Mawson aeronomy building
Mawson aeronomy building (Photo: A Wilkinson)
Davis living quartersMawson living quarters

Applying new design principles

The application of the new design principles, a whole-of-site approach with buildings that were efficient and effective, was called Australian Antarctic Building System (AANBUS). A pump house was erected in 1978 at Mawson station as a prototype. This was followed by new living quarters at Davis station. The size and design of the large, two-storey sleeping and medical quarters built in 1979 at Mawson was revolutionary at the time.

AANBUS modular

Australian Construction Services proposed that Antarctic buildings could be built faster and better with a modular system where large pieces (3.6 metres x 6 metres x 4 metres high) were completely finished and fitted out in Australia before being shipped to Antarctica. In practice, this type of construction proved a great success receiving both an Innovation Award from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, and an Institute of Engineers Engineering Excellence Award. In 1986, an AANBUS modular was used to house the latest technology – a satellite communications system, ANARESAT, at Mawson station.

In 1990, the first AANBUS multi-modular was built to house the Casey Emergency Power House. It was made up of six of the sturdy steel boxes. Two of the modules each contained a diesel alternator set (one of which could carry the station electrical load); two contained ventilation and heat exchange equipment; and two contained the control room with switchboards and engine controls. The building was fully assembled at Port Melbourne, where the generators were tested and commissioned. Once the six modules arrived at Casey, they were placed on their foundations to form a building in one day. The building, with its exterior cladding, steps and landings and service connections, was substantially completed over summer – a major advance on the several years it would previously have taken.

The new Casey station, consisting of AANBUS modular buildings, was opened in December 1988. The Casey Living Quarters, Operations Building, Store, Balloon Building, ANARESAT facility, and the services and electrical control buildings were completed. By 1991, the Emergency Vehicle Shelter, the Emergency Power House, and the Vehicle and Trades Workshops were completed, and the new Science Building was fitted out.

At Davis station, new buildings based on the Casey design were completed. This included the Davis Operations Building, the Upper Atmosphere Physics Laboratory, the Biology Building, and a new Meteorological Centre.

Mawson station soon followed, receiving a new living quarters, downwind from the Sleeping and Medical Quarters, as well as an Operations Building and Meteorology Balloon Building.