Global team supports Australian Government Antarctic project

Client:Australian Antarctic Division
Location:Davis research station, East Antarctica

The Australian Government has committed to a new era of Antarctic engagement and will deliver sustainable, world-class facilities to support Australian Antarctic activities into the future.

WSP; Elton Consulting, A WSP Company; and Hugh Broughton Architects have been engaged by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) to develop a master plan to modernise the infrastructure at Davis research station, located in East Antarctica.

Australian Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley, said the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) is engaging with Australia’s Antarctic community to understand the challenges of living and working in a remote Antarctic environment.

“We want to build a sustainable and resilient station that has flexibility to support future science and emerging technologies.”

The program has reached a milestone with the completion of  an initial master plan.

Unique conditions

The master plan has addressed the challenges of living and working in Antarctica. These include extreme weather condition, isolation, logistics and resource availability.

Davis research station aims to be a modern research station that enhances health, safety and wellbeing for expeditioners living and working on the continent. Providing resilient facilities that support year-round, world-leading science and showcase holistic sustainability, setting the new standard for infrastructure development in Antarctica.

A key part of this has been gathering information and feedback from a variety of sources including those with on-the-ground experience.


Engaging remotely in a remote location

A comprehensive stakeholder engagement process is an essential step in the master planning process. Given the challenges, complexities and sensitivities of planning for long-term infrastructure in such an extreme and remote environment for living and working, it is critical to gather information and feedback from a variety of sources including those with on-the-ground experience.

The engagement strategy is following a targeted and highly collaborative staged approach by AAD and the project team. It has been important to link in with existing AAD communication mechanisms, to effectively reach out to AAD staff, experts and partners – all while working within a COVID-19 restricted world.

The first stage of engagement commenced with interaction with AAD and its close partners. Remote engagement sessions followed a series of highly structured and content rich discussions around streams of work. The sessions were carefully planned by the project team located in Auckland, Christchurch, London, Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney. AAD staff and its partners located in Hobart and Antarctica joined remotely with sessions ranging in size from 8 to 25 people.

Each two-hour session involved expert facilitation by Founder of Elton Consulting, Brian Elton, and focused on key elements of the project – incorporating a series of technical presentations and in-depth discussion of complex issues. And while our colleagues in the Southern hemisphere slept at the end of each day, members of the architectural team in the Northern hemisphere progressed the plans – ahead of the following day’s session. A truly collaborative process enabled by technology and a dedicated global team!

Brian said:

Early engagement activities to date have provided excellent input to the master planning process. Online engagement was embraced by the international project team and AAD staff, including those in remote Antarctic locations. Online engagement has proved to be inclusive, efficient and highly successful, particularly during COVID-19 restrictions. It has been a real pleasure working with the AAD team and helping to identify potential future opportunities and solutions.

Critical to the success of this process was the highly structured format of these remote facilitated workshops. This included pre-circulating relevant background materials including a short video to set expectations for the session, screen sharing during the planning sessions to review key documents and, encouraging use of the online technology chat function to enable and capture detailed Q&A throughout the process.

The next stages of engagement will continue as the Davis master plan process rolls out, with remote engagement activities highly likely to feature again.

View our LinkedIn announcement.