Human activity fundamentally, and often irreversibly, alters the natural world, its available resources, and how it functions. Today, ecologists are hard-pressed to provide accurate information about the current status of the ever-changing environment. This pressure comes from the need to know how to manage natural resources to avoid critical resource scarcity, ecosystem sustainability and degradation, and understanding the planet’s mechanisms and processes to respond to small and large-scale changes.
To understand the causes and consequences of these pressure points, as well as climate change by and large, ambitious amounts of information must effectively be gathered and shared to create a comprehensive picture of the world today. This requires international collaboration between ecologists, science institutions, universities, governments (at the federal, state, and local levels), and researchers gathering information with the use of field stations for remote locations.
The scope and scale of research is often-times dictated by the amount of available funds. There are many resources for sourcing and raising funds for research.
When it comes to performing research in remote locations of the world, budgets quickly inflate when calculating the cost of travel, shipping sensitive research equipment, as well as having the necessary space for lodging, laboratories, and equipment storage. Traditional field stations built of wood can be both costly to ship and add days to the research calendar. Field stations, laboratories, and equipment storage facilities made using engineered fabric structures offer an economical solution for shipping and establishing a remote field station in a fraction of the time.
The Importance of Field Stations
Field stations are essential for ecological research and education. Field stations create a safe space for researchers, educators, and staff to remain immersed in a location while gathering information critical to the modeling, comprehension, and understanding of the complex ecosystems. The Ecological Society of America (ESA) defines field stations as the following:
Field stations are centers for research, teaching, and engagement that provide environmental information and education around the globe (Tydecks et al. 2016). Field stations provide a physical and intellectual space for at least four societal functions, including (1) observation of environmental change, (2) training the next generation of scientists and continuing training of practicing educators and natural resource professionals, (3) engaging the public in science and discovery of the natural world, and (4) space to test new technologies and methods (NRC 2014). Field stations also are important repositories of long‐term data sets and plant and animal collections. These data sets are especially valuable in the face of local to global changes in temperature, precipitation, storm intensity, phenology, and other factors associated with changing climate and land use.
For ecologists and naturalists, field stations are essential; and their work is essential for our better understanding of the environment we reside within. Whether your reasoning is rooted in anthropomorphic utilitarianism (human-centric) or deep ecological theory (preserve nature for nature’s sake), you can’t deny that field stations are key to the preservation and progression of both schools of thought and, more dramatically, our sustainable existence.
The Cost of a Field Station
Often times, the finances needed to support a field station are significant. So, too, are the environmental impacts and consequences of building one. In many cases, building a new field station to study an area entails doing additional harm to the environment during construction.
Ecologists, architects, and designers can work together to minimize this harm, but nothing can eliminate it altogether. One example of this is the Shao-ming Sun Field Station. The design team constructed this building to create a zero-emission and ecologically friendly field station.
Features of the Shao-ming Sun Field Station include solar power to run heating, electricity, and lighting; constant monitoring of the building’s energy performance; passive cooling design; and sustainable construction materials.
The initiative taken in designing such a facility lays the groundwork for future permanent-type field stations. However, with a construction cost of $3.29 million dollars, this may not be the most economical solution or anywhere within the research budget, especially for temporary field stations, or field stations used in remote locations.
A Better Way
What if your research and field station requirement doesn’t call for the construction of a conventional type building (wood, brick and mortar, or steel building), but facilities are needed for accommodation, a laboratory, storing equipment and samples, with the intention of maintaining the pristine condition of the environment?
This is where high-quality engineered fabric structures provide a green building solution that allows researchers, ecologists, scientists, and staff to quickly establish a remote camp complete with living, research, and storage space.
Used for research facilities and field stations in extreme climates as frigid as Antarctica, to the blistering heat of the Sahara, WeatherPort Shelter Systems™ engineers fabric structures designed for easy transport, quick setup, and zero to minimal environmental impact. Field stations made using fabric buildings can be designed to fulfill temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent building requirements around the world. Since opening their doors in 1968, WeatherPort has provided engineered fabric buildings for research, science expeditions, field stations, laboratories, as well as sample and equipment storage facilities in more than 65 countries!
Engineered fabric structures from WeatherPort provide a number of unique advantages that align with the mission of naturalists and ecologists:
- Minimal foundation requirement allows a WeatherPort field station to be installed and safely anchored to nearly any level ground type, including sand and gravel. This also means less site preparation and the need for disturbing the natural environment.
- Engineered for rapid setup and take down with minimal tool or equipment reduces construction time, environmental impact, and labor costs.
- A truly relocatable design allows a WeatherPort field station to be setup and used seasonally, setup for a period of time while research is being performed, or indefinitely as a permanent research facility. Extensive field and laboratory testing has been performed to ensure structural integrity and eliminate mechanical failures from repeated setup and take downs.
- Straightforward fabric building design allows the field station to be quickly assembled and with minimal skill.
- Skylight material utilizes natural light, reducing the need for electricity and lighting during the day to provide a bright interior conducive to carrying out research activities.
- Clear span design maximizes the available interior space for living accommodations, research, laboratory, and equipment storage.
- Proprietary insulation systems capable of meeting any R-value increase energy efficiency and creates a comfortable interior space for living and working, even in the most extreme hot or cold climates.
- The long-lasting tensioned membrane is engineered to resist mold, mildew, offers a greater abrasion resistance than other membrane systems and exceeds fire safety requirements outlined in the California Code of Regulations for membrane structures.
- The high-strength metal frame system is available in galvanized steel or aircraft-grade aluminum. Optional powder coating is available for areas with high humidity, corrosives, or sea spray.
- Unlike wood or steel buildings, engineered fabric structures from WeatherPort are virtually maintenance free, allowing scientists and staff to remain focused on research and not maintaining the condition of their field station.
WeatherPort manufactures a wide range of portable building solutions to meet the needs of small or large-scale research projects. Our popular GB Series offers a straight wall design, is easy to assemble, and is a much more durable gable building solution than your typical camping tent. For mid-size research facilities, the versatile HGB Series can be designed up to 30’ wide and customized with a large selection of windows and doors, as well as to any length. For large research projects, or for storing large pieces of research equipment, the DAGB Series is a gable-truss building capable of reaching widths up to 150’ wide and to any length.
Interested to learn how an engineered fabric building could work for your field station or research facility requirement, call us today to speak with a building specialist: +1-970-399-5909. Or complete our online form to submit an inquiry for a free consultation.