Case Study

Navigating the technical and logistical challenges of NHS Orkney

Set in a remote island location and faced with external wind speeds twice the mainland UK average, building the new Balfour hospital and healthcare facility was a unique project with exceptional logistical and technical challenges to the build.

To meet these extraordinary circumstances, NHS Orkney’s contractor, Robertson, called on the support and expertise of British Gypsum.

“There were challenges around some of the types of materials we could use that would withstand the weather in Orkney for the next 70 years. The fact it’s so bright and airy, and having come from a very old hospital, dental and GP facilities, the contrast now is just amazing. The public, staff and everyone else who sees the new facility just love the building.”

Rhoda Walker, NHS Orkney

A distinct project

The Balfour hospital and healthcare facility in Kirkwall was designed to transform health services in one of the most remote parts of the UK. Working with Robertson and their architects Keppie Design, the 49-bed, 16,500m2, £65 million hospital and healthcare facility was designed to reflect the rural community that the building would serve, and provide wider primary and community care facilities to.

An extraordinary environment

The mix of distinct departments, large public spaces and small, private consulting rooms meant acoustic design needed careful consideration. This challenge was further exacerbated by the location where wind speeds average 25-31 miles per hour each day in winter months, which creates unusual internal air pressure requirements and additional acoustic design challenges.

As Orkney is situated 10 miles off the coast of mainland Scotland, the team also needed to consider supply chain logistics and programming requirements. This included procuring and shipping materials to the island and protecting them from extreme weather. The contract stipulated no waste be left on Orkney post completion.

David Ross of Keppie Design observes "The building has to respond to a number of different factors. One of the most challenging in the environment is the climate, as conditions can be quite extreme at times. The environment also needed to be welcoming and calming for staff and patients alike.”

Overcoming pressure through partnership

Using its expertise in healthcare building project delivery and industry leading experience in technical specifications to deliver positive building outcomes, British Gypsum provided technical support and consultation to ensure that the right solutions and systems were specified to provide the best outcome for our customer.

A variety of our Gypframe ‘C’ studs were selected for the building’s Drylining systems, to accommodate internal air pressure fluctuations, while maintaining critical fire and acoustic performance. These included the use of GypWall Extreme to give the ultimate in impact resistance to the building.

For consulting rooms, GypWall Robust was selected alongside Gypframe 92 AS 50 AcouStud to create highly durable, yet quiet spaces ensuring patient privacy.

In public areas, NHS Orkney and Keppie wished to combine strong visual impact, acoustic performance and enhanced air quality, as such, British Gypsum recommended the use of its Gyptone ceiling tiles with Casoline MF ceiling system. As well as creating a beautiful aesthetic to complement the sweeping curves of the building, this combination delivers excellent reverberation control. As the entire Gyptone ceiling range incorporates Activ’Air® technology that reduces VOCs, the ceilings absorb and reduce these harmful compounds found naturally occurring inside our buildings.

Support for a lifetime

Through our Plasterboard Recycling Service, all plasterboard waste generated was collected and recycled, limiting its environmental impact on Orkney now and in the future.

We also contribute to the ongoing performance of The Balfour through our SpecSure® warranty that guarantees our proprietary systems will perform as specified for the lifetime of the building

An award-winning facility

As a testament to the design and construction of this unique, best in class facility, The Balfour has been honoured on an international scale, winning silver in the best healthcare project category at the Partnership Awards in 2018. These awards recognise excellence in public private partnerships (PPP).

"The construction was a steel construction with durable and hard wearing materials and external façade, designed to reflect the Orkney weather and high speed winds. We had to get things right the first time, and that was a challenge. Working with the British Gypsum team and their materials helped us to achieve this high quality outcome." 

George Young, Robertson Group

We care about building better.




Project name
The Balfour hospital and healthcare facility Kirkwall, Orkney Isles
Building type
Project completion date