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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Base on skis wins polar contract
Artist's rendition of winning design (Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects)

The British Antarctic Survey's new base will be produced by an engineering and architecture consortium in the UK.

The concept by Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects for the Halley VI station will be built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf in the Antarctic.

The base will host scientists all year round in temperatures ranging from -5C to -40C and will be raised on skis so it can be moved.

On-site construction Work is expected to begin in 18 months' time.

The consortium's design will be based on two platforms, each with six interconnected modules.

"All the buildings are on legs, and each leg has a ski at the bottom," explained Hugh Broughton of Hugh Broughton Architects.

In our design, labs can be converted to bedrooms and bedrooms to labs according to the need
Hugh Broughton

"So, when you want to move the buildings, you lower them down on their legs and they can then be moved around by a bulldozer," he told BBC News.

This will prevent the possibility of the base drifting out into the ocean on the back of an iceberg that has "calved" off the shelf - a fate that is expected to befall the current station unless it is soon dismantled and replaced.

All the materials for the Halley VI research station will have to be shipped 16,000km from the UK and assembled on site during the two months of Antarctic "summer".

Artist's rendition of winning design (Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects)
The ice under the new station will be moving
The existing Halley base - the fifth to occupy the spot since 1956 - has been a tremendous success.

It, too, has been jacked up on extendable legs to keep it above an accumulated snowfall of 1.5m (5ft) a year (the previous four bases were all buried).

The Halley VI base will provide a refuge for scientists, engineers, carpenters and chefs as they work in an environment which experiences whiteouts, temperatures down to -40C, 130km/h (80mph) winds and more than 50 days of near total darkness.

It is a very hostile place to live but the science done at Halley is seen as invaluable.

The new station will allow long-running research on global change to continue at the site where the ozone hole was discovered.

Halley base, Bas
The existing base is coming to the end of its life
The central module of the new station will be packed with areas for recreation and relaxation; the flanking modules will be given over to different research projects. The design is very flexible.

"It's a scientific facility, and one doesn't know what the scientific drivers will be in 20 years' time, what kind of science will need to be done," said Hugh Broughton

"Global warming will presumably play a huge part; but basically the building needs to be flexible. In our design, labs can be converted to bedrooms and bedrooms to labs according to the need."

The new station will make use of renewable energy sources and employ improved methods to handle waste.

The Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton concept beat off stiff competition in the contest, run by the British Antarctic Survey (Bas) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Outside concept building (Bas)
The RIBA is staging an exhibition to feature the contests' designs
"This competition was launched to bring innovation and creativity to the challenge of building a scientific research station on a floating ice shelf," said Bas director Professor Chris Rapley.

"The process, which involved a working partnership between each design team and the Bas technical teams, was stimulating and exciting for everyone involved. I extend my warm congratulations to Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects on their success at winning this competition."

The RIBA is staging an exhibition featuring the leading entrants at its HQ in Portland Place, London.

Work on the design and build contract for Halley VI will now begin.

The first phase of construction will commence in January 2007 with handover to the British Antarctic Survey in December 2008.

Bas director Prof Chris Rapley talks about the winning design

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