India Ministry of Earth Sciences and the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR)
Sustainable Architecture:
Ferraro Choi And Associates
PDC Engineering
Energy Consultant:
Lincolne Scott


In 2006, the Government of India, through the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), published an international invitation to interested design firms to submit credentials and conceptual architectural design solutions for a self-contained Indian Research Base in the Larsemann Hills region of Antarctica. The invitation placed an emphasis on previous experience in designing remote facilities in extreme cold climates as well as sustainable “green” technologies. Having a keen interest in the project type, the needed qualifications, and the experience in extreme cold-weather architecture, Ferraro Choi and its team of engineers and responded to the invitation with the architectural concept and planning design described in this case study.



The project site is an unnamed promontory of land situated between the Strornes and Broknes peninsulas located at the Larsemann Hills region, (Latitude 69º 24’ 28.8.” S, Longitude 76º 11’ 14.7” E) of East Antarctica. The natural topography is a rocky granite hill towering approximately 90 meters above sea level. Prevailing winds approach from the North and East and stronger Katabatic winds from the South East. The siting and placement of the new research station was based on a location that would:

  • minimize the amount of snow drifting;
  • minimize the need for extensive site modification;
  • provide the best access to the sea and sea ice.



The proposed new Indian Research Base was comprised of two distinct elements: the main station and the remote science facilities. The concept design described in this case study includes the site location and master plan for the entire research base and an architectural design for the main station. Project objectives for the concept design included the following:

  • Design for a permanent crew of 15 and a visitor population of 10;
  • Comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and safe quarters for a prolonged stay in a remote environment;
  • Design for both interactive and private spaces for crew and visitor population;
  • Construction and long term maintenance of a remote facility;
  • A practical and sustainable green building system that provides extended building life and planned decommissioning;
  • A facility with “plug-in” capability for communication and remote direct digital control management by NCAOR.


Station Structures:

The architectural organization for the station proper places the primary science operations (work) and general living (habitat) in separate structures (Pods). To minimize snow drifting, the Pods were elevated above current and projected snow levels.

  • Pod 1: contains science facilities and associated storage;
  • Pod 2: provides for station housing and is designed in two levels. The lower level contains quiet areas with individual sleeping rooms, a meditation area, bathrooms, a laundry and personal storage. The upper level provides the station’s communal areas of kitchen, dining, bar, lounge and entertainment areas, the gymnasium and medical facility;
  • Power Station Pod: includes the primary generators, renewable power equipment, potable water plant, water storage, boiler, and fuel depot;
  • Link/Utillidor: The entire main station will be interconnected by an above-surface passageway or elevated horizontal circulation ”Link”. Besides providing sheltered passage, the link will carry utilities to the pods from the power plant and be a platform for renewable and passive energy systems;
  • Garage/Shops/Cargo Facility: will be located in a partially elevated and skirted building structure apart from the main building pods. Its location will allow drifting to the rear and down hill from the building, away from the station’s staging areas. The facility will also house cargo, waste collection and compaction facilities.


Circulation / Traffic Patterns:

Favorable for staging and helicopter landings, the flat land to the rear of the main buildings provide the primary circulation and traffic patterns, which will lead to a new access road to the existing ski-way, and a ship off-loading shore location to the northeast and downhill of the site.


Building Envelope:

The design of the exterior “skin” of the new station will include a high performance panelized system of pre-finished exterior cladding over composite structural building panels. To promote green design, the building panels are partially comprised of recycled and non off-gassing, inert materials that can be recycled back into the environment.


Sustainable Green Design Strategies:

  • Prefabricated modular components;
  • Retrograde construction and operations waste from continent;
  • Minimum site disruption;
  • Preservation of the natural habitat;
  • Thermal comfort;
  • Natural daylighting and views;
  • Individual temperature controls;
  • Energy conservation;
  • Renewable energy systems;
  • Water conservation and graywater use.


Snowdrift Assessment:

A preliminary snowdrift assessment was conducted on the concept design structure, station layout, and placement of structures to determine:

  • how snowdrifts might affect serviceability and access to the station;
  • how snowdrifts might potentially impact the structural integrity of the structure;
  • assess the station’s influence on the environment.


For this concept assessment, a comparative CFD study was performed of the ground level snow deposition rate around a rectangular elevated building, with and without windward streamlined edges. Results of this analysis are shown in Figures 1 and 2.



Since the time of the submission to NCAOR, the Government of India, due primarily to funding constraints, has determined not to pursue the project at Larsemann Hills, and is studying the feasibility of a collaborative science station with another country in a different location in Antarctica.