Hi-tech Antarctic accommodation's just plain sailing

Project Engineer Mark Pekin and Fibreglass Technician Kim Rafferty inspect the internal composition of the panels
Fibreglass Technician Kim Rafferty and Project Engineer Mark Pekin inspect the internal composition of the panels (Photo: Nisha Harris)
Crane constructing the steel framework of the living quarters at Davis station in April this yearProject Engineer Mark Pekin sitting on some of the finished panels ready to be shipped to AntarcticaCrane loading panels for journey to Antarctica on the Aurora Australis

1 October 2009

Design technology used in yachts is being harnessed to construct Australia's most thermally-efficient building at Davis station in Antarctica.

The new five million dollar living quarters will be constructed using a steel frame clad in fibre-composite panels.

The Australian Antarctic Division's Project Engineer, Mark Pekin, said the panels are made from foam, timber and fibreglass, much the same as modern boats.

"We had to make sure the building material provided optimum insulation as well as flexibility and strength – the panels are six times stronger than concrete" Mr Pekin said.

"This type of technology also decreases labour costs and construction time in Antarctica because the panels can be manufactured in Tasmania and shipped south," he said.

The building will also have super-insulated windows with two panes of glass, heat mirrors and a krypton gas-filled air space.

The original living quarters were built in 1977 and designed for a maximum of just 30 people. The new building will be able to accommodate up to 120.

"The steel frame of the building was erected last summer and we hope to get most of the 66 panels up this summer, with the internal fit-out scheduled for next winter," Mr Pekin said.

The Antarctic Division will undertake other infrastructure projects at Casey station and Wilkins runway this summer.