Facility upgrades continue with a new medical building and waste heat extension

March 17, 2022

Haley Dunleavy

In an effort to better support the needs of its users, Toolik Field Station (TFS) saw two major facility upgrades this past year.

First, the EMT shack has been decommissioned and replaced with a new Medical Clinic. Construction on the heated, four-season building was finished in September and includes new equipment, plumbing, living quarters for resident EMTs, a treatment room, and patient holding room for use when adverse weather conditions delay medevac crews from transporting patients. Scott Filippone, TFS safety coordinator and lead EMT, said, "The clinic has been a long anticipated addition to Toolik's infrastructure that promises to dramatically improve potential patient outcomes for the foreseeable future." The facility, now ADA accessible, will allow for better in-camp treatment for illnesses and injuries in addition to serving as an additional building that can support winter operations. "While we hope to never have to put the clinic through its paces, it is reassuring knowing that we have a facility that has been custom-designed and equipped to address the unique challenges that can arise when working in such a remote location," Filippone said, adding, "Stop by for a tour the next time you are in Toolik!"

Toolik Field Station new medical clinic is a single-story modular unit with beige siding and red trim and features an ADA ramp and stairs in front.
Justin Johnson
Toolik Field Station's new medical clinic was built in September 2021 and is located on the camp pad near the shipping and receiving tent.

Additionally, TFS has expanded its waste heat system, which captures the thermal energy produced by generators and uses it to heat buildings and hot water. Prior to the expansion, this energy efficient technology fully heated the garage and generator modules. Battelle Arctic Research Operations led construction across the camp pad last fall, extending the buried waste heat pipeline system to the dining hall, where it will be used to provide heat and hot water in the summertime. The waste heat extension will lower energy consumption and emissions by field station activities and ultimately result in significant cost savings and reduced impacts to climate change.

Construction workers lifting large metal pipes into an excavated area using heavy machinery.
Faustine Bernadac
Construction crew members from Battelle Arctic Research Operations install pipes to transfer waste heat from the generator module to the dining hall.

The two improvements are part of a larger pattern of facilities development over the past four years. Since 2018, TFS has replaced four of its old dormitories, commonly known as ATCO 1-4, with newer models. The new dorms not only provided much needed updates to aging camp residence spaces, but also fulfilled a growing demand from TFS users for single-occupancy rooms. More recent updates include a combined effort from staff and visiting researchers and students to breathe new life into the station's community center. Thanks to funds donated by the Institute of Arctic Biology at University of Alaska Fairbanks, the center received new couches, a sound system, and a screened porch. Residents from this summer reported that community center use has increased following the revamp and seems to promote users’ well-being, especially throughout the pandemic, when stays in Toolik’s isolated setting have been longer than normal.

Many of these improvements originated from ideas expressed during user forums and community meetings. For example, the push for improved medical facilities was sparked from a breakout group during the All-Scientists Meeting in 2019. Together, these improvements have expanded TFS’s capacity for providing quality infrastructure while working to reduce its carbon footprint. Toolik Field Station thanks our community for their input and is excited to share the new updates still to come. Thank you to the National Science Foundation for funding these improvements.