Surfing the building technology wave

Expeditioners at Davis station now have a new place to chill out. A new library-cum-lounge room, built from the same material as surfboards, was delivered to the station last March, for commission next summer.

The new building is made of lightweight, durable ‘fibre composite’, or fibreglass and foam, which has unique insulating properties that boost the building’s energy efficiency.

‘The building is constructed of fibreglass encasing 200mm thick blue foam panels of extruded polystyrene,’ project engineer, Mark Pekin, said.

‘This foam contains a lot more air pockets — and therefore insulating capacity — than white foam, or expanded polystyrene, which is predominately used as insulation for Antarctic buildings.’

To achieve similar insulation qualities, an equivalent concrete panel would need to be 1400mm thick and therefore 15 times the weight.

The building also has ‘dual double glazed’ windows — four panes of glass — with automatic hollow-core blinds between the internal and external double glazed glass windows. This provides five layers of insulating air compared to the usual two layers in other Antarctic buildings with triple glazed windows.

The absence of a steel frame means the building is significantly lighter, allowing it to be manoeuvred into place with a crane. The whole building can also be assembled in Australia, reducing the risks and costs associated with construction in Antarctica. In addition, the fibre composite material can be moulded into any desired shape.

These characteristics provide engineers with greater flexibility in how they use and reuse such structures. For example, the new library-lounge can be easily moved, refitted, and if necessary, tipped on its side, to fulfil other purposes.

The prefabricated library-lounge — which measures 12.2m long, 3.7m wide and 2.6m high — left Australia after a complete fit-out with electrical wiring, lighting, carpets and furniture. The foundations will be laid during the year, and the building should be ready for the first wave of visitors by Christmas.

Wendy Pyper, Information Services, AAD