Green Heart FAQs

Have you got a question about the Green Heart? Browse our FAQs to find the answer, or get in contact with the team. 

Artist impression of the Green Heart

Why have you demolished the former library?

The former library, opened in 1959, was not deemed suitable as a 21st Century university building and after much investigation and deliberation, it was established that the cost and time of refurbishing the former library would not have been reasonable. It was judged more viable to create a new facility to meet the needs of our students and staff, and also provide the opportunity to open up the heart of the campus and renew the view of Old Joe and the Aston Web semi-circle from the historic North Gates. Nevertheless, significant features from the former library have been saved such as the  University crests.

When was the former library demolished?

Preparation tasks, such as stripping the interior, were contained within the building envelope to minimise the impact on campus prior to the summer exam period. The structural demolition of the building commenced after the summer exam period and was completed in mid-November. 

Who was responsible for the demolition of the former library?

The University Estates team worked with the same contractors who constructed the new library, Carillion, to plan the demolition of the former library. This is the company who also built the new library in the city centre (Library of Birmingham) and who completied the demolition of the former Birmingham Central Library. We appointed them so that they could bring that knowledge and experience to our project.

Why has part of the former library not been demolished at the centre of campus?

A raised platform which belongs to the structure of the former library has not been demolished at the centre of campus because it is an electrical substation. The substation provides power to a number of buildings in the area and would have been incredibly expensive to relocate as part of the Green Heart project. Therefore, the Project Team asked the landscape architects to incorporate it into their design for the new parkland. If you watch our Green Heart animation from 20 seconds you will see a raised platform on the right-hand side. This is the incorporated substation.

Was the furniture from the former library repurposed? 

It has always been a key part of the Green Heart project to make its development sustainable and ethical. The Library Services made arrangements for the redistribution of the former library’s furniture right from the start of the project. Foremost, furniture was offered for reuse in other locations on campus including helping to furnish the University’s Hydrogen Barge, which is used primarily for science outreach and political engagement. In addition, the team from the Library Services worked with the Guild of Students and external charities to arrange for surplus furniture to be reused by students, schools, convents and other charities. By December 2016, 31 trucks and 14 vans took furniture from the building to be redistributed. This process restarted in January 2017, once asbestos surveys were complete, and it was safe to re-enter the building. 

What happened to the University of Birmingham Crests above the former library?

The University crests at the heart of campus have been a beloved sight above the former library for many years, and with the creation of the Green Heart, we hope to enhance their prominence. From 26 June, scaffolding was erected to carefully remove the Crests. They are now undergoing thorough restoration to return them to their former glory. In early 2019, the Crests will be incorporated into the Green Heart on the new walkway next to the Arts Building; right at the heart of campus once more. Watch our Green Heart animation to see where they will be located. 

What is the Green Heart project?

Measuring over 12 acres, the Green Heart project will open up the centre of campus for students, staff and the local community to enjoy. It will provide a space for performances, socialising, meeting and working, while opening up views across the whole campus, as envisaged in the 1920s. MJP Architects were appointed by the University to develop a new masterplan for the Edgbaston Campus in order to set a framework for future developments. The project will reopen the historic north-south vista from Pritchatts Road to the Aston Webb buildings. This masterplan was a key part of the 2012 Campus Development Hybrid Planning Application which set the agenda for the current developments. 

How did you decide what elements the Green Heart would include? 

From May 2016, the University undertook extensive consultations in collaboration with Nomad RDC Ltd. These were undertaken to thoroughly understand the needs of our staff, students and local community to make sure that the new space is centred around you. Those suggestions were explored and incorporated into the Green Heart vision, alongside input from landscapers, architects and the project team. Read the full Green Heart Consultation Results.

When will the Green Heart be completed?

The current planned schedule for the completion of the Green Heart is early 2019. 

Will there be any delays in the work schedule? 

