The Fair Isle Bird Observatory project reaches an important milestone with the arrival of the first module
A critical milestone has been reached in the construction project to rebuild the world famous Shetland Bird Observatory on Fair Isle with the arrival of the first of the building’s modules.
The project, which is led by Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust (FIBOT), will create seven new green jobs, help support the people of the island and meet community aspirations to become carbon neutral by 2040.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Government are supporting the development with funding totaling £2.35 million.
The energy-efficient building will use power from the island’s community-owned renewable energy grid as well as the building’s solar panels.
The innovative modular building was designed by Inverness-based Colin Armstrong Architects. They were built offsite by IDHM at a factory in Sheffield, before being trucked to Grimsby. From there they sailed to Kirkwall on a barge and from Kirkwall to Fair Isle and the first barge arrived on the island on 19 October for assembly and completion work.
After arriving in Fair Isle, IDMH contractors will assemble the modules before installing the roof and siding.
The observatory was established in 1948 and has played a vital role in sustaining the population of Fair Isle, which is located roughly halfway between Orkney and Shetland and currently has a population of around 50 people .
The new premises will include 29 high quality visitor and staff guest rooms with social space and research facilities. This will occupy the site of the most recent building, completed in 2011 but destroyed in a catastrophic fire in March 2019.
As well as being a popular tourist attraction for birdwatchers, the observatory has played an important research role, collecting bird counts and migration data for the past 70 years.
Katrina Wiseman, Area Manager for HIE’s Shetland Region team, said: “Fair Isle can now look forward to a promising future as a global ecotourism destination. The Observatory plays a crucial role in supporting the viability and sustainability of one of the UK’s most remote islands.
“The project brings back a key revenue-generating facility, providing employment, welcoming visitors to the island and providing world-class research. This will provide significant benefits for all businesses on the island as well as for the community.
“The facility also addresses other challenges for Fair Isle, such as population retention and attraction, and the need for tourism to be more sustainable. We look forward to seeing the observatory reopen.
The observatory has strong links with other organizations such as the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the rest of the island.
Douglas Barr, President of FIBOT, said, “I am delighted to see the factory-built modules coming to Fair Isle and the start of the new bird observatory. This will allow us to continue and further develop our world-class data and research and maintain our important role in both the tourism and wider Fair Isle economy.
“We are really looking forward to being open again and welcoming visitors to the island.”