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.

It’s National Parks Week

Did you know that today is the first day of National Parks Week? This week raises awareness of the National Parks annual celebration of everything that is unique and wonderful about our 15 National Parks. The UK’s National Parks include the Broads, New Forest, Exmoor and Snowdonia, each boasting their own special habitat and exciting family adventures. Our Parks are a place of peace, Britain’s breathing spaces, in an increasingly hectic, urban landscape. Perhaps it’s time you and your family recuperated and got out in nature?

The Green Heart’s 12 acres certainly won’t be able to compete with the likes of the New Forest, at a staggering 140,000 acres but, its aim is the same. We want to bring you a calm, serene and relaxing natural environment right at the heart of our country’s second city’s urban environment. We want it to be your oasis of escape, on your doorstep. With increased shade, new water features, improved sitting and lush grass areas, you’ll be able to unwind with ease.

So start looking forward to bringing your picnic in 2019 now; it’ll fly by!

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12 acres of parkland at the heart of campus

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

A sustainable Green Heart

What’s that mound of earth behind the new Library? We can reassure you that we are not building our own sand dunes on campus, nor is it a modern art installation. It is actually yet another way in which the Green Heart is living up to its green credentials.

As we begin to landscape the Green Heart this July, we will lay 12,750m2 of grass area including turf, wild flower meadow and seeding before completion in 2019. To that end, the earth mound behind the Library is specifically a large pile of topsoil. This has come from the old sports fields which are currently being redeveloped into new 4G sports pitches.

Rather than waste the soil from those pitches, we have moved it to behind the Library for storage, until it can be re-purposed under the Green Heart’s new lawns. Through cross project team collaboration, we’ve boosted both project’s sustainability and saved money by not sending the soil away and, when the time was right, bringing it all back again. In numbers, we’re saved around 4,300m3, that’s about 500 lorry loads, going off-site only to come back  again later at a price. Pretty clever.

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Bit difficult to take an ‘interesting’ photo of a construction site… so here’s a digger at the sport pitches

Sizzling summer solstice

This Wednesday (21 June), we are celebrating the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year when the UK will get to bask in 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight… and I mean bask! In March we published a blog post about the beginning of Spring, during which we were in the midst of what seemed to be a monsoon, but this week, we are experiencing a sizzling heatwave; far more apt to begin the start of summer.

As summer kicks-in, our natural environment begins to blossom and is transformed into a tapestry of colour and textures. At the University, it also marks the departure of our students and the end of the academic year. As agreed at the beginning of the Green Heart  construction scheduling, all major demolition and construction work would take place outside of term time to limit disturbance to our students. Therefore, you may have noticed lots more activity around the former library? This is because we are now taking down two buildings that comprise the structure. From July, we will also be landscaping the first part of University Square. During this time, there will be noticeable noise on campus and temporary footpaths will be created. But, this will enable us to ensure that in summer 2019, the Green Heart can blossom with the rest of campus!

We will keep you up-to-date with all the works taking place this summer across our channels, and with information boards in University Square, so make sure you stay in touch:

Visit the Green Heart website.

Find detailed information about build developments, important milestones, FAQs and much more on the Intranet.

Follow us on Twitter.

Email us at greenheart@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

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. Sounds exciting!

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Flowers, flowers everywhere