Brazilian research base built to withstand Antarctic extremes
Brazil's original Antarctic research base, built in the 1980s, was destroyed in a blaze in 2012. Following an architecture competition to build its replacement, Estúdio 41 has created the Antarctic Station Comandante Ferraz, which is designed to withstand some of the most extreme conditions on the planet while enabling scientists go about their research in a warm and safe space.
The Antarctic Station Comandante Ferraz is located on Antarctica's King George Island in the Keller Peninsula and measures a sprawling 4,916 sq m (roughly 53,000 sq ft), including several outbuildings. Most of the base is centered around two large prefabricated buildings which are raised above the sloping ground on steel stilts, with one sitting higher than the other. The highest building contains residential cabins, service areas and a social and dining area. The lower building features maintenance areas, garages, a storeroom, and a total of 17 laboratories. Elsewhere lies a library, living room, an auditorium and video/meeting rooms (unfortunately there are no photos of the interior available).
The Antarctic Station Comandante Ferraz will obviously need to protect scientists from extreme cold and very high winds, so much like the UK's Halley VI research station, Estúdio 41 designed the building with such extremes in mind. The firm told us that it sports an external steel shell, which has a double-layer thermal insulation of polyurethane panels and rock wool, separated by 60 cm (23.6 in) of air inside. The heating system consists of hot water circulating in radiators for each room.
Since there's no power grid for the Antarctic Station Comandante Ferraz to plug into, it gets electricity from a couple of sources. Eight wind turbine units located to the southwest of the base along with photovoltaic panels to the north help keep the lights on (there are also solar water heating panels for hot water) – presumably there are backup generators too, though the firm has made no mention of those. Additionally, the base has water treatment, sewage treatment and solid waste processing facilities on-site.
The construction process was naturally challenging given the project's location. Its prefabricated sections were first assembled in Shanghai, China, then shipped all the way to Antarctica in stages. The base was then built over three years, with work being carried out during each summer when weather allowed.
The Antarctic Station Comandante Ferraz was officially inaugurated in January. However, work continues preparing the laboratories for the scientists and carrying out equipment tests and structural integrity tests, to ensure it can handle whatever nature throws at it. Following some delays due to COVID-19, it's expected to be fully operational in late 2021.
Source: Estúdio 41