From toilet tiles to tarmac and plans

Aberdeen Airport is undergoing a vast £20million redevelopment and investment.

The transformation will result in a 50% increase in the size of the terminal building and a different passenger environment.

John Deffenbaugh, as head of capital at Aberdeen Airport, is a man right in the middle of the airport masterplan.

John Deffenbaugh

John Deffenbaugh, 37, started out at the University of Dundee studying Architecture and has had a varied career. He doesn’t have a long-term career plan but always wants to do something engaging and enjoy the opportunities at hand.

“I did architecture because I liked drawing with a bit of science and maths thrown in. It was an interesting subject to study,” he said.

“You spend your years at university designing cultural centres and exciting projects but my first project when I graduated was setting out tiles on a public toilet wall.

“I wasn’t really sure if that was what I wanted to do with my life, but I saw an advert in a magazine for a job at Edinburgh Council as a design adviser.”

The move to Edinburgh lasted two and a half years and got John out of toilets and into the more strategic terms of design. Not one for strategic networking normally, John met someone who gave him the opportunity to work in London.

“I had always wanted to go to the big smoke and my whole career is being in the right place at the right time.


“I was then project manager at the City of London corporation and improving public spaces and squares.”

In London, John was improving the quality of public spaces in the financial sector of the city for 18 months, before his career took another strange turn. A message to his Facebook account proved not to be a prank, but actually a recruitment consultant.

Between all of these positions there is the link of project management, which links into how he got interested in airport project construction. He worked in Heathrow as part of the terminal four refurbishment and then terminal two.

He said: “When I moved up to Aberdeen, my interview was the first time I had been here in 18 years. I had never been to the airport and what struck me was the crowding and the opportunities to make it better and to reconfigure the retail, improve security and circulation space.

“It seemed that there was such potential here. It is a small building and we need to do something about that and raise the quality of facilities that we can offer.”

Aberdeen might be in a tricky situation just now, but those who are working on the future of the city seem optimistic that growth will return. This is what John believes and that Aberdeen should be ready, with a world-class infrastructure, for when growth does return to the city.

John said: “I could get from one side of London to the other in the same time it takes me to travel just a five-mile journey here.”

“There is also a need for the refurbishment right now because a lot of our traffic is business related. When you do get your peak traffic in the morning and the evening, our facilities need to be better to deal with it.”

Aberdeen Airport transformation

With Glasgow and Edinburgh a significant drive away and a smaller amount of services available at Inverness, Aberdeen has a large share of the community to cater to. The facility is still a 1970s airport that was added to when the need arose, but this strategic plan of development is the first.

“We will be looking at our masterplan with our projections will take us up to 2044. It is an approach to take us up to the middle of the century.

“There is a lot of investment in runways, the snowbase for the weather equipment and all of the less glamorous things as well. The amount of investment shows that there is a positive future.

“We need to make a lot more of the positives in Aberdeen, because there really are a lot.”

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