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Working towards a Carbon Zero Future

Working towards a Carbon Zero Future

GNA's ongoing collaboration with University of Birmingham and Tyseley Energy Park developing solutions to the climate emergency

The UK has made a commitment to achieving net zero by 2050 and, to make this happen, we need the brightest minds from the world of academia collaborating closely with sustainably-minded and forward-thinking architects. That’s exactly what we’ve done for the past 18 years, working with the University of Birmingham (UoB) on multiple projects across their Edgbaston campus, the Vale and in projects across the city.

Sustainability is at the heart of these projects, both through the design and the end purpose of the buildings. As a carbon neutral company, and one that is passionate about playing an active role in the fight against climate change, we are honoured to be supporting the UoB in its mission to a smarter, greener and more positive future.

Tyseley Energy Park Masterplan

The collaboration of the UoB with Tyseley Energy Park (TEP) was the first of a number of projects within the Tyseley Environmental Enterprise District. Our client is on a mission to transform clean energy innovation in Birmingham and across the region by stimulating and demonstrating new technologies and turning them into commercially viable energy systems; thus contributing to Birmingham’s commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

Utilising our design and masterplanning expertise, alongside our knowledge of sustainable practices, we have created a whole host of spaces at the TEP phase 4 site. These spaces include an analytical laboratory and flexible project development area to facilitate research into phase change materials and hydrogen fuel cell development, as well as specialist areas to host two artificially intelligent robots. All the buildings have been designed to be collaborative and flexible; enabling commerce and academia to mix, learn from one another and develop projects in a supported environment.

To date, TEP has delivered a waste wood biomass power plant, the UK’s first low and zero carbon refuelling station, the Energy Transition Centre (ETC) and, currently, is developing a space to recycle magnets (CESA) and a concept for a mobility hub for electric vehicle charging and drop in workspace.

Concept for TEP Mobility Hub

The first phase of the collaboration between TEP and UoB has enabled the £8.5m, 1,900sqm Birmingham Energy Innovation Centre (BEIC); a building that brings together the sector’s brightest minds to explore improvements in waste, energy and low carbon vehicle systems. A key design principle was to increase research visibility which is why bright and open workspaces sit at the heart of the project, helping to fuel seamless collaboration.

As a Birmingham based architectural practice, we are excited to see innovations from the centre deliver a greener and cleaner ecosystem for the city and the wider West Midlands, as well as making their mark on the national and international stage.

It is widely known that one of the major energy challenges the UK faces over the next decade is the decarbonisation of heat. We are currently designing the UoB’s National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat (NCDH). A space that builds on the collaboration with both the TEP and key industrial partners, as well as local education provider South and City College to develop and train apprentices and commercial partners in the refit of 200,000 homes in the wider Birmingham area to provide Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) and more efficient systems.

Our designs for this site included the NCDH Building Integration and Living Lab which provides researchers and industry with the space needed to test and demonstrate energy innovations.

Sustainability will be evident throughout the design of the building, including using large quantities of reused steel, a hybrid CLT (cross laminated timber) floor slab, high performance external wall build-up and timber cladding.

GNA's design of the National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat

Research facilities come in all shapes and sizes. Our most recent project with the UoB and the Birmingham Energy Institute, saw us design a contemporary laboratory to house the UK’s first high flux neutron facility (one of only three other systems outside the USA). This new neutron facility will support key research into reactor materials and neutron sensors which underpin the government’s clean energy and carbon emission targets.

The laboratory’s design was constrained by the university’s existing, but no longer used, Dynamitron and the shielded internal arrangement of rooms. We had to locate the laboratory below ground and connect it to the existing sub-basement level, leaving a minimal impression on the university landscape adjacent to the Grade II* listed Aston Webb Building.

Through innovative design, we can help researchers and industry experts collaborate and develop solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our planet today.

Take a closer look at what sustainable architecture means to us.