Princess Elisabeth Antarctic Research Station – a global sustainability benchmark

The challenge of Belgium's new Research Station in Antarctica is 3-fold:

  • Design and build the first ever polar research station fully relying on sustainable energy for energy supply and with a minimal ecological footprint: the choice and the tests of materials and technologies will respect the principles of the eco-construction in order to reduce the environmental impact of the establishment of the base. The greatest part of the energy needs will be satisfied by means of renewable sources of energy, which will make this new Belgian base the first in the world in this field.
  • Without compromising on the scientific programme, living conditions, efficiency, safety or operational costs: the target will be to demonstrate the feasibility of sustainable construction in extreme environments, creating opportunities to export the Antartic solutions to 'normal' world situations.
  • With a high level of adaptability to future needs: the processes of water treatment used on the sites will be studied to determine the most effective methods making it possible to prevent any pollution to the environment and to facilitate the drainage worn of the Antarctic continent.

Its programme is expected to involve scientists from European nations as well as other international researchers, including Japan, in the hope of answering key questions about the vast Antarctic continent and our planet's endangered climate.

Passive Building

The building design shows a need for balancing the various parameters such as a glazed surface with automated solar protection and control, thermal mass using the locally available granite rocks, phase change building materials, insulation and so on.

Princess Elisabeth Station needs minimal additional heating (electrical resistances to heat up air in different ventilation circuits) but on the other side, does not suffer uncontrollable overheating due to balanced ventilation with heat and moisture recovery. It also enables comfortable day lighting levels, but roof lights are necessary.

The energy concept

Heat side:

  • Solar thermal water melting and heating
  • 30 sq.m high performance flat plate collectors
  • Electrical backup

Electricity side:

  • Wind turbines
  • Photovoltaic panels
  • Lead-acid battery storage
  • Fuelled generator back-up
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