In 2018, it led us to embark on our first ever employee housing project – one designed to benefit the long-term sustainability not just of our own farm but the wider island community as a whole.

Case study: Eday, Orkney

Eday salmon farm, Orkney

The challenge

As remote locations go, they don’t come much more far-flung than Eday; one of the smaller Orkney islands with just over 70 habitable properties for a population of around 130 people.

It’s this very remoteness, combined with the lack of available inhabitable homes, that threatened the long-term viability of our salmon farm.

Unless employees lived on one of the nearby islands, they had to stay over until their next weekend off. Given the lack of accommodation, ‘staying over’ could mean another boat trip to a nearby island, leaving little time for life out of work.

Our solution

Our solution was two-fold: introduce a two-week on, two-week off shift pattern, and build high-specification homes that employees could go home to after each shift, removing the inter-island commute and freeing up more personal time.

In order to deliver both, we approached local landowners, Willowstream, about the possibility of building the homes within the secluded area of Mill Bay – once a hive of activity due to its working mill but now a relatively overlooked part of the island.

Mill Bay, Eday. Photo courtesy of Leslie Burgher

The detail

Very quickly, a like-minded partnership formed and a development concept was agreed for ‘Millhaefen’, a 1.5 acre, six-strong development of homes:

  • Four homes for Scottish Sea Farms’ employees
  • Two homes for shorter-term lets by business visitors such as biologists, environmental scientists or engineers, or tourists.

Adopting greener approaches

Keen that we create homes that were as eco-friendly as possible, we worked with Kirkwall-based chartered architect Leslie Burgher to incorporate:

  • Air source heat pumps which absorb warmth from the air outside to heat indoors
  • Cedar wood cladding to help insulate the homes and reduce overall energy use
  • Wind-generated power from two existing adjacent turbines
  • A packaged sewage treatment system with reed beds to separate waste and water, offering a more ecological alternative to a septic tank
  • ‘Living’ sedum roofs to help reduce rainwater run- off, minimise erosion and absorb noise, while also increasing biodiversity by providing a habitat for wildlife.

There’s also extensive wild planting to help absorb CO2.

Millhaefen, Eday. Photo courtesy of Colin Kupris

The result

Not only has Millhaefen successfully secured the long-term viability of our Eday farm, but it has benefited the island as a whole:

  • Boosting local businesses – as one of the largest infrastructure projects the island had seen, Millhaefen created business for everyone from plant hire, hauliers and ferry companies to individual electricians, joiners, plumbers and stonemasons; most of it during the winter months when tourism revenue is traditionally lower. Meanwhile, the arrival of four new residents means four more people buying food and everyday provisions year-round
  • Creating local jobs – already, one new part-time role has been created in the form of a caretaker, a role that will also bring onward spend year-round
  • Visitor spend – the two holiday homes are bringing more visitors in the form of tourists to the island of Eday and more spend, while the revitalised Mill Bay area
    attracts residents from around the island.
“The two-week on, two-week off shift pattern has already made a huge difference, ensuring there’s sufficient time around work to leave the island, see family and friends, and generally catch up on all things life.” Charlotte Owen, Eday

Interested in a short-term stay at Millhaefen? Check out the Instagram page at @islandlifestyleretreats