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CU Denver students create eco-friendly buildings for scientists in Antarctica

CU Denver Antarctica build.jpg
Posted at 4:34 PM, May 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-24 19:37:26-04

DENVER — A group of University of Colorado Denver students are working on a special construction project for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service that will be utilized in Antarctica.

The students, from the College of Architecture and Planning, designed two buildings that will be used for scientific research.

“This project is extremely specialized in the sense that Antarctica is a pretty rough environment and extremely inaccessible. So the structures are prefabricated structures that we're building here in Denver, and then we're going to take them completely apart, they each have to be modular. So they're basically being broken down into small building components that can then be shipped to the islands and a small kind of rubber boat has to drive piece by piece by piece, each one of these structures to this remote island, where they're going to be put back together,” Rick Sommerfeld, the Director of Colorado Building workshop, a design build program at the University of Colorado, said. “The scientists are studying krill populations and the predatory species that actually feed on those populations, mostly penguins and fur seals. So the students are here designing the last two buildings of a four building project for the scientists of Antarctica.”

Sommerfeld said because current students are working on completing their course work, CU Denver alumni were given the opportunity to make the special delivery.

“We reached out to our alumni network, there's about 350 students that have gone to the program. And since most of the students that went through this are still in school, while we're doing the rebuild, we added this really fun opportunity for students who have gone through the program and are now practicing professionals,” Sommerfeld said.

CU Denver students create eco-friendly buildings for scientists in Antarctica

One of the alumni who delivered a set of buildings to Antarctica is architectural designer Filimon Alvarez.

“It was an amazing experience being part of such a great team,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the trip took about a month and he learned skills he’s implemented in his everyday work.

“I learned how to collaborate with teams, you know, the general contractor, the client, yeah, it's something that I use every day in my current role. And it's something that CU Denver has prepared me well for,” Alvarez said.

Cristian Gomez who is in the first year of the masters architecture program said participating in the design and building process has been fun.

“One of the main reasons why I hopped kind of straight into the master's program was because of the Colorado Building Workshop. It just offers a really unique experience of being able to be hands on with the project,” Gomez said. “It's crazy. It's like 10,000 miles away. But it's also really awesome that we're able to provide, you know, these facilities for the scientists.”

“One of the issues that the previous structures had was a series of mold infiltrating the buildings. So these are built out of a panelized system, a structurally insulated panel that's resistant to a lot of that sort of mold and moisture,” Sommerfeld said.

Sommerfeld said students are problem-solving and innovating on the spot and putting their work to the test in one of the toughest environments on the planet.

The buildings that are currently being built on-campus will be shipped to Antarctica for a rebuild there in 2024.

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