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Fabric Structure Built for Extreme Conditions on Greenland Ice Sheet

Case Studies, Exteriors | February 1, 2017 | By:

image_1Rubb USA, utilizing Serge Ferrari flexible composite materials, recently completed the installation of a modular structure at the Summit Station, Greenland, adapting the structure’s design to the unique needs of the extreme cold weather location.

The Summit Station, located on the summit of the Greenland Ice Sheet, is home to the Greenland Environmental Observatory (GEOSummit), established by the National Science Foundation, an independent agency of the United States, with cooperation from the government of Greenland. The station is located atop almost 2 miles of ice and is nearly 245 miles from the nearest point of land. It supports a variety of scientific research year-round, including ongoing research of the rapidly melting Greenland Ice Sheet and its impact to rising sea levels and sea life.

image_4Life at the Summit Station has many challenges for the scientists, researchers and operations personnel living there. Temperatures range from a high of 14°F in Summer to a low of -49°F in Winter, with temperatures logged as low as -100°F. Up to 120 inches of snow fall per year causing any structure erected at the site to be ultimately buried due to drifting snow. Food and supplies stored “undersnow” in dug-out caverns become deeper and more difficult to access with each snowfall, requiring new caverns to be dug, and supplies moved.

The National Science Foundation, along with their operations partner CH2M Hill Polar Services, hired Rubb USA to provide a more practical solution for a relocatable equipment and maintenance storage facility. Rubb USA, a manufacturer of specialty tension fabric buildings and structures, designed a construction that could be built on-site, was lightweight and was durable enough to withstand the elements.

image_3The 32 ft by 97 ft structure was designed, pre-fabricated and test-erected at Rubb’s Sanford, Maine facility, then delivered to the site by a military airplane. The installation took only a month to complete despite very extreme job site conditions and minimal equipment.

The structure’s foundation of wood and metal was specially designed to allow it to slide easily when moved by tractor. The insulated double-wall construction is supported by a steel frame. Serge Ferrari’s Precontraint® 932 S2 was installed as the exterior wall due to its exceptional low temperature resistance (-60°F), and Serge Ferrari’s Precontraint 412, a light blocking material, was installed as the interior wall. A special 8-inch thick insulating blanket, Rubb Thermohall®, was installed in the pocket between the Serge Ferrari walls to keep the interior from freezing. A generator-driven lighting and heating system was also installed.

A project of this scope and in these conditions can provide many challenges, immediately testing the durability of both the design and the materials. Just the pulling of the Serge Ferrari material over the steel frame in freezing conditions is enough to test the strength and low temperature resistance of the material. After the installation was completed, they also test-moved the structure some 1,200 feet. In both instances, no tears or other damage were reported.

image_2Serge Ferrari Precontraint 932 S2 is a lightweight, flexible and dimensionally stable composite material for modular structures capable of withstanding temperatures from -60°F to 158°F in tensioned and static conditions, and -40°F when bending. Serge Ferrari Precontraint 412 is a lightweight, flexible and dimensionally stable liner material designed to block exterior light. Serge Ferrari manufactures a complete line of composite materials with the company’s exclusive and patented Precontraint technology. This technology keeps the fabric under tension during the entire manufacturing process enabling a strong, lighter material. While Serge Ferrari materials provide an exceptionally long service life, they are not only 100 percent recyclable at the end of their life, but also recycled with the company’s exclusive Texyloop® program.

About Rubb Building Systems
Rubb Building Systems is a world leader in fabric-covered, tension-membrane structures and buildings used in aircraft, industrial, storage, marine and military applications. Rubb manufactures prefabricated, portable structures, aircraft hangars, buildings, shelters and custom structures for many applications. The company started making portable shelters in Norway in 1968 and now have complete engineering, design and production facilities in the USA, Norway and the UK. For more information visit the company’s website:

About Serge Ferrari
Serge Ferrari is a leading manufacturer of flexible composite membranes used globally for the marine, solar protection, architectural, building, modular structure, sport, military and furniture markets. For the last 40 years, Serge Ferrari has paved the way for sustainable construction, energy control, protection and renewal of natural resources and design through its cutting edge technology, including its patented Precontraint technology that ensures exceptional long term durability through dimensional stability, and Texyloop®, its exclusive recycling program. Serge Ferrari North America is based in Pompano Beach, Fla., and handles sales and service of Serge Ferrari products in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. For more information visit the company’s website:

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