Due to its industry renown for delivering projects featuring a range of disciplines and applications, BriggsAmasco was selected for a once-in-a-generation project that presented unprecedented challenges due to its remote location, historic surroundings and volatile weather conditions.

Built in 1821, Sumburgh Head Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Shetland. It is also one of Britain’s best-known lighthouses due to it being a key location in ‘Shetland’, BBC1’s popular crime drama. Now an automated facility, the lighthouse is protected as a category A-listed building. It is the focal point of a site which is owned by the Shetland Amenity Trust.

Following a major restoration, Sumburgh Lighthouse was recognised by Visit Scotland as a World Class Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve. The complex includes holiday accommodation fashioned from the keepers’ houses. Offices for the RSPB, which looks after a surrounding bird reserve, also form part of the site.

BriggsAmasco was selected by principal contractor DITT Construction to supply a new roof for the lighthouse site’s engine room. As part of a complex programme, operatives needed to remove an existing mastic asphalt system prior to the roof’s full renewal. BriggsAmasco carried out the refurbishment whilst working closely with DITT Construction, GRAS (architect), IKO (material supplier) and the client, Shetland Amenity Trust.

Meeting works programme complexities and project costs

The Shetland Amenity Trust’s charity status meant it was imperative costs were minimised during the 275m2 roof’s refurbishment. BriggsAmasco operatives also had to ensure works incurred minimal disruption to holiday makers, as all 10 accommodation blocks were occupied during the roof replacement. It was also essential that works did not interrupt daily operations at the lighthouse café, gift shop and other visitor attractions that remained open during the refurbishment.

In order to fulfil each stipulation, BriggsAmasco in conjunction with the project’s stakeholders acceded to carefully lifting the roof’s existing leadwork before reinstating it as part of a full refurbishment. During this process, eliminating all deck flaws provided an initial issue for operatives as it revealed the absence of a vapour control layer. Hence, teams were urgently required to install a temporary waterproofing solution.

Furthermore, BriggsAmasco installers needed to line the roof with a night seal at the end of each shift. Protecting the engine room’s costly machinery against the elements was absolutely paramount throughout the initial stages of the roof’s installation, with the equipment being integral to the lighthouse’s operation. Hence, teams went the extra mile to guarantee such an outcome.

The installation also required BriggsAmasco operatives to form guttering that allowed rainwater to flow correctly to prescribed outlets. This was complicated by the presence of upstands in various locations. The upstands measured between 150mm and 600mm in height, hence BriggsAmasco needed to devise a pinpoint design strategy to enable the desired water run-off and prevent issues such as ponding.

Battling Against the Elements

The project’s intricacies were made more acute by the lighthouse’s exposed coastal location on Scotland’s northern-most tip. High winds and near-freezing temperatures were a habitual hindrance to BriggsAmasco operatives.

Such was the original roof covering’s poor state of repair, extreme measures were needed to prevent it from blowing off. Had this occurred the engine room’s technical equipment, an essential aide to the lighthouse’s safe and effective operation, would have been in grave danger of being damaged by the elements. To prevent this outcome, BriggsAmasco teams positioned circa 100, 50kg sandbags at different roof locations.

Overcoming Logistical Challenges

Logistically, the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse project presented BriggsAmasco teams with an entirely novel challenge. Its Shetland location required a near 600-mile round trip from Briggs’ Glasgow HQ to transport the necessary mastic asphalt materials. This involved three articulated lorries and a 36-hour boat journey trip to Lerwick. From there, the lorries undertook a two-hour, single-road drive to the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse site.

Pride in Project Management

An excellent working relationship between each supply chain stakeholder was key to the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse project’s smooth progress. This was certainly the case when the engine room’s seven-year-old roof was revealed to be deeper than anticipated. Joint consultations involving BriggsAmasco’s project management on how to overcome the issue ultimately proved successful.

For the engine room’s new waterproof roof, BriggsAmasco installed IKO Permaphalt, a specially-formulated mastic asphalt solution for roofing that uses advanced polymer technology to provide long term durability. This was hand-laid to a 25mm thickness as part of a two-coat application.

The waterproof system included a torch-applied vapour control layer, and 100mm-thick tissue-faced, mechanically-fixed IKO Enertherm MG PIR board.


BriggsAmasco’s success on the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse roof refurbishment programme was acknowledged by Shetland Amenity Trust Project Lead Sandy Middleton, who provided the following client testimonial:

“The BriggsAmasco team were highly professional and responsive and adapted really well to the added challenges that a remote island location and challenging historic site brings to a job.”

Sandy continued: “It is a mark of their professionalism that in the heart of a busy visitor attraction and during peak visitor and cruise ship season, not a single negative comment was received from a member of the public, customer or staff member about the construction works.”

The skill and professionalism of BriggsAmasco’s on-and-offsite teams ensured the roof repairs to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre’s historic engine room were completed to the agreed one-month timeframe and to an extremely high standard. Also noteworthy was their support of visitor centre staff in ensuring guided talks and tours continued without interruption whilst refurbishment work continued.

Sandy Middleton said: “Our thanks to a professional and friendly team for a job well done and for making a potentially challenging project as straightforward as possible for all concerned. “



Approx. Area:



Mastic Asphalt, IKO Permaphalt