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Trial Run for Antarctic Building Project

Antarctica New Zealand
New Zealand Antarctic Institute

Media Release
19 November 2003

Trial Run for Antarctic Building Project

A Christchurch construction firm is carrying out the unusual task of a trial assembly for a two-storey building, in preparation for its final assembly at one of the world’s most remote building sites.

The construction of the heated field store facility for the New Zealand Antarctic programme’s Scott Base is the first awarded to a private sector construction firm, with all previous construction being undertaken by the New Zealand military.

Anthony Leighs, managing director of Leighs Construction Ltd, says the $4.6million project is a real challenge, and a trial assembly is important to make sure that nothing is left to chance. Up to 18 construction staff will work on-site, with a number wintering over in 2004 to continue working on electrical, mechanical and fire protection systems, and fitting out.

“For us it’s a fantastic opportunity to show our skills and to work on something that is a huge logistical challenge. We need to ensure that all of our planning is perfect so that we can meet the construction schedule and deal with any contingencies.”

The heated field store will provide a dedicated heated facility for Antarctica NZ, the Crown Entity that manages the year-round operation of Scott Base.

“This new facility will house field supplies and perishables and provide preparation areas for our research programmes, cargo processing and general storage. Currently, Scott Base staff work in temperatures as low as - 45 degrees in an aircraft hanger built in 1960,” says Peter Brookman, facilities engineer and project manager for Antarctica New Zealand.

Antarctica New Zealand supports over 400 people in Antarctica each year. New Zealand's expanding science and environmental programmes will be significantly improved through the provision of the new building which essentially marks the final completion of New Zealand's Scott Base research site.

The main building elements are a structural steel frame, enclosed within an insulated panel exterior envelope, all fixed onto pre-cast concrete foundations. Each of the 105 foundations will be pinned to the ground by a steel rod inserted into a 2m hole drilled into permafrost. By filling each hole with water, the building will be frozen onto the solid substrate.

The trial assembly is 13% of the completed building and involves the complete structural assembly plus part of the exterior insulated panel envelope.

Stage 2 of the project is the shipping of all the materials to the Antarctic and final construction. Foundations will be built in February 2004, with the balance of the work to be carried out in the 2004-2005 season.

The materials and equipment, including a crane, will be shipped to McMurdo Station in 110 shipping containers in January 2004, and then trucked to Scott Base by the United States Antarctic Program in the order they are required. The inventory includes 600 tonnes of pre-cast concrete, 100 tonnes of structural steel, 3000m2 of insulated panel and 4500m2 of plywood wall linings.

Anthony Leighs says the chance to work in Antarctica has generated enormous interest from experienced construction staff. Four staff from Leighs Construction have won a place on the on-site team, with the balance to be recruited in March and April for departure in October 2004.

The 1800sq m building includes areas for food storage and frozen storage for scientific fieldwork, along with a cargo bay and link tunnel to adjoining workshop, and will have a controlled internal temperature of approximately 20oC.

About Leighs Construction Ltd

Established in 1995, Leighs Construction Ltd is a specialist in commercial building with 35 staff and in-house engineering services. Recent projects include new office developments, warehousing and distribution facilities, school facilities, bridge replacements and upgrades, retail and hospitality developments, and commercial upgrades and extensions.

The company has twice won the Registered Master Builders Award for projects under $1million. In 2002 Anthony Leighs won the New Zealand Institute of Building, Young Achiever of the Year.


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