New living quarters for Davis station

The 2003–04 summer saw the start to construction of the foundations for a new living quarters building for Davis station. The new building is a result of much-increased expeditioner numbers since the existing building was completed in 1979.

This recent summer’s work included set-out and excavation of the building foundations, subfloor area and link foundations, as well as some road diversion and drainage work. Design and certification of the building is estimated to be completed by July 2004 with tendering of works packages during July and August 2004. Present plans are to fabricate and erect the building structure in the summer of 2004–05, with the fit out to be undertaken during the winter of 2005 and commissioning in the summer of 2005–06.

The original Davis living quarters building was intended for a station population of 30 expeditioners. The building at that stage was the first of the AANBUS (Australian Antarctic Building System) buildings which was subsequently used for all later building projects at all three continental stations during the rebuilding program in the 1980s and 1990s. Current Davis populations of 25 to 30 over winter and 70 to 100 expeditioners during the summer meant that the building did not meet current Australian standards for both food preparation and handling. The structure is also showing signs of age and degradation.

At the start of the project the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) took the opportunity to review the existing building system and look at latest technologies and ideas. Both the structure and building environment systems (such as heating, ventilation and lighting) were analysed and expressions of interests to produce a concept design were invited. The AAD selected four architectural and engineering teams who provided two proposals each on the brief that outlined the basic parameters that the AAD required for the project. The submissions incorporated steel framed insulated building systems similar to AANBUS, modular buildings, and composite structures. 

The winning submission, by a Sydney-based architectural firm Allen Jack & Cottier, proposed what may be the world’s first fibre composite building shell structure that does not require structural steel work. The newly-developed fibre composite technology is based on knowledge and practices typically used in the boat building industry. The proposal has the potential to reduce both construction times of major buildings in Antarctica and the number of construction people needed in Antarctica. The idea and technology also showed additional possible applications such as field huts and traverse vans. The competitive design phase also revealed that the AAD’s ‘Building Management and Control System’ is at the leading edge of current industry standards.

Much work is needed to complete and document design and certification as well as to develop and test the composite panels. The design team for the project includes Allen Jack & Cottier as the architects and interior designers, structural engineers Hyder Consulting (Melbourne) to design and certify building structures and prepare testing schedules, Jutson Yacht (Sydney) and ATL Composites (Gold Coast) to provide specialist fibre composite advice, SEMF Holding in Hobart to undertake the building services design; WT Partnership (Hobart) to undertake quantity surveying, and Createring (Melbourne) to design kitchen facilities. The University of Sydney has assisted with wind tunnel testing for building pressures and snow drift accumulation, and the AAD is providing experience in construction and maintenance of buildings in Antarctica.

The design team has been working for the past year to develop and refine the scope of the project. Work to apply the fibre composite technology to the unique Antarctic environment and analysis of the shell are nearly complete. The link structure between the new living quarters and the existing sleeping and medical quarters has been fabricated in Devonport by Thompson Fibreglass as a prototype for the new building. This has allowed a review and assessment of the fabrication and construction processes for the design and development of the main structure.

On completion of a detailed testing program beginning in March 2004, analysis and certification of the structure will be confirmed. Interior design work, architectural layouts, structural and building services design are nearly complete and work has begun on tendering documentation.

Adrian Young, Engineering Group, AAD