice Shelf where yearly average temperatures fall between -23 degrees and 32 degrees fahrenheit. For ease of construction in this freezing and isolated location, Oz Architecture designed the building components of the station to be prefabricated off site and shipped to Antarctica.
Another example is Scott Base. This is the New Zealand Antarctic Base designed by Jasmax and Hugh Broughton Architects. The three buildings will be separated into eight preconstructed modules and loaded onto an MC-Class Vessel, each module weighing approximately 800 tons.
Stay tuned for part II!
Join us in for next blog as Taylor talks about her experience designing for Antarctica at University of Colorado Denver while studying for my Master of Architecture degree!
Written by Taylor Kortas
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