The distinctive rounded
shape of the hospital
presented a number
in the frame
A number of challenges have had to be overcome
during the construction of a new hospital in the
Orkney Islands. Martin Cooper reports from a
project where steel has ticked all the boxes.
Healthcare in the Orkney Islands
is set to be transformed by a new
£64M hospital and healthcare
facility which will provide a
state-of-the-art clinical environment for
the delivery of health services, and with
the introduction of new technologies and
facilities will reduce the number of people
having to travel to the Scottish mainland for
Replacing the existing Balfour Hospital,
the new facility, which opens in 2019, is
currently being built on a greenfield site on
the outskirts of Kirkwall, the Island’s largest
settlement and capital.
The project is said to be the biggest
construction job on the Orkney Islands
since St Magnus Cathedral was completed
in the 12th Century. In recent times, it is
certainly the largest project since the Kirkwall
Grammar School and Pickaquoy Leisure
Centre were completed a few years ago.
Apart from the Cathedral, all of the
aforementioned projects have used structural
steelwork as their main framing material.
Steel has a number of advantages over
alternative framing solutions when it comes
to construction on outlying islands (see box).
“A composite steel solution with metal
decking was the best choice for the hospital,
as other framing materials simply wouldn’t
have worked,” explains Mark Dalziel, Senior
Project Manager for Robertson Major
Projects, which is delivering the project.
“For instance, there is only one concrete
batching plant on the Orkney Islands and
they could not have supplied our needs.
Installing our own plant would have been
very time-consuming and wouldn’t have been
cost-effective, so steelwork, which can be
New Orkney Hospital
Steel tonnage: 1,200t
brought over from the mainland by ferry
ready for erection, was the best option.”
Minimising vibration generated by
footfall is an important issue for hospitals,
particularly in areas accommodating wards
and operating theatres. At this hospital,
all of these facilities are located on the
first floor and, to minimise vibration, the
composite reinforced concrete floor slab
has been designed as 300mm thick as
opposed to a more conventional 150mm in
less sensitive areas.
Supporting the thicker slabs, the design
has also required the use of short-span
heavy steel beams and two additional lines
of columns, further negating the potential
for vibration issues.
Importantly, the hospital has a very
complicated design and shape, necessary
to support the required clinical adjacencies
and flows, and this also lent itself to a steel
The two-storey structure incorporates
two inner circular courtyards, one
completely enclosed by the building, and
the other a partially enclosed horseshoeshaped
yard with an opening.
In between the courtyards there is
a connecting hub containing the main
entrance, restaurant, a shop and main
waiting area. Adjacent to the hub and
courtyards, and joining them altogether,
the main hospital building is a long-curved
The hospital is due structure.
to open in 2019