Antarctica New Zealand and Victoria University of Wellington School of Design have joined forces to design and build a portable field research station that can run predominantly on renewable energy.

During the International Polar Year (2007–08) a prototype of the station, known as Ice-Lab will be trialled at Cape Evans, site of Scott’s Hut. The station will be used by a number of remote scientific field programmes and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is undertaking restoration of historic huts on Ross Island.

Students from the School of Design came up with the concept for a modular, cubed structure, whose main components — panels, windows, doors and the supporting structure — are interchangeable and reconfigurable, to accommodate the range of living and working needs. Lightweight materials used in the yachting industry were selected so that each module is light enough to be towed by a Hägglunds or lifted by a Bell helicopter. Module components can also fit inside a Twin Otter aircraft.

The cubed modules can be linked together in any number of configurations and will withstand wind gusts up to 300km/hr. Infrastructure for mounting photovoltaics and wind turbines is also included — Ice-Lab will act as a test rig on which to trial existing and future renewable energy solutions on an ongoing basis.