As with any large scale building project, delays are always a possibility. Delays can occur for numerous reasons such as poor weather conditions, unforeseen problems revealed during construction and resource issues. If delays do occur, these will be announced on this site and the schedule of work will be updated. All efforts will be taken to ensure that any changes in the work times still take into consideration the events and activities on campus. 

Who is building the Green Heart?

The University of Birmingham is working in collaboration with award winning designers including: Churchman Landscape Architects, lighting specialists Speirs + Major, Associated Architects, Arup structural and civil engineers and Couch Perry Wilkes services engineers. These companies have been responsible for the completion of many large scale projects across the country including Greenwich National Maritime Museum, Nottingham Caste, The Tower of London, CBSO Birmingham, and the University’s very own new library and Aston Webb Student Hub. 

When did Green Heart construction begin?

The first stages of construction to create the Green Heart will take place over two phases of work which will involve landscaping University Square from August 2017 to February 2018, and then from February to June 2018. Green Heart landscaping on the former library site commenced following demolition in mid-November. Our commitment to staff and students is to ensure we provide timely and accurate information about what these changes are, and what alternative routes are best to take around campus; including disabled access. This will be done in a variety of ways including signage on campus, Twitterblog posts and a dedicated webpage; all will be regularly updated.

Will building works disrupt campus life?

Landscaping and construction will take place both in and out of term-time. All necessary planning has been taken to reduce disruption on campus during this transformation. The programme has been structured to reduce the impact on the academic calendar with the majority of demolition works taking place after the summer exam period. We will ensure wheelchair access across the space at all times. Regular updates on building work will be shared with staff and students via Buzz, Buzz Bitesize and University wide and Green Heart communications channels including Twitter and our blog.

Will this project reduce car parking on campus?

North Car Park permanently closed on 8 September. Car parking spaces will return to pre-closure capacity over the next 6 months. In the interim we advise parking in current sites such as North East multi-storey, Pritchatts Road car park and Pritchatts Park Village. A new car park has also opened near to the refurbished Bournbrook sport pitches which provides 95 spaces for purple permit holders. As a short term solution to car parking pressures, the top two floors of the multi-storey car park at the new Sports Centre are now open to staff with purple parking permits. The lower ground floor will remain only for members of Sport and Fitness. Should you wish to convert your permit to a purple permit, you can do so here. In the next few months a temporary car park with 250 spaces will be established on the site of the Munrow Sports Centre, once it has been demolished. We are also preparing plans to build another large multi-story carpark on campus, located on the west side of campus. 

More information on alternative car park sites can be found here. You can also contact carparking@bham.ac.uk  and 0121 414 2623 for further information. 

The University is committed to reducing the number of vehicles driving onto and around campus as part of the plans to make the space safer and greener for pedestrians. More information about sustainable travel plans and schemes including car sharing, public transport support and cycling schemes are available. 

Will coach and minibus parking outside the North Car Park be affected by development? 

The currently funded phases of the Green Heart project will not change this area of parking for coaches and minibuses in the bay outside North Car Park on Pritchatt's Road. The coach parking bay will remain operational during construction and after the Green Heart’s opening in 2019. There are presently no plans to develop this specific area.

How will construction traffic access the demolition site, and how will this impact on current road use on campus?

In order to minimise disruption to daily campus operation, construction vehicles will continue to use the site and routes used for the building of the new library. We have a number of measures in place to minimise disruption such as a segregated vehicle route into the heart of campus, clearly marked site compounds and well-signposted pedestrian routes among other measures.

As we approach summer, we will be required to partially close pedestrian access routes from the North Car Park to University Square (between the demolition site and Muirhead Tower). Regular updates on construction access will be shared with staff and students via Buzz, Buzz Bitesize and University wide and Green Heart communications channels including Twitter and our blog.

How will cycle and pedestrian pathways in the Green Heart be designed for safe efficient travel across campus?

