F E R R A R O C H O I A N D A S S O C I A T E S L T D
Development of a Remote Station Architecture
9. THE REPLACEMENT SCIENCE FACILITY
The Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (PACNAVFACENGCOM), or PACDIV, is the U.S. Navy’s engineering and design division for work in the Pacific region. PACDIV was hired by the NSF to provide technical support for the Antarctic program in such areas as the design of power plants and new dormitories for McMurdo Station. In 1984 PACDIV was requested to provide a detailed programming study for a new replacement science facility as envisioned in the Holmes and Narver master plan. PACDIV decided to retain the services of an outside architectural firm from the private sector to provide this service. The CJS Group Architects, Ltd. (CJS) of Honolulu, Hawaii was selected and contracted to travel to NSF offices in Washington, D.C. and McMurdo Station to review the original Holmes and Narver building design concept, conduct interviews, investigate and document existing science facilities, examine an existing building that might be adapted for science use, and investigate possible building sites for a new facility.
Lee Davis, AlA, and Joe Ferraro, AlA, headed the programming effort for CJS. Davis traveled to D.C. in November of 1984 to meet the staff of the NSF, receive direction and background information and arrange for a trip to McMurdo. In December Davis and Ferraro deployed to McMurdo, traveling through Christchurch, New Zealand to be outfitted with cold weather gear. In Christchurch and on the ice, interviews were conducted with over fifty scientists and support staff who were involved in programs that year. Some individuals had years of experience and had been involved in long term research at McMurdo, while others were new to the program and the ice. The general consensus attained from the interviews was that there was a need for larger and more updated facilities. Each division of scientific study, such as biology and earth science, demanded a separate facility, since there was a concern that their work was not compatible with and would be contaminated by the other sciences’ experiments. Most people interviewed had seen the ANS design criteria study for a new science building prepared in 1982, and were generally in disagreement with its conclusions. Typical of efficient cold region and Naval Engineering Manual design, the proposed building was a simple, two-story rectangular shape with a couple loaded loop corridor surrounding common core facilities. Although not a fully developed design, the concept appeared too small and did not adequately address the segregation of the science programs or provide for the growth of the entire science program or the individual scientific disciplines. The interviews with the NSF staff and program managers indicated that there would be growth in scientific work in Antarctica, but where that growth would be and when it would occur were functions of new proposals by individual scientists and the funding of the USARP by Congress. Therefore, it was not the type of growth that could easily be planned for in a static building design.
The Penguin Power and Light Building, the former power station, had recently been replaced by a new power plant, leaving the original building available for a new use. At the time of the inspection it was being temporarily used as a maintenance garage by the NSFA. The building was surveyed by the architects and determined to be too small and not expandable to meet the existing requirements of the science programs. The building was also in major disrepair and lacked the proper image that the architects felt was needed for a science facility at the station. In collecting data on the existing scientific facilities, eight separate buildings were measured, drawn, photographed and inventoried for scientific equipment and fixtures (fig. 8). All of these buildings were erected prior to the Naval Engineering Manual standards and were either Jamesways, quonset huts or some adaptation of either. Most were not elevated, with the oldest structures suffering from the results of major differential settlement due to heat transfer to the frozen ground below. Snow drifts covered these buildings in winter, making them almost unusable until snow clearing occurred in the spring. Space needs for new equipment or expansion of programs were provided by a new addition to the original building or, more often, an addition to a former addition. These additions were generally adhoc, ill planned fabrications, precluding common circulation in defined areas, eliminating segregation of laboratories and hampering fire exiting in the process. This adaptive historic growth was termed Wart Architecture by Davis and Ferraro (fig. 9).
During the course of the interviews some scientists recommended that the architects visit the new buildings at New Zealand’s Scott Base, two miles from McMurdo. Although a very small base in relation to McMurdo, certain elements of its design made perfect sense if they could be applied to a scientific center for the U.S. The base consisted of separate buildings interconnected by the use of an enclosed corridor which allowed one interior access to the entire station’s facilities, including power plant, laboratories and berthing. Since funding for the New Zealand program was small by U.S. standards, the base was planned, built and renovated in phases of one building increment per season. New Zealand’s Ministry of Works designed new elements of the station above ground to preclude snow drifting around the buildings and snow accumulation below the buildings. Old elements that had been built on the surface and connected by corrugated steel tube shapes had been encased in hard packed snow over the years. These structures stood adjacent to the newly designed structures as examples of what not to design and what to design for the Antarctic.
With the Scott Base building concept in mind, the architects developed bubble diagrams for the needs of biology, earth sciences, atmospheric sciences, and an aquarium. A separate core element was also diagrammed for common elements of administrative offices, library, lounge, conference rooms, copy room, central supply, electronics workshop and computer room (fig. 10). Isolated space for special equipment, such as electron microscope, scintillation counter and high speed centrifuge equipment was programmed for this pod. This equipment would be shared by different disciplines due to infrequent use, high initial cost and high maintenance.
Using the principle of the spine seen at Scott Base, the bubbles for each discipline were linked together by a central circulation corridor to form a single building with segregated pods (fig. 11). In addition to the divisions of use, the spine and pod design offered separate building zones which could be operated year round or closed off during winter seasons, depending on the needs and funding of various projects. Expansion of each scientific discipline’s overall program needs could be accommodated through future extensions of the respective pods away from the central spine. Expansion of the USARP’s scientific disciplines could be accommodated by the planned extension of the spine in either direction and the addition of a new pod for the new discipline’s needs (fig. 11).
