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Sun June 20 2021

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Eco housing materials put to the test in Antarctica

4 Apr 19 A professor from Heriot-Watt University has returned to Scotland after spending two weeks in Antarctica testing the endurance of eco-materials that could one day be used for emergency housing.

Sue Roaf in Antarctica
Sue Roaf in Antarctica

The team led by emeritus professor Sue Roaf tested the Polar Lodge, a traditional yurt-style tent lined with space blankets with an outer weather skin of Dyneema made from re-cycled racing yacht sails. The thermal flooring is of cork and plastic bottle carpets and underlays from WeaverGreen with solar lighting inside.

After constructing the Polar Lodge, Roaf and team members Manuel Correia Guedes and Joao Pinelo Silva tested its durability first-hand, staying overnight in the tent while surrounded by glaciers and with only their tent between them and -15°C.

The team is testing whether it will stand up for twelve freezing months in Antarctica, in winds of up to 200mph.

It is part of the Extreme Lodge project, which aims to provide temporary and emergency shelters in areas of extreme cold and winds. The aim is to develop shelters that are easily transportable, easy to assemble and leave no pollution.

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Roaf said: “Doing a live project like this pushes one beyond one’s own knowledge limits…How can you understand the power of the wind and extreme cold without experiencing it? “The actual design and construction of the tent is also teaching us as architects much about designing for extremely cold climates. It is really concentrating the mind on what many of us will increasingly have to face in the years and decades ahead [with climate change]. Many of the lessons might even have been useful for people trying to cope with the Polar Vortex in the USA this winter.”

The initial results of the expedition will be presented at the Comfort at the Extremes Conference, which will be held at Heriot Watt University Dubai Campus next week.

The structure will continue to be monitored for the next 12 months.

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