‘World-first’ carbon neutral skyscraper build mooted for Birmingham

Richard Vernalls, PA Exclusive
·4-min read

Plans for what is thought to be a world-first carbon neutral skyscraper development to be built in Birmingham have been hailed by regional political leaders as “exciting”.

Developers of the Curzon Wharf proposals, out to public consultation from Friday, have claimed its green and energy-efficient credentials would make it the first mixed-use build of its kind anywhere in the world.

Plans by the Woodbourne Group include three residential towers, including two skyscrapers, and a separate office block, proposed as a life sciences hub filled with laboratory and research and development space.

Curzon Wharf main plaza
A computer-generated image of the development, from its main plaza (Woodbourne Group/PA)

The eye-catching canal-side £360 million development is proposed to be located on Dartmouth Circus, at the city’s northern gateway, where the main Aston Expressway carries traffic in and out of the city, to and from the M6.

Its location would be eight minutes’ walk from the new HS2 station, which is set to be operational from 2029.

The proposals could support up to 460 jobs during the build and create about 1,000 jobs once complete, according to developers.

Backers have also claimed it will bring £151 million into the wider regional economy, during the four-year build time, and another £50 million, once finished.

Curzon Street Station
The build would be a short walk from the planned HS2 Curzon Street Station, set to open in 2029. (Grimshaw Architects/PA)

Tani Dulay, Woodbourne Group chief executive, said the development would create a “world-class and sustainable mixed-use ecosystem”, with life sciences, a new breed of residential and student living with vast public spaces “never seen in Birmingham before”.

He added the build would position Birmingham “as the UK’s leading smart and sustainable city, helping to pave the way for the UK’s green revolution”.

The developers have set out the buildings’ eco credentials, claiming that at least 69% of carbon emissions could be reduced across the three residential blocks, through use of low and zero carbon technology.

Birmingham City Council has pledged to make the city and local authority carbon neutral by 2030, with a clean air zone which will see polluting vehicles pay to enter the city centre going live from June.

Cllr Ian Ward
Council leader Ian Ward described the proposals as ‘exciting’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Labour council leader Ian Ward welcomed the “exciting” development, adding it would put the city “at the forefront of green, sustainable development and underlines our determination to tackle the climate crisis”, as well as creating jobs.

Andy Street, Conservative West Midlands mayor, said the plans were “incredibly exciting” and “innovative”, with the potential not only to cut the region’s carbon footprint but bring high-skilled, well-paid life sciences jobs to the city centre.

If it was built tomorrow, the site’s tallest structure – Boulton Tower – would be Birmingham’s tallest building at 172m (562ft), with almost 500 one- and two-bed rented apartments across 53 floors.

It would out-top the city’s tallest existing structure, the BT Tower, which is 152m (498ft).

Curzon Wharf plaza
An artist’s impression of the public space around Curzon Wharf (Woodbourne Group/PA)

However, the development has competition in the field, with the taller-still 100 Broad Street residential tower block already granted planning permission by the city planners, last year.

The shorter of the Curzon Wharf site’s skyscrapers, 41-storey Watt Tower, would provide accommodation for some of the city’s 80,000-plus students, with 732 flats in total.

The third housing block, named Galton Skytree, would provide 265 co-living units, pledged to be “best-in-class” when compared with other such housing schemes.

The development will also have 130,000 square feet of office, R&D and life science space, as well as retail and leisure amenity space, and public space.

Curzon Wharf
An artists impression of Curzon Wharf, with the A38(M) Aston Expressway in the foreground. (Woodbourne Group/PA)

It is estimated the completed build will bring in £2 million a year in council tax and business rates and attract a £4 million one-off new homes bonus grant from the Government.

The city centre is in the throes of major redevelopment, much of it surrounding the under-construction HS2 Curzon Street Station, with several residential skyscrapers now in various stages of planning or development.

The public can have their say on the plans at www.curzonwharf.com