Emeritus professor spends two weeks in Antarctica testing eco tent

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Emeritus Professor Sue Roaf has returned after spending two weeks testing the endurance of a tent made from eco-materials in one of the harshest climates in the world.

In Collins Bay on King George Island, Antarctica, Sue Roaf and colleagues Manuel Correia Guedes and Joao Pinelo Silva built the Polar Lodge.

The traditional yurt style tent is 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.

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

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

After constructing the Polar Lodge, Sue Roaf, Manuel Correia Guedes and Joao Pinelo Silva tested its durability first-hand, staying overnight in the tent. Surrounded by glaciers and with only their tent between them and -15°C, it was the perfect opportunity for the team to experience using the Polar Lodge as shelter in extreme weather conditions.

Sue 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 team managed a blog during their two weeks in Antarctica, which highlights the challenges and lessons learnt during their time on the ice.

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, April 10-11 2019. 

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

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