Kirkwall airport refurbishment work completed six months ahead of schedule

by Rob

The Air Traffic Control Tower at Kirkwall Airport, Orkney, will continue to direct more than 14,600 planes landing and taking off from the island thanks to the completion of vital improvements to the structure.

The four-storey tower to the south east of Kirkwall Airport has received almost £500,000 of investment over the last three years to improve the lifespan of the structure and overall performance of the building. Phase two of this work has now completed.

Construction consultancy Perfect Circle was selected to survey the tower and design remedial works through the Scape National Built Environment Consultancy Services (BECS) framework after its building surveyors successfully led the refurbishment of glazing to Sumburgh Air Traffic Control Tower, Shetland, in 2017.

Managing director of Perfect Circle, Victoria Brambini said: “It was a privilege to be involved in the design and implementation of the works to extend the life of the Air Traffic Control Tower in Kirkwall, which provides a vital service to the communities of Orkney, neighbouring islands and mainland Scotland.”

Project leader for Perfect Circle, Euan Matheson said: “Despite weather challenges, along with ongoing airport operations, the project was completed on budget and ahead of schedule. This is to the credit of the client in providing timely assistance and input through the project and the contractors involved in managing works and resource on site to limit any delay.”

The team carried out a full survey of the tower, followed by a feasibility study and designs for the refurbishment of the building.

Phase two saw the tanking and waterproofing of the basement level to prevent any ground water entering the building from the surrounding peat land. Internal services were also upgraded with new heating system to offices and welfare facilities and the internal finishes were also upgraded, including replacement floorcoverings, redecoration and replacement ceiling tiles.

This, along with the work done during phase one has extended the tower’s use by 25 years.

Construction was made challenging by the need for the tower to operate safely throughout the duration of the works. This required a clear field of vision for air traffic control officers to coordinate a safe and orderly flow of air traffic.

Keith Inglis, head of infrastructure services at Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), said: “Major works to any of HIAL’s assets always present a number of challenges – from remote locations and adverse weather conditions to supply chains and operational criticality of the sites. Works in the visual control room offered a particular challenge as the project scope included replacement of the large, heavy glazing panels.

“Outside of normal operational hours the airport is in a continued state of readiness to support out of hours air ambulance and coastguard services. Alfred Flett, Bell Contracts, Perfect Circle and Kirkwall Airport staff worked collaboratively to overcome these challenges while maintaining airport operations and deliver this transformational project.”

Colm Bell, director at Bell Contracts & Co, the project’s phase one principal contractor said: “We are delighted to be awarded the refurbishment and upgrade to Kirkwall Airport Air Traffic Control Tower. We worked closely with Perfect Circle to deliver the scheme on time and on budget. We have successfully completed various projects with Highlands and Islands Airports and look forward to working with them again in the future.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive commented: “Ensuring Kirkwall Airport remains operational is vital for the Island of Orkney. As Perfect Circle have an existing relationship with Highlands and Islands Airports, through the BECS framework they were able to fully utilise their expertise to deliver the project with speed and certainty.”

Phase One works completed in September 2018, providing a contemporary external finish and a sustainable project in which existing materials were re-used and had their lifespan extended. Where new materials were utilised, such as glazing, the most energy efficient materials were used while being in full compliance with Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

The investment in Kirkwall Air Traffic Control Tower has contributed to the local economy – with more than five local contractors and sub-contractors from Orkney being employed during phase one and two of the works – as well as creating a comfortable working environment for all that use the facility.

Perfect Circle provides the broadest range of consultancy services available to the public sector and was appointed to deliver the Scape BECS framework.

For more information on Perfect Circle, please visit

You may also like