Robertson construction and investment of Orkney healthcare facility

The Balfour, Orkney


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£65 million
NHS Orkney
May 2019
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Transforming healthcare, tackling climate change

Robertson delivered the £65 million hospital and healthcare facility for NHS Orkney that is transforming the way healthcare services are delivered in the islands. And making a positive impact on the environment.

Scotland's first net-zero hospital

Sustainability was a priority in the design and build of the NHS Balfour Hospital. In addition to services that reduce the need for patient travel to mainland Scotland for care, the facility's energy centre is key to environmental gains. The building is fully electric powered with air-to-water heat pumps generating all hot water and heating – with backup oil generators in place for emergencies – and has a 1,200 m2 expanse of solar panels to reduce reliance on the grid.

We can produce the hot water needs and offset some of the electrical needs by using Orkney's natural resources, even at low temperatures we can produce heat and hot water which will help to keep all the patients comfortable during their stay here.
Paul Bradley
Robertson Facilities Management

A design to stimulate the local area

NHS Orkney issued a very specific, bespoke brief that required a rural general hospital with particular attention to be paid to the unique needs of Orcadians.

Working with Keppie, the hospital was designed to put people first and make a positive contribution to the environment, local community and economy. It is predicated on 'place-making' to give the whole building a depth and level of design missing in many hospitals.

This rural general hospital has a large number of small departments and areas, several of which need distinct identities. An interrelated series of 'streets' and spaces are situated along patterns of established movement, arranged around a single central hub. From this public space, wayfinding is easy and intuitive, and the space is visually connected with external courtyards to further remove the traditional institutional associations.

The different spaces and activities come together effectively, delivering efficient clinical adjacencies that were required.

The design is a strong, contemporary building that is rooted in the culture and context of Orkney in general, but Kirkwall in particular.
Robertson Specialist Division carried out all external render, providing a brilliant white water- and dirt-resistant finish that is suited to the location.

 Construction of atrium hub of The Balfour, NHS Orkney hospital and healthcare facility

Innovating to address the remote location

Delivering a major healthcare project in Orkney presents a unique set of challenges. To solve these, we considered the remoteness of the island, supply chain logistics, local landscape, and challenging climatic conditions, as well as specific archaeological and environmental considerations.

For example, procuring and shipping construction materials to the island and storing on site well in advance of programme requirements reduced the vulnerability of the project to extreme weather conditions.

Structural steelwork was fabricated off-site wherever possible to enable speedy completion of the building structure. The envelope of the building was designed to make best use of trades available on the islands and to achieve an early wind and watertight position, thus allowing internal trades to progress despite inclement weather.

The materials and built form of the building and surrounding landscape, are simple, robust, easily sourced and maintained; all reflecting Orkney's heritage and ecology.

 Consttruction of The Balfour, NHS Orkney Hospital and healthcare facility using local stone

Building with and for local people

Supply chain procurement maximised the use of local labour, services and materials in every aspect of the construction. During construction, up to 50 people from the Orkney islands formed part of the workforce, providing significant revenue into Scotland and the local area.

Sub-contract packages were split into manageable sizes to suit the size of the island supply chain. This approach mitigates some of the problems faced on large construction projects in remote locations, both benefiting the project programme itself as well as the local community in which we were working.

A long term relationship to maintain the hospital

The operation of the hospital and healthcare facilities was continuously considered throughout the design process.

Our maintenance services meet the changing needs of patients, keep abreast of changes in technology and adjust the delivery to provide what is required. They comprise planned preventative maintenance, reactive maintenance and the lifecycle replacement works as assets come to the end of their useful life.

The hospital services are overseen by a Contract Manager who is supported by an in-situ team of Hard FM maintenance operatives to ensure the spaces are maintained professionally and to a high-quality standard. We have also integrated into the community by providing local employment, training, mentoring and work experience, supporting the community for the next 25 years.

The NHS Balfour was officially opened on 25 May 2021 by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Project team

Investment: Robertson Capital Projects, The Scottish Futures Trust,
Architect: Keppie
Principal contractor: Robertson
Structural engineer: AECOM
Building services engineer: Tuv Sud
Health planning: Capita
ICT: Boston Networks
Hard FM & lifecycle maintenance: Robertson Facilities Management