JELD-WEN, one of the UK’s largest timber window manufacturers, is celebrating supplying a replacement timber window for the Antarctic, 60 years after the company supplied the original timber huts.

The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust has commissioned JELD-WEN to provide a replacement for a damaged timber window for Bransfield House, the main hut at Port Lockroy, one of the first permanent bases in Antarctica. From the 1940s, it conducted geology, meteorology and botany and kick started the UK’s scientific research interest on the continent. Today it is a living museum for the thousands of Antarctic tourists that visit each year.

General Manager of JELD-WEN Lowestoft, (where the window was made) Tom Horne said: “It’s a real honour to be able to supply a window to the original Antarctic hut that our company built 60 years ago. This really does show how timber windows can last a lifetime - the huts are apparently still in really good condition which is amazing when you consider the severe weather conditions and the fact that they are 40 degrees below freezing and nearly seven decades old! There are no harsher conditions than the Antarctic and it clearly demonstrates how back then as today, our products are built to last!”

The relationship with the Antarctic started well over 60 years ago when Boulton & Paul, the company JELD-WEN bought back in 1999, supplied the actual timber huts to be sent to Port Lockroy, one of the Government’s bases in the Antarctic, JELD-WEN only discovered this exciting part of its history recently when sorting through the company archives, which led to finding an original purchase order for these historic timber huts. On making contact with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, JELD-WEN staff were asked if they would be able to help with replacing a single window that had become damaged in Bransfield House, yet the rest of the hut and its windows remained solid, showing just how robust timber is, even in the most extreme weather conditions.

Bransfield House was named after Edward Bransfield, the first person to chart an area of the Antarctic coastline in 1819/20. JELD-WEN’s timber component factory has now produced and donated the single glazed timber window to the exact design of the original windows to match those supplied to the building 50 years ago.

Tudor Morgan, Project Manager from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust said: “We are really pleased that JELD-WEN were able to help restore Bransfield House. If this project works out as we expect, we hope to be able to replace other similar windows in the future. Our role is to conserve these historic British huts in the Antarctic, ensuring that they can be retained permanently as part of our heritage and enjoyed by thousands of visitors for a long time into the future.”

Part of the reason for choosing timber was because it is sustainable, durable and a natural insulator, all of which enables it to withstand the extreme weather conditions of the Antarctic, much better than any other material. Protecting the environment was also a key concern and timber was chosen because of its natural non-polluting characteristics, which will help the base comply with the Environmental audits that are regularly carried out. Antarctica is the most unpolluted, unspoilt landscapes on earth and using a natural sustainable product such as timber is all part of keeping it that way.

Port Lockroy was the first British Research outpost in the Antarctic that was built in 1944 as part of a wartime “Operation Tabarin” to provide weather reports for shipping. After the war, the base was transferred to the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) and was later renamed ‘The British Antarctic Survey (BAS)’ in 1972. The base was abandoned in 1962, but in recognition of the historical importance of the scientific research and exploration carried out by "Operation Tabarin," it was declared Historic Sites and Monuments under the Antarctic Treaty System in 1995. The base was restored in 1996 and since then has been open to visitors during the Antarctic summer, with over 15,000 tourist visitors per year.

JELD-WEN’s Technical Director Ian Purkis said: “There is really nothing like these and the other historic huts anywhere else in the World. The originals really do show how good quality timber stands the test of time, even against the most adverse climatic conditions. Even sixty years ago we were providing structurally sound, weather resistant and truly reliable products, even if somewhat basic by comparison with today’s advanced timber windows. It’s great to see the JELD-WEN name linked with buildings of worldwide significance and almost unbelievable that we are able to get involved with this unique project again over 60 years later. “

As part of its support for the charitable organisation, JELD-WEN has also sponsored the design of a souvenir guide that is distributed free to all visitors to the Port Lockroy base.

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