St Kilda Renovation Project recognised by The Sanctuary Awards
The Sanctuary Awards, held today 21 March 2023, have been recognising outstanding conservation and sustainability efforts across the MOD estate since 1991. They celebrate both group and individual efforts that benefit sustainable development, environmental and heritage conservation, resource saving measures, sustainable construction and community awareness on land that the MOD owns or uses in the UK and overseas.
40 miles off the coast of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda is an archipelago owned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, holding joint status for both its ecological and cultural significance, one of only 39 mixed World Heritage Sites across the globe. Part of the island is leased to the MOD and is operated by QinetiQ as a *T3E® range, providing mission rehearsal and capability development in support of the Armed Forces.
In 2018, QinetiQ and MOD embarked on a four-year project, working in partnership NTS, to upgrade the accommodation buildings, heating and water systems and the technical trials instrumentation and telemetry.
Alan MacSween, Head of Hebrides Site for QinetiQ, said: “QinetiQ and the MOD have a shared environmental commitment to reducing our impact on the environment across our respective organisations, so this was key in our considerations around the upgrades and construction.”
Working with the MOD and NTS, QinetiQ implemented Environmental Management and Biosecurity Plans to ensure this unique and special environment was protected, including taking on both a full time Environmental Manager and on-site Archaeologist.
The remote location and the added complexities of working in a UNESCO World Heritage location meant that the renovation project was quite challenging. Every element of the project was carefully considered to ensure that the environment on St Kilda was conserved.
All the equipment, materials and workers had to be transported by sea or air. Avoiding treacherous conditions meant working in a very tight annual weather window. 6500 tonnes of waste and non-indigenous building materials also needed to be shipped off the island; and robust controls were put in place to ensure that non-native species, including rodents, were kept off the island including protection of the ship and thorough vehicle and vessel checks.
The project was completed in 2021 to great success. Alan MacSween continued: “We are delighted that not only has the project been a success but that it’s also been recognised by The Sanctuary Awards. It was a challenge but reducing the energy consumption, noise and light pollution and giving more of the island over to nature has been a real achievement.
“The upgrades enable sustained capability and service provision to further support the MOD and armed forces; and the updated accommodation and energy facilities have greatly improved conditions for those who stay on the island. It’s an honour for our team to work on such a special place as St Kilda and we are confident that our joint efforts will ensure we can continue to protect the island for years to come.
“QinetiQ is committed to preserving these special environments, not just in Scotland but across all the sites we own or manage. We also operate MOD Pendine, so we are delighted the ‘Sands of LIFE’ sand dune restoration project at the site, led by Natural Resources Wales, with support from DIO and QinetiQ ecology teams, has also been recognised within the awards. It was due to this project that the rare Fen-Orchid was rediscovered and can be protected.”
Kieren MacMahon, LTPA Head of Establishment, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the UK MOD said: “We are delighted that the project has been recognised by the awards. By working in close partnership with MOD and NTS, the QinetiQ team were able to balance the need for delivery with our collective obligation to protect this important and key environmental location.”
Susan Bain, Western Isles Manager, National Trust for Scotland said: “It is good news that the project has been recognised by the Sanctuary Awards.
The new buildings are sustainable, with a design that is sympathetic to the surroundings, reduces the size of the site overall, helps to restore historic views and fits well with the Trust’s own sustainability and conservation objectives, including the objective to enable nature to flourish in the very special places we care for. The project was also a good example of different agencies and organisations working together. QinetiQ recognised the high cultural and natural value of the place, undertaking ecological surveys and archaeological excavations throughout the project to mitigate any issues of disturbance, and we welcomed that approach.”
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