Construction season starts at UK’s largest Antarctic science research hub

Construction season starts at UK’s largest Antarctic science research hub

2 December 2022 - The next phase of the British Antarctic Survey’s modernisation programme is set to begin with a 6-month construction season at the Rothera Research Station. The station is the UK’s largest Antarctic research and operations hub that supports leading researchers in frontier science in the region.

The Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme (AIMP) is part of the long-term Government investment programme to modernise its research facilities in the Polar Regions. It aims to provide polar science infrastructure to enable the UK to deliver cutting-edge climate, biodiversity and ocean research and innovation in Antarctica. The strong collaborative ethos among the AIMP partners British Antarctic Survey, BAM, Ramboll, Sweco and their extended supply chains is critical to the success of delivering projects in the world’s harshest environment.

After last season’s successful completion of the external skeleton for the new Discovery Building, this season is looking to be the busiest and most challenging since the programme began in 2017. Major works this season include making the 4,500-m2 new Science and Operations building weather-resistant and carrying out airfield improvements.

Arriving ahead of the main construction cohort, BAM’s team has started to clear several hundred thousand tonnes of snow that accumulated over the Antarctic Winter, setting the stage for the construction season ahead. The remaining construction team arrives in December following a three-and-a-half-week journey to Antarctica onboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

To ensure the Discovery Building’s thermal performance, the team will begin insulating and cladding, with internal works also getting underway on glazing and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. The state-of-the-art building’s science balcony and control tower will also be installed.

The team will also begin the Runway Resurfacing project, restoring Rothera’s 32-year-old runway to its original length. This will provide an additional runway threshold, providing more room for manoeuvrability for the new BAS aircraft. The runway camber will be restored to enhance surface drainage and remove minor potholing. New energy-efficient runway lighting will be installed, maintaining safe flying operations into Rothera, a critical access point for field science operations.

David Seaton, Head of Construction at the British Antarctic Survey, notes: ‘This is the start of the most important construction season yet for the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme as we upgrade our facilities in Antarctica to enable the continuation of science delivery and support in this most vital region. The pre-deployment training and all other preparation have gone extremely well, the team is motivated and up for the challenge and we look forward to a successful season by the end of which we will have a fully weathertight Discovery Building, keeping us on track for the handover of this wonderful new Science and Operations support asset in 2025, and also have delivered much of the upgraded runway resurfacing and lighting project, putting us in an excellent position to take delivery of our new aircraft in the near future.’

Robert Kerr, Site Agent at BAM for AIMP said: ‘The first boots are on the ground and the beginning of a new construction season is off to a great start. So much emphasis is placed on the delivery of work at Rothera that it is easy to overlook the enormous amount of planning and preparation work required by all partners. It is great to see all this hard work paying off. The construction team of 55 this year consists of approximately 35-40 returners, which will be key in delivering a very challenging programme of work. Among many objectives for the season, cladding the building will be a defining point in the programme, allowing us to transition from external works to internal works.

The snow clearing and site establishment works are progressing well and we all look forward to delivering another successful season at Rothera.’

Bruce Wulff, Project Director at Ramboll and Framework Manager for AIMP, says: ‘The coming construction season looks set to be our most complex and ambitious yet. A huge amount of work from all the partners has gone into planning for the Discovery Building and the runway upgrade works. Teams are now on site and starting to clear the snow to allow for this season’s planned activities: cladding the building, constructing the runway control tower, starting internal works, replacing the runway lighting, and digging trenches across the runway for new duct routes. We wish the team on site every luck as they prepare for this exciting season ahead!’

Read more about the long-term AIMP. The programme aims to keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research.

Contact details


About British Antarctic Survey

British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (UKRI-NERC)*, delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth and our impact on it.

Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure, help sustain a world-leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs. The UK is one of over thirty countries operating scientific research facilities in Antarctica. *NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation

More information:


About BAM Nuttall

Along with BAM Construct in the UK, and BAM Contractors in Ireland, BAM Nuttall is part of Royal BAM Group. BAM delivers exceptional engineering, design, construction, property management, and investment services. The Group turnover £7 billion annually, listed on Euronext, Amsterdam.  BAM Nuttall, employing approximately 3,000 people, has a worldwide reputation for collaborating with clients, creating sustainable environments that enhance people's lives. Our projects span the UK, and we’re involved in international partnerships including Africa, Australia and Antarctica. BAM people capitalise their knowledge, across multiple sectors including rail, marine, tunnelling, highways, energy, and water - using state-of-the-art resources and digital technologies to provide innovative solutions: 


About Ramboll

Ramboll is a global architecture, engineering and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945. Our 17,000 experts create sustainable solutions across Buildings, Transport, Energy, Environment & Health, Water, Management Consulting and Architecture & Landscape.

Across the world, Ramboll combines local experience with a global knowledge base to create sustainable cities and societies. We combine insights with the power to drive positive change for our clients, in the form of ideas that can be realised and implemented. We call it: Bright ideas. Sustainable change. Visit us at Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.


About Sweco

Sweco plans and designs the sustainable communities and cities of the future. Together with our clients and the collective knowledge of our 17,500 architects, engineers and other specialists, we co-create solutions to address urbanisation, capture the power of digitalisation, and make our societies more sustainable. Sweco is Europe’s leading engineering and architecture consultancy, with sales of approximately SEK 21 billion (EUR 2 billion). The company is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. In the UK and Ireland, Sweco offers engineering, design and regulatory services.


About Hugh Broughton Architects

Hugh Broughton Architects was formed in 1996 and has a reputation for producing carefully crafted contemporary architecture. The practice is best known for the design of Halley VI Antarctic Research Station designed for the British Antarctic Survey with AECOM, which was officially launched in 2013 to great critical acclaim. In addition to the firm’s work on the Discovery Building as part of the British Antarctic Survey’s Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme partnership with BAM and Sweco, it has also led to a series of other projects in Antarctica including Juan Carlos 1 Spanish Antarctic Base, which opened in 2019; the redevelopment of Scott Base for Antarctica New Zealand, which the practice won in partnership with Jasmax in 2018; and the masterplan for Davis Station for the Australian Antarctic Division, which is being delivered with WSP.


About NORR

NORR is an employee-owned global architecture and engineering firm that has set the standard for inspired and timeless designs around the world. With offices in Canada, the US, UK and UAE, the firm employs more than 700 professionals in 14 diverse market sectors. Founded in 1938, we offer the stability of a rich history, the power of integrated global teams and the versatility of a proven, multi-sector portfolio. We’re architects, engineers, planners, interior designers, and big picture thinkers that apply our integrated thinking to drive exceptional projects for our clients. More information is available at or follow us on LinkedIn.


About Turner and Townsend

Turner & Townsend is an independent professional services company specialising in programme management, project management, cost and commercial management and advisory across the real estate, infrastructure and natural resources sectors. With 110 offices in 45 countries, it draws on extensive global and industry experience to manage risk while maximising value and performance during the construction and operation of clients’ assets.


About G & A Barnie

G & A Barnie was established in Wick by Alex and Gordon Barnie in 1985. Since this time they have earned an enviable reputation for their expertise, high-quality personal service, and the completion of contracts within periods specified. They offer mechanical installation, electrical installation, renewable energy, fire and security, alarms, CCTV, water treatment, and maintenance and servicing. They are the Mechanical & Electrical subcontractor for BAM on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme.