26 February 2007
A curious item of cargo was included on the Aurora Australis, which departed Hobart for the continent a few days ago.
A fully-furnished, pre-fabricated library-lounge was loaded onto the ship and is now bound for Antarctica. It will provide additional living area at Davis for the growing expeditioner population, associated with the imminent introduction of intercontinental air transport.
The building was designed by AAD engineers to maximise energy efficiency and speed of construction in Antarctica. Inspired by surfboard technology, the module is constructed of fibreglass encasing thick blue foam panels of extruded polystyrene.
Significantly lighter than a comparable steel-based building, the foam has a very high insulation rating. To achieve similar insulation qualities to the 200 mm thick foam panels, a concrete equivalent would need to be 1400 mm thick and fifteen times the weight!
The heat retention qualities of the building are further increased due to the absence of any steel 'cold-path', a significant disadvantage in polar regions of traditional construction methods. The only steel used in its construction will be that used to bolt it onto the concrete footings in Antarctica.
As the focus of fabrication and fit-out work was in the AAD Kingston workshop, this has resulted in lower costs and less risk than constructing a building in Antarctica. The relatively light-weight building, weighing only about 7 tonnes, was easily transported by crane and truck to the wharf for loading onto the ship.
The foundations for the building will be laid at Davis during the year, and we plan to have the library in situ and operational before next Christmas.