The existing buildings are reaching the end of their functional life, and Antarctica New Zealand hopes to redevelop the base to manage risk, bring it up to current standards and support the needs of the scientists working there. We talked to Jamie Lester, a principal structural engineer based in Christchurch, New Zealand, about his experiences as part of the design team.

How did WSP Opus come to be involved in Scott Base?

Jamie Lester: Our involvement actually dates back to the time when we were New Zealand’s Ministry of Works and we designed the first base which opened in 1957. This was established to support the Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary. This was replaced in the late 1970s-mid 1980s with the base we see today. Since the completion of the second redevelopment there have been a number of updates to the buildings, however, with some critical services, such as fire protection, not compliant with today’s building standards and increasing points of failure in the building systems and fabric, our client, Antarctica New Zealand, is putting forward a detailed business case to redevelop the base.

We were appointed for the civil engineering and structures design, working with three other firms with expertise in cold climate design – the architects, Jasmax and Hugh Broughton Architects; quantity surveyors, Turner and Townsend; and building services designers, Steensen Varming.

What does the project involve?

The current project is to develop four concept designs for a modern, low-impact facility, based on site investigations and the needs of the 100 people on base carrying out world-leading scientific and environmental protection work facilitated by the New Zealand government.  

We started work last November, and the designs are now with Antarctica New Zealand, who will recommend their preferred option and present a detailed business case, including all the options, to the New Zealand government later this year. If accepted by the Government, we will then focus on developing one preliminary design for the proposed new base.

The works would start on site in 2020/2021 where equipment and materials would be shipped to site. Depending on which design is chosen, construction on site could take up to eight years.