Rick Sommerfeld and Dr. George Watters

Misunderstanding the Snow Desert: New Solutions for a Coastal Antarctic Field Station

5pm PST Friday, April 14, 2023

Business Rotunda (03-213)


Rick Sommerfeld, AIA

Director of ColoradoBuildingWorkshop, CU Denver

Erik “Rick” Sommerfeld is an Architect, Associate Professor, and the Director of ColoradoBuildingWorkshop, the design-build program at the University of Colorado Denver. Since founding Colorado Building Workshop in 2009, Rick has worked with his students to design and build projects for not-for-profits and government agencies focused on the environment, arts, and education. These structures are often located in sensitive remote environments requiring innovative design strategies.

The program is currently working on a remote field camp in Antarctica for NOAA Scientists in Antarctica.

George Watters, Ph.D.

Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division Director

George Watters is the Director of the Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division and the U.S. Representative to the Scientific Committee for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. George has held both these positions since 2009 but has been active in Antarctic research since 1991, when he joined the Division as a first-year Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. George's research is primarily focused on issues that relate directly to ecosystem-based management of fisheries in the Southern Ocean.


The Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD), a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) division, has conducted integrated ecosystem assessments around the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands since 1986. Their facility on Cape Shirreff, a peninsula off Livingston Island, was built in 1991 and has deteriorated beyond repair.

In the spring of 2022, Colorado Building Workshop, the design-build program at CU Denver, partnered with a seasoned Antarctic contractor and over 20 community partners to replace the field camp. The new 1600-square-foot research station is a flat-packable prefabricated structure that can be shipped

and reassembled without heavy equipment. The building features weather-resistant construction, off-grid power, water collection, and housing and laboratory space for up to eight scientists.

The project was designed and prefabricated in Denver in 19 weeks by 22 graduate students. Then, it was deconstructed and shipped to Antarctica in the winter of 2022, where a small team of 12 people reassembled it in 27 days.

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