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It’s not just about the winning: Reflecting on the 2016 Sanctuary Awards

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Being part of the team that won the 2016 Sanctuary Sustainability Award has been highly rewarding but also eye opening in terms of the range and variety of the work carried out by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.

My name is Jim Ellistone. I’m a Civil Engineer and a DIO Project Manager. I was part of the RAF Lossiemouth Sqn II (AC) Typhoon Project Delivery team.

II Sqn Hardened Aircraft Shelter Layouts at RAF Lossiemouth [Crown Copyright/MOD]

We had the task to design, contract, construct and deliver a headquarters facility for a new Typhoon Squadron, and to adapt and refurbish the existing ‘Cold War’ aircraft support facilities. Not only did this have to be done within a confined budget, but also sustainably.  The result was a very low energy, future proofed and climate resilient building that we are all proud of.

Together with the architect, the contractor and two of my DIO colleagues we all headed to London to collect our award. It is fair to state we are a diverse bunch, which probably makes for a good delivery team.

We arrived at MOD Head Office feeling very proud of ‘our project’. We’d brought it in early, well under budget and it was one of the best sustainable outcomes for the MoD that we have ever achieved. But our eyes were opened when we met some of the other DIO winners and runners-up, and got the chance to talk to them in detail.

We hadn’t realised the range of work that the DIO undertakes, or the specialist skills that existed or the highly diverse achievements that were possible. The latest Sanctuary Awards ranged from the preservation of Iron Age burial sites and wildlife conservation projects to a computer system that plots sensitive marine sites which enable the Royal Navy and other navies to avoid damaging marine life while carrying out training.

I was especially impressed by the runners-up. For example the dedication of Phillip Dawe, who led the project to restore ‘Building 27’ – the original sector Ops room at RAF Northolt. It dates back to 1936 and was instrumental in our success during the Battle of Britain. There was also a team of apprentice aircraft technicians from the QinetiQ Apprentice Training School. They were runners-up for the heritage award with their ‘Discovering WW2 Boscombe Down’ project.

It really is worth looking at a copy of the Sanctuary 2016 magazine, to appreciate the range and effort of individuals and teams working within the DIO.


2016 Sanctuary Award winners [Crown Copyright/MOD]
The award presentation was quick and very well-focused. We met DIO Chief Executive Graham Dalton and Defence Minister Mark Lancaster.

By 3 o’clock most of my team were heading home, but I’d taken an extra day’s leave, paid for my own hotel and set off with the Architect and his wife to see London. I realised in Harrods how poor I am when we went into the “millionaire’s toy” section where you could get off the shelf (albeit a big shelf) essential items like a fully working one person midget submarine for just a mere multiple of my years’ salary. Even in the shoe section, what I would describe as “an over the top trainer”, with some type of crystals or stones embroidered on them was £2,499.

Next day and undaunted by my obvious poverty we opted to do our Christmas shopping in Camden Market, before leaving behind the crowds to follow the Regents Park Canal out towards Little Venice. The canal actually winds its way through London Zoo and this was a slightly surreal and unexpected experience. After dinner I visited Hyde Park’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ and saying it’s an event that’s ‘on steroids’ does not do it justice. I don’t like to use the word ‘amazing’ but these two days in London did come close.

So we returned with the Sanctuary Sustainability Award Shield, which we get to keep until at least May when they tell us they want it back, but that’s months away and ‘Lossie’ is a big base…



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