Green Heart need to know

Over the next two years, the Green Heart will reach key milestones in its development. The latest information and advice regarding these milestones will be updated here.

Artist impression of the Green Heart

Landscaping the Green Heart

 The first steps towards creating the Green Heart that will transform the centre of campus begin in July. The first two phases of work will involve landscaping University Square from July 2017 to November 2017, and then from November 2017 to March 2018. As a result of this, there will be a need to temporarily change pathways across and near this part of campus. Our commitment to staff and students is to ensure we provide timely and accurate information about what those 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, Twitter, blog posts and a dedicate webpage; all will be regularly updated. 

North Car Park Permanent Closure 

North Car Park will permanently close on 8 September. This will enable us to progress plans to create 12 acres of stunning parkland at the centre of campus. The Green Heart will create a unique space for performances, socialising, meeting and studying for students, staff and the local community when completed in 2019.

Car parking spaces will return to pre-closure capacity over the next 6 months. In the interim we advise parking in the North East multi-storey, Pritchatts Road car park and Pritchatts Park Village. For further information on alternative parking sites head to the car park website, or contact carparking@bham.ac.uk or 0121 414 2623.

How you helped to pave the way?

In December 2016 and January 2017, our Green Heart student ambassadors braved the elements in University Square to take your votes in the Paving Poll. With voting also online, the Poll closed on 27 January with over 1,500 votes from University staff and students, and the local community. Thank you to everyone who voted. Your top picks were Pumpkin Patch, Squirrel Stash, Frosty Branch, Tree Carving and Birds Nest. The Poll was a valuable tool in shaping the Green Heart and we will be incorporating three of your top five pavings. Find out more here.

The Green Heart’s green credentials

This Monday (20 March), Spring officially began, despite the persistent rain forecast for this week. With Spring in-mind, we explore how ‘green’ the Green Heart will be? 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. This tapestry of colour and textures will improve air quality, provide shade and create a place of serenity. Water features will also provide a relaxing audio backdrop, be a natural source of drainage management and further attract wildlife. 

We’ve appointed lighting experts to develop zoned lighting which will incorporate timber columns and energy-saving techniques to complement the natural environment. Carefully managed systems will enable us to keep campus safe and bright, while delivering an ambient environment and minimising light pollution or waste. We have also incorporated energy generating paving which produces power when people walk across it, and rain gardens, which will accommodate all rainwater on-site, thus doing away with conventional drains.

Former library under wraps

 

Anyone crossing University Square since February will not have failed to notice the wrap on the former library, giving students, staff and visitors a chance to see what the Green Heart development will look like when completed in 2019. 

Measuring over 12 acres, the Green Heart project will provide a space to meet, work and play, while also opening up views across the whole campus. It aims to significantly enhance the student experience in particular by incorporating indoor and outdoor study spaces, giving space for performances and entertainment, and enhancing well-being. The Green Heart will be good for our environment as well; we will plant 160 new trees, across 42 species, and incorporate wildlife nesting, as well as build new water features, rain gardens, zoned lighting and energy generating paving. 

To achieve this ambition, and as part of the new library construction project, one of the planning conditions was that the former library would be demolished. Careful consideration as been given as to how best to mitigate the impact of this disruption, and enhance the student experience whilst these works are carried out. For example, the programme has been structured to reduce the impact on the academic calendar with the majority of demolition works taking place after summer exams in 2017.

By wrapping the building with an artist impression of the new space, we hope to give everyone a glimpse of the improvements we are making, while minimising the severity of the heavy construction work taking place behind it, and helping to contain the disruption of the internal strip-out. The University community experience is extremely important to the Green Heart project team, and we will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this exciting new project across our channels. 

North Car Park closure 

North Car Park will be closed on 21-22 January and 28 January in order to safely fell a number of trees in order to clear the way for the development of the Green Heart project. 

The nearest alternative parking is available in the North East Car Park, next to 52 Pritchatts Road. There is also parking available at Pritchatts Road Car Park and across campus. 

If you have any queries regarding this closure, please contact Grounds and Gardens on 0121 414 3478, or head to the University travel pages for alternative car parking and sustainable travel advice. 

Building a rich green tapestry 

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 integrated into the Green Heart as well as flowers, shrubs and grasses. These trees will be conserved by root protection and construction exclusion zones during building work. An additional 160 new trees, across 42 species, will be planted in the Green Heart, with a number of larger, semi-mature trees to allow the landscape to grow at varying paces. 

Work to fell specific trees safely will begin on 21 January and will be carried out on subsequent weekends only. 

The start of a new era

The University’s iconic former library was opened on the Edgbaston campus in 1957. It was built in the ‘red brick’ style which was architecturally popular at that time. Originally, the intention was to build a ‘H’ shaped structure in two or more stages, but the later stages of construction were delayed and ultimately never completed. When construction resumed, many years later, concrete was used to construct the remainder of the building as red brick was by then out of fashion! That is why at least 1/3 of the former library was constructed from concrete, and not from brick.

Contrary to the original designs, the former library housed fewer study spaces than envisioned because one of the wings proposed was never constructed. As the decades rolled by, the building's foundations started to show signs of ‘sinking’, and cracking was visible on some of the outer walls. Unknown during construction, some of the materials that were widely used are also now known to be unsafe.

As part of the consultation to redevelop the University’s library services for 21st century education (which began over ten years ago), lengthy consideration was given to options to redevelop and repurpose the existing library. Costs aside, there were limitations to how much could be done to improve and expand the building itself; spaces in the former library were difficult to repurpose and there was restricted scope for improvements. Sadly, the former library’s infrastructure was rapidly deteriorating as time passed and, by the time it closed, required 24-hour running and maintenance. An entire new building was calculated as being financially viable in comparison. Additionally, the cost of permanent lighting and heating was environmentally unsustainable and damaging. In contrast, the new Library uses approximately 50% less energy than the previous library and its roof is covered in solar panels generating 92,000 kWh/annum. The building was awarded BREEAM ‘Excellent’ status for sustainability due to these innovations and many others. 

It was agreed that the University’s students, staff and researchers deserved a state-of-the-art facility fit for the 21st century and beyond. The new library now brings together collections that were dispersed across campus making them much more accessible, as well as housing over 2.1 printed books and journals. Due to the modern design and flexible layout, the library team were able to incorporate over 300 extra study seats in comparison to the former library’s provision of 1467 seats. There are now over 1800 study seats, 1124 study desks (each with a power socket), 4433 collaborative study spaces and 336 PCs. Find out more about the new library here