Transforming how the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) supports frontier climate change science.

Commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) will enable world-leading capability to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research in the Polar regions.

Key information

Location: Antarctic

Date started: 2016

Completion date: 2020

Client type: Infrastructure

Key services: Cost and commercial management and advisory

Supporting science

The UK Government is making a major investment in Britain’s polar research capability as it seeks to learn more about the impact of climate change.

Understanding how the Antarctic is responding to current changes in the world’s climate – and what the continent was like in the past – is essential if scientists are to be able to more accurately predict future changes and provide accurate information to politicians and policymakers.

The seven-year AIMP framework comprises a number of projects which will be carried out in Antarctica to support global research scientists and the search for bio-renewable energy.

This particular project involved the master planning and project delivery to support the land-based infrastructure for the new polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

Challenging conditions

Our cost management team helped procure a construction partner, collaborating with designers, scientists and other stakeholders to develop robust cost estimates and establish budgets for the programme of works.

We also had to contend with unique working conditions: the Antarctic continent is the coldest, driest, highest and windiest on the planet, and the construction season usually only runs from December through to March.

The construction team undertook its work in the world’s harshest climate with temperatures reaching -30°C.

Despite the challenging conditions, the first projects were completed in the last season, which allowed the RRS James Clark Ross to moor alongside a new wharf at Rothera Research Station.

This had involved the shipment of around 4,500 tonnes of equipment, people, plant and machinery from the UK to Antarctica a journey of around 11,000 km.

Long-term view

The wider AIMP will deliver projects that strike a balance between safe, usable facilities in one of the world’s harshest environments while operating at net-zero carbon emissions. For example, the new Discovery Building at Rothera Research Station has been built with an energy-efficient, aerodynamic design.

It is oriented into the prevailing wind and uses a deflector to channel air at higher speeds down the leeward face, minimising snow accumulation around the entire perimeter of the building. It is the first time a snow and wind deflector has been used at this scale in Antarctica.

The modernisation of BAS infrastructure forms a crucial aspect of improving the long-term sustainability of the BAS estate and will significantly enhance the operational support for frontier science programmes.

For further information contact:

Andy Wheeler