Showcases / New Anderson High School – the story so far

A new Lerwick landmark is growing from the rocks of Staney Hill - the new Anderson High School with the Halls of Residence on the left - Photo: John Coutts

SHETLAND Islands Council and the intrepid Helen Budge and her team faced many challenges to get the new Anderson High School and its Halls of Residence across the start line but having overcome them, the ball has been passed to HUB North Scotland and its contractor Morrison Construction to deliver the vision for the children of the Shetland community.


The building has taken shape at an incredible pace, and a new Lerwick landmark is fast rising from the rocky landscape of Staney Hill.

The rapid progress of the construction work is all the more remarkable in the light of the numerous challenges the builders have faced, incredibly hard rock being just one.

It would appear that the school’s motto ‘Do well and persevere’ has actually been the unofficial mantra of the groundworks contractor SQCL whose team have spent the last few months chipping away at the hard rock encountered throughout the site.


Project director Mark Clarke of Morrison Construction agrees that the rock breaking has been challenging.

Council leader Gary Robinson and Anderson High School project director Mark Clarke discussing the details of the building work - Photo: SIC

“Tens of thousands of cubic metres of material have been excavated in the process and the rock in the Halls of Residence and the access road linking to the new roundabout has been as hard as I have come across in my career”.

The project’s green credentials have been enhanced by the re-use of all of the excavated rock that has been processed on site and provided a capping layer for roads, foundations and the large areas of concrete slab in both buildings.

The construction team has not only had to endure all the Shetland winter has thrown at it, but it has managed to find creative ways to work around high winds and some heavy rainfall.

The commitment of the operatives deserves fulsome praise as production has continued whatever the conditions, as only part of one day was lost when the winds made the site too dangerous to work on safely.


The project fits in to three component parts:

  • Anderson High School
  • The Halls of Residence
  • The infrastructure around and associated with both buildings

Anderson High School

The new school seen from North Lochside - Photo: John Coutts

The concrete frame to the new school is forging ahead. The last quarter slab on the third floor is being readied for concrete before the columns and walls extending from it are completed finalising the work on that level.

Meanwhile the fourth floor works have commenced with the support tables that form the underside of the next floor slab in place on a quarter of the floor area meaning that we are approaching completion of the concrete frame.

The next stage begins in the latter part of April with the structural steelwork to support the cladding to the school walls, quickly followed by the roof steelwork that will allow getting the roof in place.

The structure will then start to become watertight and ready for internal fit-out. The time to do this ‘envelope’ works is during summer months when the construction team hopes to make the best of Shetland’s long summer days.

The Halls of Residence

The construction method for the Halls of Residence has been described as being similar to a Meccano set - Photo: John Coutts

The Halls of Residence is built as a steel framed structure, a very different construction methodology. The advantage of this is that the steel components are made into composite panels off site and so can be installed like a Meccano set when they arrive and therefore come together very quickly.

To date the ground and first floor steelwork has been installed, along with the first floor concrete slab and the second floor slab is presently being worked on with second floor panels to follow.

The Infrastructure

The infrastructure of the project consists of the underground services providing utilities, water, electricity, IT and district heating, to both buildings and supplies for street-lighting etc., the drainage and sewage systems for the site, the roads in and around the site and the hard and soft landscaping.


Progress here is good with all major earthmoving completed and the key roadways and service routes taking shape and with mains power hopefully available in the site shortly.

The biggest challenge here has been to get away from rock breaking which because of the very hard nature of the rock at Staney Hill has been much more extensive than expected.

It can be difficult to predict how easy rock will be to remove once excavated, it can be very hard but riven with joints and features and so it can be pulled off and out from a face.

Our rock has been fairly monolithic in nature so involves more breaking. A challenge but one that has been all but overcome now as the bulk rock has been removed and it is local rock in trenches etc. that is left and this will not stop us.

Work creating the fourth floor of the new school commenced earlier in March - Photo: John Coutts

Project director Clarke said: “Shetlanders should be confident that the School and Halls of Residence are founded in the very best of materials and are not going to go anywhere, anytime soon.

“It has been a challenging experience and one Morrison’s and the local community, whom they are very grateful to for their patience, will be glad to see the back of.

“All the bulk breaking out is done but some elements of drainage and service tracks and local rock knuckles on the route or sides of the various road sections remain resolutely in place and are now being tackled.”

The Shetland community

Shetland Islands Council has been keeping a weather eye on developments and councillors and the authority team are regular visitors to the site to chart progress.

There are daily visits from some of the technical team members directly supervising the works ensuring that quality standards are being met and the programme is secure but many of the elected members of the council have been very interested in witnessing the progress made.


Following a recent visit of a group of councillors and senior council managers, project director Mark Clarke said he was impressed at their knowledge of the construction process but felt he was able to respond and satisfy them that they were getting the product and standards that they were expecting.

Council leader Gary Robinson who asked some of the more probing questions said he was pleased with the progress and the pace of work to date on the site.

Other regular visitors have been the Anderson High School communications group, consisting of nine pupils who are reporting on progress to the rest of the school, all under the guidance of the school’s librarian, Tanya Odie.