Sustainability and habitation in Antarctica
Friend, Scott Harris
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In the extreme climate and isolation of Antarctica, much of the built environment exists only as an assemblage of sterile boxes placed in the landscape without consideration of the needs of their occupants or their impact on the environment. In an area of limited resources, an abundance of solar and wind resources is seldom utilized to its full potential. Scientists and support crews spend months at a time living in isolation within the confines of small outposts and stations. Confinement in cramped and impersonal surroundings in this hostile environment can have devastating effects on the health and well-being of research teams and crews. The designs of many facilities rarely venture beyond the minimum programmatic requirements, failing to explore the possibility to become something more. The purely functional engineer's design approach, focusing heavily on initial cost, has been the mainstay of Antarctic architecture until recently. This attitude is beginning to be challenged by designs that focus on sustainability and the psychological impact on their inhabitants. Isolation and climactic conditions should not serve as an excuse for an incohesive atomistic design, but as motivation for a responsible, holistic solution. The technology exists to drastically reduce our negative environmental and carbon footprint in Antarctica by creating more responsible research facilities that fully utilize available renewable energy resources, while providing a superior working and living environment that meets the physical and psychological needs of its occupants. During the austral summer of 2008-2009, the world's first zero emissions polar research station is set to open. The innovative design of the Belgian Princess Elisabeth station can be used as a model for studying the potentials of sustainable and climactically adapted architectural design in Antarctica. I propose to further explore the possibilities of renewable energy, waste management, and prefabrication to design a zero emissions research facility with minimal impact that is responsive to its environment, while adequately providing for the needs of its occupants within the unique and extreme conditions of the Antarctic.