Flexibility for changes in program needs was planned for the interior of the building. A standard laboratory module was designed that could provide the space requirements of the typical research team of principal scientist and assistants who frequently used a laboratory for only a portion of each season. This basic building block was determined by an approved layout to be 500 square feet. Larger laboratory needs, up to 1500 square feet, would be provided for by removing wall panels between each laboratory. Laboratory furniture including work tops and storage components, would be modular in design, with the ability to be reconfigured as needed by each research team (fig. 12 & 13).
To keep the building area to a minimum, reconfiguration of laboratories on a very frequent basis was desired rather than planning for additional statically configured laboratories on a very frequent basis was desired rather than planning for additional statically configured laboratories. The reconfiguration process would need to be done in an organized fashion and be accommodated by the design of the facility. All incoming equipment for each research team would enter the core pod’s central receiving room, be staged and loaded into movable wall hanging lockers that would also be outfitted with requested supplies. The lockers would be prepared, staged and moved into each laboratory by the facility’s staff just prior to the arrival of the respective research team. At the team’s departure, the lockers would be returned to the staging area for shipping back to the U.S. or placed in storage for the following season. A modular laboratory and materials handling system by the Herman Miller Company was envisioned for this use.
Fire protection was presented to the architects as a major requirement of the facility’s design by the NSF and PACDIV engineering staffs. Fire in any building can have grave consequences, however, a building fire in the Antarctic can be a catastrophe to the entire station and its inhabitants due to the remoteness of the facility from other means of shelter, lack of critical care facilities and the minimum supply of water available at any given time to fight the fire. Sub-zero temperatures also preclude normal fire fighting techniques. Past fires have leveled buildings within minutes in the cold dry air and high winds at the station. The pod and spine concept provided an additional measure of fire separation for the building. The spine also provided a major fire corridor for escape from a potential fire.
Winter snow drifting required a major plowing and removal effort in man hours and equipment usage at the opening of the station each August. It also posed a threat to the operation of the facility in the winter, when plowing becomes difficult and dangerous in the dark. Excessive drifting precluded access to and escape from a building during an emergency. With the model of Scott Base as a guide, the architects planned to elevate the building pods and spine to prevent and avoid drifting problems. The spine would be arranged on a selected site perpendicular to the shoreline and parallel to the sloping hillsides. The pods would be at 90 degree angles to the spine, allowing views towards the bay and the continent from each pod, over the roof of lower pods. This arrangement appeared to be in proper alignment with the prevailing wind direction; however, further testing and data gathering would need to be completed to assure proper placement of the building for good snow scouring, that is, removal of snow by the wind.
Three potential building sites were selected and partially analyzed during the site visit. The first site, Site A, was relatively flat with a gentle slope to the bay. It had a 200 degree view plane of McMurdo Sound and Royal Society Mountains, overlooked the wharf and coastline activities, and had a prominent location on the station’s perimeter. It was also adjacent to dormitories, the administration building and building 155, the winter over facility. A major drawback to the site was its location to the rear of the power and desalination plants which would emit diesel exhaust in the direction of the building during storm winds. Use of the site would require relocation of power lines and the demolition of one building. The site was also considered too remote from the helipad, and the field equipment center for scientists’ daily field trips. Future expansion to a proposed science building on the site would be difficult and vehicle staging would create congestion in the area.
The second site, Site B, was at a prominent location near the center of the station with 90 degree views of the sound and mountains and a moderate slope to the bay. It was adjacent to ice runway access, helipads, field equipment center and the Chalet administration building. The area was not occupied by permanent structures and was scheduled for station expansion. Disadvantages to the site were its partially blocked view behind Building 165, the flight operations center; required relocation of the large number of utility lines crossing the site; diversion of streams that ran from the snow covered hills above the station that carried melted runoff through the site from December to February; and the relocation of the main road from the ice runway, used for the delivery of cargo to the holding areas and warehouses at the rear of the station.
The third site, Site C, was also in a prominent and central location with 120 degree views of the mountains and sound. It was relatively flat and had the same favorable adjacencies as the second site. Limiting factors to its development were the required relocation of the ceremonial International Square, the Chalet, the Mammoth Mountain Inn, a dormitory and the Eklund Biological Center. The site limited future building expansion due to its adjacency to the helipad.
The recommended site, after further analysis, was a combination of partial areas of sites B and C. Together the sites offered a prominent central location removed from the logistics support and berthing sections of the station in which each portion of a large segmented building could have 180 degree views of the sound and continent and be easily viewed by incoming visitors, (fig. 14). It also featured good adjacencies to scientific support facilities and provided good growth options in several directions. the required demolition of small outdated structures was consistent with formerly developed utility and building master plans. Stream diversion and road relocation would require additional work but could be accomplished during the site work phase of the construction. The renovations to the site would begin a new master renewal plan badly needed by the station. The scientific operations of the station would be set apart in a paramount location on this site, giving science a new image at the station. (fig. 15).
At the completion of the six-week site visit, Joe Ferraro and Lee Davis returned to Honolulu and prepared a final analysis and report of their work*. Their programming study indicated that the area requirements of the scientific community for the replacement science facility totaled 40,000 square feet. A presentation was prepared and made to key NSF staff and scientists at a workshop at the NSF offices in Washington, D.C. on March 6 and 7, 1985. Comments at the workshop resulted in minor reconfiguration and additions of laboratories, both of which were incorporated into the final program report. Presentation drawings were prepared and presented to the Polar Sciences International Community Conference in San Diego on June 17, 1986 and again to NSF, ANS and PACDIV in Washington, D.C. on June 20, 1986.
* "Architecture on Ice," Hawaii Architect, August 1985
Proceed to next section: 10. Final Design of the Replacement Science Facility
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