Work has started on the ‘shovel ready’ £17.5 million National Brownfield Institute - putting the West Midlands Midlands on the map for leading the way in brownfield regeneration.
Building contractor, ISG, has broken ground on the site which is located on the University of Wolverhampton’s £120m Springfield Campus.
The research centre, designed by Birmingham-based Associated Architects, received planning approval in December 2020.
Left to right: Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and Ninder Johal, Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership
The new build project, taking place on a regenerated brownfield site – the former Springfield brewery - directly addresses the government agenda of circular economy focusing on the challenges of building new homes and cohesive communities sustainably.
The NBI will be a world-class institute that provides the facility to develop modern methods of building through innovation and partnership with the construction industry, focusing on the practical application of future brownfield regeneration and remediation through the work of research teams, leading policy development and commercial services.
The new Institute will also identify and look to address gaps in current provision, with a particular focus on the digital skills needed to transform the industry, bringing together expertise from across the region and further afield with greater focus on construction design, Building Information Modelling (BIM), off-site, modular construction, and lean construction methodologies.
The scheme has benefited from £14.9m of funding from the Government’s Get Building Fund for the West Midlands. City of Wolverhampton Council worked closely with the Black Country LEP and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to secure the funding. The remainder of the funding required is set to come from the city’s Towns Fund award.
The NBI will secure the City of Wolverhampton's position as a leader internationally in sustainable construction, circular economy and brownfield development and will deliver new skills, jobs and opportunities for local people in the city, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “One of the real strengths of our record housebuilding in the West Midlands over the past four years has been our use of derelict brownfield land.
"By using Government cash to pay to clean-up these polluted old industrial sites, particularly across the Black Country, we can not only bring eyesores back to life as housing but also protect precious greenbelt land from development.
“We’ve made great progress with these plans, but there is still so much more brownfield land to be unlocked and developed. That is why it is so exciting to see the National Brownfield Institute at Wolverhampton moving along at such pace, as the NBI will help improve our remediation techniques using state-of-the-art construction techniques.
"Not only that, but the site will also help to further establish Wolverhampton and the wider West Midlands as the global leader in brownfield remediation and modern methods of construction.”
Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University, added: “We’re delighted that this project is moving at a fast pace and we are already marking the beginning of work on site.
“The NBI will be at the heart of a West Midlands Construction Training Offer – providing the industry with the skills needed both now and in the future. As well as being at the forefront of a transformation of the way we will build homes and communities, it will also ensure that we learn from research around the world on modern construction and remediation technique.
“It will be a working model for brownfield remediation and new construction techniques that can be implemented regionally and nationally and exported around the world, building on existing expertise offered on site through the West Midlands Construction UTC, the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills and the new School of Architecture & Built Environment.”
The 12-acre Springfield Campus is already home to the Thomas Telford University Technical College, Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills and the recently opened £45million School of Architecture and Built Environment.
These facilities, combined with the NBI, will lay the foundation for the delivery of a National Centre for Sustainable Construction and Circular Economy, which will focus on sustainability and the climate change emergency.
Cllr Ian Brookfield City, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and innovation and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “This is a game-changing moment for the city as we break ground on the National Brownfield Institute development.
“Our planning team worked tirelessly with the University to ensure this important project for our city got on site on time at the European-leading Built Environment education Springfield Campus.
“Once the NBI is built, it will enable the City of Wolverhampton to secure its position as a world leader in sustainable construction, circular economy and brownfield development and will deliver new skills, jobs and opportunities for local people in the city.
“It is yet another sign of the confidence being shown in Wolverhampton as a place to invest, as our regeneration plans change our city and help it recover and relight from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Professor Mohammed Arif, Head of the School of Architecture & Built Environment at the University, added: “The needs for the construction sector require us to seriously look at the abandoned brownfield sites all over the country which come with their own challenges.
“The NBI will help as a catalyst in utilisation of brownfield sites and provide developers with advice and knowledge in relation to areas such as building scanning, soil analysis, ground water contamination and ground stabilisation to effectively bring those sites back into use.
“Success will be built around three strategic integrated levels, none of which are currently offered in the sector, and we will work closely with those responsible for enacting and enforcing legislation relating to brownfield development and regeneration. Our team of experts will focus on research and development, policy and strategy development as well as offering state-of-the-art equipment for commercial testing and laboratory space.”
Ninder Johal, Communications & Marketing Board Lead on the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership Board, said: "I'm delighted to join with our project partners for this key building milestone, thanks to the hard work of all our project partners, the National Brownfield Institute promises to be a world-class facility.
“The Black Country LEP is delighted to support projects such as these which are making a real positive impact on the local economy, creating jobs and supporting skills development, as our region looks to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”
The NBI project team include Associate Architects, CPW, Faithful & Gould, Delta Planning, Atkins and MACE.
The facility will be completed by February 2022.