Leading fire engineering consultancy, OFR Consultants has announced its re-appointment on the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation Programme, which includes the modernisation of the UK’s largest research hubs - the Rothera Research Station. The team has been supporting Ramboll in their capacity as technical advisor to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) by providing fire strategy support for the research station since 2019. The re-appointment will see the Manchester-based business continue this work at one of the world’s most remote sites, over the next 10 years.
The Research Station at Rothera is Britain’s largest, and is where a wide range of scientific research, including biosciences, geosciences, glaciology and meteorology is carried out, as well as acting as a hub for supporting deep-field and air operations. It supports a wide range of BAS, UK university and international collaborative science programmes. The site includes the Bonner research laboratory, offices, workshops, runway, a hangar and a new larger wharf to accommodate the UK’s new polar research vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough.
OFR, which also has offices throughout the UK from London to Glasgow, is currently working as part of the team on the new operations building named The Discovery Building to commemorate the discovery of Antarctica 200 years ago – a 4,500m2 operational hub comprising field expedition preparation areas, a consolidated central store, plant, offices, recreational spaces and more. OFR are also providing technical support for the new hangar facility design, whose goal is to provide more space and functionality to enable expansion of the aircraft fleet in years to come.
Although Antarctica is the coldest, windiest and driest continent, OFR’s focus for the new buildings is on providing fire engineering advice which reflects a strategy of asset protection over and above the traditional life safety approach. This ensures that each building is sufficiently resilient thanks to fire safety systems which adequately protect assets and enable essential operational continuity so far as can be reasonably expected given the challenging conditions of the Antarctic and the absence of a fire service. Whilst the elimination or prevention of hazards is prioritised, OFR also considers foreseeable events to both actively protect assets and to support recovery from potential fire scenarios.
All systems are being designed in alignment with the relevant British Standards to ensure consistency and quality. Where deviations from standards occur, resulting from natural constraints related to the unique challenges of the Antarctic, they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the fire strategy is upheld.
Speaking about the re-appointment, OFR’s Alex Williams said: “We’re thrilled with the continued opportunity to support both our client Ramboll, and the British Antarctic Survey. The project team includes an organisation of esteemed academics, researchers, innovators and operators who know Antarctica like no one else - their experience and knowledge is a fundamental ingredient in the design process.
“These projects are an inherently collaborative experience and the specific requirements go over and above any UK legislation. The OFR team is well-placed to provide this professional guidance and it’s a real credit to the whole team to be included in the Station’s exciting future projects.”
For more information about BAS’s work at The Rothera Research Station please visit https://www.bas.ac.uk/polar-operations/sites-and-facilities/facility/rothera/