To promote safe efficient travel across campus, especially through the Green Heart, cyclists will be signposted around the parkland rather than through it, but they will not be strictly prohibited from using any of the pathways in the new development. The whole of the Green Heart will include new directional signage for different users and information areas. Following advice from our contractors and landscapers, including those that specialise in pathway construction, it was decided that there will be no formal segregation between bicycles and pedestrians on pathways in the Green Heart. This decision was taken on the advice of our construction teams who confirmed that segregated pathways, on average, encourage cyclists to travel faster and increase the risk of injury if accidents do occur therefore, these would present a greater risk to pedestrians than shared pathways. Furthermore, complete segregation would not be feasible as there will need to be crossing points throughout the Green Heart.

What will happen to the numerous memorial benches in University Square?

The site in which the Green Heart will be created in University Square is home to numerous memorial benches donated across the years. Prior to the beginning of landscaping works, the Grounds and Gardens team will collect all of these benches and store them safely until 2019. The benches will then be returned to Green Heart along the footpaths that will run from the North Gate to the Library.

Will trees currently planted on campus be affected by development? 

Due to the scale of the Green Heart’s development, we have carried about an extensive review of the trees currently planted on campus. A survey of an existing 216 trees was undertaken by an expert arboriculturalist who categorised each as either: A - trees of high quality, B - trees of moderate quality, C - trees of low quality and U - trees unsuitable for retention. 72 trees are designated for removal based on the arboriculturalist’s advice. 144 existing trees are being retained and integrated into the Green Heart. These trees will be conserved by root protection and construction exclusion zones. An additional 160 new trees will be planted in the Green Heart, with a number of larger, semi-mature trees to allow the landscape to grow at varying paces. Find out more about trees and the Green Heart. 

How will the Green Heart help wildlife and the environment?

Throughout the design process, the project team have sought to create a sustainable, natural and environmentally friendly landscape; both for people and wildlife. The Green Heart will bring an array of wild flowers and native plants to campus. These have been carefully selected to encourage local species, and we will be incorporating nesting sites to attract wildlife including bats, swifts and hedgehogs. As well as lush grass areas, we will plant 160 new trees, across 42 species, and protect 144 existing trees. Water features will also be a natural source of drainage management and further attract wildlife. We will also include energy generating paving! Find out more about the Green Heart’s green credentials on our blog

Will new study spaces be incorporated into the Green Heart?

The Green Heart will be a place for both relaxation and external study. With that in mind, the Green Heart will provide generous provision in terms of the quantity and quality of the furniture. The project team believe that contemporary study space should offer a range of seating types to meet different personal preferences, some people prefer to work at tables with chairs; others opt for a more informal arrangement. Therefore, the Green Heart will include a range of seating styles like open benching through to more formal study spaces, both internal and external. All seats will offer maximum comfort, generous proportions, high backs and arm rest. Most seats will face south so they will receive maximum levels of sunlight. It is anticipated that during the summer months some students will prefer to sit on the grass, and with that in mind, many areas of lawn are inclined making them more appropriate for working on mobile phones or tablets.  

The current design includes:

  • Nearly 200 metres of high backed benching which could provide up to 400 seating spaces  
  • 670 square metres of terrace containing benching with tables, half of which is the recently completed café terrace
  • 125 square metres of external covered study space which will contain benches and tables (café terrace) 
  • 125 square metres of indoor study space (within the new café), which will contain seating and tables

Do you have any Green Heart resources that I could use in my communications?

We have developed a range of resources to help you promote the Green Heart to your colleagues and audiences across your communication channels. Please email greenheart@contacts.bham.ac.uk for a selection of approved artist impression images and headline statements to use. We have also created an animated tour and VR 360 experience of the Green Heart, as well as a Green Heart Consultation Results booklet that details the full results of the public consultation; all can be shared. There is also a staff briefing webpage you can consult. 

Who can I contact?

For more information about the Green Heart vision please visit our dedicated website and blog. You can also follow us on Twitter for the very latest developments, or email us at greenheart@contacts.bham.ac.uk.