CMB-S4 South Pole Laboratory Preliminary Design

The CMB-S4 Laboratory is a planned support facility located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The Laboratory serves as a support, integration, and maintenance facility for adjacent planned radio telescopes used in the research of cosmic microwave background radiation. Due to the extremely remote nature of the site and design temperatures below -110°F, the project faces unique challenges in the arrangement of the facility itself, selection of construction materials, and planning for the logistics involved with construction, while also accommodating the technical requirements of the observatory which it will serve.

M3 worked with the University of Chicago to develop the facility using pre-assembled construction to accommodate a short annual construction window, limited construction crew size, and restrictive cargo envelopes associated with the aircraft serving the site. M3 also worked with several manufacturers of construction materials and assemblies to develop material selections suitable for the climate as the temperature range is well below the norms of even the most demanding cold-weather construction. Modular construction is utilized to further reduce the demands of material handling equipment and improve field fit-up, as the availability of construction equipment and workable construction time is limited at the project’s site.

Given the high cost of energy and vitality of electrical infrastructure to South Pole station’s campus, the building envelope is carefully selected and arranged to minimize the effects of thermal bridging and maximize thermal performance. The building envelope paired with a unique air re-circulation system can maintain thermal comfort solely by re-distributing waste heat products of the computer equipment serving the project’s scientific mission.