Antarctica or bust: Site visit sends IMEG to penguin paradise (Podcast included)

IMEG’s Peter Monroe shares his career experience of a lifetime—a site visit he made to Antarctica—on the IMEG podcast, The Future Built Smarter. A former client executive and a structural engineer for 55 years, Peter made the journey from Denver to Antarctica in early 2024 to visit a project at McMurdo Station, a National Science Foundation research facility on Ross Island. McMurdo is undergoing extensive updates, and Peter’s visit was to observe the structural construction of the station’s new dormitory, one of two buildings for which IMEG has provided structural construction documents.  

Established in 1955, McMurdo consists of numerous buildings and infrastructure of varying sizes and functions, many that are no longer used, others that will be replaced and consolidated into more efficient modern facilities. “I’ve been telling people the best way to describe it is like some of the old mining towns here in Colorado or out in California that are half abandoned,” Peter says of his first impressions of McMurdo. He also discusses the added challenges of design and construction in the Antarctic—extreme weather and permafrost, materials logistics, limited construction seasons—and key takeaways from the dormitory project. “Generally, we made good decisions,” he says, adding that there were many lessons learned to apply to the core building—the next project IMEG will design for the NSF. “The dormitory is one of their first major projects and hopefully the lessons transfer.” 

While he was scheduled to be at McMurdo for six days, bad weather and airplane mechanical issues extended his stay to 12 days. That allowed him to be present for the dormitory “topping off” ceremony—the hoisting and placement of the final structural steel beam, which he signed along with the other project team partners who were present. The additional days also gave him extra time to explore and take photos and videos of the Antarctic’s native residents. “One of the days, there were two little Adelie penguins walking down the road and we were all standing there watching them. Another day the big emperor penguins came in and there was probably 50, 60, or 70 of them.”  

The Antarctica trip will always stand out among Peter’s career highlights and is decidedly his farthest site visit ever—eclipsing a past visit to Saudi Arabia and easily outdistancing anything else. “For something that was in Denver, I’d leave the office in the morning, go out, and be back before lunch.”  

Watch a video of Peter Monroe’s Antarctica site visit. 

Listen to the podcast:

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