Unveiling our Estates Strategy… Phase 2

The University of Birmingham’s Estates Strategy capital masterplan, which cover the five-year period 2016-2012, is well underway, and has seen the opening of the Library and the Sport & Fitness Club, among other projects. The University has now announced Phase 2 of this plan, which outlines new projects between 2022 – 2026.

Phase 2 continues to focus on our students, with a significant academic building being delivered every year for five years, starting in 2018 with the completion of the Collaborative Teaching Laboratory (CTL), which will transform science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning. There are also four other new flagship projects as part of the new phase:

  • A new teaching and learning facility, which will be a hub for education. The building will provide a large lecture theatre and an interactive lecture theatre with supporting social space to support the modern learning experience at Birmingham.
  • The new School of Engineering, due for completion in 2020, will bring together all of our engineering disciplines into one state-of-the-art building. It will incorporate a new centre of excellence in rail innovation, bringing industry into the heart of our campus.
  • The new Molecular Sciences Building will be a focal point for strengthening our core research capabilities in the chemical, environmental and bio-molecular sciences. A designated hub for the School of Chemistry will be created and office and laboratory accommodation will be provided for existing School academic staff and researchers.
  • An extension to the University Business School will provide much needed facilities to a successful and growing centre of excellence, allowing the majority of its activities to take place in one building from 2019.

In total, these projects represent an investment of more than £200m as part of the £606m total investment in the Estate in the coming years, using a mixed model of funding. The total includes a proportion of private investment, reflecting the strong financial position the University is in. This ambitious programme is part of the important role we have in celebrating, protecting and upgrading University buildings for the benefit of students and the academic community, building on the history of the institution.

Find out more about what the University of Birmingham is developing in our Estates Strategy brochure.

Inspiring the next generation

On Friday 30 September, Willmott Dixon’s Green Heart Project Team stepped outside their normal roles to host the first site visit for Year 8 pupils from University of Birmingham School.

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First site visit

The visit of 30 pupils is part of an enrichment programme developed by the Team as a Corporate Partner to UoB School. The programme is part of their wider community engagement delivered as the University of Birmingham’s Construction Partner supporting the work done by the University’s Team promoting the project.

The curriculum enrichment programme developed with the School uses the Green Heart as a demonstration project to introduce pupils to construction and the wide range of careers in the industry.

The programme of 5 weekly sessions will ultimately see 120 pupils introduced to the Green Heart Project, the Team and visiting the live site.

Members of the Willmott Dixon Team are taking the pupils through their roles and, using the animations and BIM, showcasing some of the less well known career opportunities offered by the construction industry.

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Finding out about the Green Heart

The Green Heart Bridge has provided a great focus for project activities. Groups have designed; built and costed a bridge of their own and in the last week will come together as one team to build a full size bridge provided by the Institute of Civil Engineers.

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Could you build and cost a bridge?

Accessibility in University Square

Landscaping the first phase of University Square is now thoroughly underway with hoardings constructed, trees protected and old paving pulled up ready for the installation of sparkly new slabs (please note: they won’t actually be sparkly!) In November, we will be bringing an array of new trees to the site for planting.

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Phase 1 of landscaping

But, as a result, many of the old pathways have now become inaccessible. To ensure that everyone can navigate around University Square safely and easily, temporary pathways and ramps have been constructed. All these routes will be clearly signposted. The diagram below outlines there location.

We have worked with colleagues with specific accessibility needs to guarantee that they are prepared for the changes. If you have any specific requirements or concerns around accessibility due to disability or visual impairment, please email the Green Heart team at greenheart@contacts.bham.ac.uk and we will be happy to help.

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New pathway

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Please read the signs

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New ramp

Restoring the University Crests

You may have noticed that a key feature at the heart of our historic campus is slowly being removed. Namely, the University Crests, which sit above the entrance of the former library. But, never fear, they will be back!

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Off to the restorers 

On 26 June, scaffolding was erected on the front facade of the former library to enable the continued demolition of the site. They are also being used to enable specialists to remove the University Crests. They are currently being safely packed to be sent to expert restorers who will return the Crests to their former glory. They will then be incorporated back at the ‘heart’ of campus in the Green Heart in 2019. If you watch our animation, you’ll spot them at the end of the video.

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The Crests will be back in 2019 as part of the Green Heart

Did you know… the original University coat of arms was designed in 1900 and its symbols, a double headed lion and a mermaid holding a mirror and comb, are an echo of the institution’s predecessor coat of arms, Mason College. The shields at the top of the former library were chiseled directly into the stone on the building during its construction in 1958.

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Chiseling away in 1958

What to expect in University Square

Excitement is building around the landscaping now taking place in University Square. The area nearest to the Arts Building has now been cordoned off and all existing trees have been encircled with protective barriers to prevent any damage. But, what will the end result look like?

There’s lots of ways to get a sneak peak of what’s to come across our channels… you can watch our online animation or, take a 360 Virtual Reality tour. If you want a more in-depth idea of what to expect, the image below carefully details the precise layout of all the new trees and pavements of the final University Square design.

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University Square after landscaping

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Trees and the Green Heart

In recent days, University Square has been transformed in preparation for Green Heart landscaping. This has included the removal of 10 trees.

But why are you removing trees?

We can reassure you that the removal of these specific trees was well informed. The proposals for the development of the Green Heart were based on the findings and recommendations of an arboricultural impact assessment, and the design was developed with careful consideration to minimise the impact on campus’ important trees and to enhance tree cover and diversity across the site. This has been carefully scrutinised by the tree officer at Birmingham City Council and our proposals for this development have been granted planning approval.

Of the 216 trees assessed on campus, 72 were identified for removal (20 were categorised as being of moderate quality, 52 were categorised as being of low quality; including those in University Square). But, 144 trees will be retained and integrated. We will also plant 160 new trees! The vast majority of trees extracted needed to be removed regardless of whether the Green Heart went ahead. To minimise impact, we have ensured that this work has been supervised by a qualified ecologist (after bird nesting season), and root protection and construction exclusion zones are now being erected around existing trees in preparation for landscaping. To enhance sustainability, logs from the trees removed are being retained and will form a new habitat to the north of the Green Heart to encourage additional species of animals and insects to live on campus.

To ensure that the Green Heart is visually striking, the 160 new trees we are planting will be of different growth rates, from semi-mature to mature, from 5-7 metres in height. They are currently being lovingly cared for in a nursery under the supervision of key members of the project team.

Find out more details about trees and the Green Heart.

One of the UK’s best green spaces

Our Edgbaston campus has been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the very best green spaces in the world!

The University is among a record-breaking 1,797 UK parks and green spaces that will today receive a prestigious Green Flag Award; the mark of a quality park or green space. This international award, now into its third decade, is a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Our stunning grounds are maintained by a 38 strong team of dedicated Grounds staff. They’re the first team on campus at 06:00am and are responsible for managing, beautifying and improving every inch of our 250 acre campus. One of their greatest achievements is developing a huge recycling and waste initiative.

Their next challenge will be helping to create the Green Heart, adding another 12 acres to our Green Flag campus. After a busy summer, the Grounds team will be planting over 100 new trees in the space including apple, cherry, beech, oak and maple.

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UoB’s Grounds and Gardens Team