July is one of the coldest months in the Antarctic. The next few weeks will show how well the New Indian Research Station Bharati, a polar research station partly built using WICONA systems, can stand up to the extreme weather and climate conditions.
The creative design of the station was carried out by bof architekten in Hamburg. Their basic concept consisted of a structural core, made of stacked, technically modified containers, surrounded by a steel substructure with a superimposed panel façade acting as a structural shell. The result was a double shell design with an intermediate space between the outer panel shell and the container walls. This is not only used as a temperature-regulating air cushion but also as a space for utility connections, as access for maintenance work and as an emergency exit.
bof architekten's façade implementation plans were passed on to the Bremen company Lenderoth GmbH as the project progressed. Between May and July 2011, the corresponding detailed plans were set up for the façade units, with glazing and fire protection units (windows and doors). In accordance with these plans, the elements were first produced in Bremen and later assembled on site. Consisting of 134 containers, the research station had previously been transported to the site near the Larsemann Hills on the east coast of Antarctica by ship. There was only a restricted time slot of three months leading up to March 2012 in which to assemble the station on site, so every step of the process had to run smoothly. Assembly went according to schedule, and the station could be put into operation on time.
The conditions of the development and construction of the façade were based on the extreme weather conditions in the South Pole region. Thermal and mechanical stresses caused by blizzards with huge snowdrifts, wind speeds of up to 270 km/h and temperatures of -40°C and below place enormous strains on the materials used – especially now, in the Antarctic winter.
Façade builders Lenderoth were unable to fall back on any special technical regulations, standards or guidelines. "There weren't any," says Managing Director Axel Lenderoth. "When we did some research into how a particular construction element, material or procedure would react to -40°C, we found no concrete answers."
The glass façade of the complex consists of a modified stick construction and triple-glazing insulation with a 15-degree inclination on the north and south sides. The basic elements of this are the WICONA systems WICTEC 50 and WICLINE 75 evo, both in HI (high insulation) versions. For this assembly, the excellent Ucw value of 0.8 W/(m²K) was attained. Due to the climatic conditions, one technical peculiarity is that the aluminium frames are fitted with electric heating elements.
The construction methods, with elements pre-assembled by the Bremen firm Lenderoth GmbH, meant that the façade was flexibly adapted to the required modular concept of the structure.
Fire safety was the main consideration when designing the interior elements of the containers. Fire protection doors (T-30) and punch windows (F-30) with turn sashes based on the WICONA systems WICLINE 75 and WICSTYLE 77, both in FP (fire-protected) versions, provided an appropriate solution from the range portfolio.
The Bharati Research Station amply demonstrates how even under the most extreme conditions, through close interaction of all those involved in construction, architectural ideas can become reality. The combination of standard systems, specifically modified applications and individually tested fire protection structures illustrates the flexibility and individuality of WICONA's technological solutions for exceptional ideas.
15 scientists are currently active at the Bharati Research Station, testing facilities, processes and technology. Using this experience, the few tasks remaining to be done can be carried out and the station can be up and running at full capacity by the coming Antarctic summer, from late 2012.