Image of Aston Webb Building taken through the arch of the University's law building
Aston Webb, Edgbaston Campus, University of Birmingham

The UK Government aims for the country to be net zero by 2050. Without making our existing housing more sustainable, this will not be possible. To fill this need, the University of Birmingham’s academics and professional services team are embarking on a collaboration with industry, using joint expertise and innovation to transform five on-campus properties into unique zero- or low-carbon, fully functional, living lab houses.

Academics from the University’s Energy Institute, Institute for Interdisciplinary Data Science and AI, and Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action will work with industry to utilise the data and information generated from this initiative to facilitate research and support industry development.

This initiative will also demonstrate how the collective use and application of a range of ideas, products and solutions can be specified and assembled to work together to deliver low carbon configurations. Those configurations, if successful, would be showcased and deployed in a range of similar existing housing stock in Birmingham, in the Midlands and in the UK.

As described by the University’s Director of Estates, Trevor Payne: “Like much of our city, many of our campus buildings were built pre-1950 and are likely to be with us and in active use beyond 2050. Some of those buildings are now in need of upgrading to deliver ‘fabric first’ improvements and to support our net zero carbon aspirations. This provides us with an exciting opportunity to retrofit existing buildings at scale in a sustainable, affordable way. We look forward to working with ambitious industry partners to bring this ambitious but achievable project to fruition.”

Like much of our city, many of our campus buildings were built pre-1950 and are likely to be with us and in active use beyond 2050. Some of those buildings are now in need of upgrading to deliver ‘fabric first’ improvements and to support our net zero carbon aspirations. This provides us with an exciting opportunity to retrofit existing buildings at scale in a sustainable, affordable way. We look forward to working with ambitious industry partners to bring this ambitious but achievable project to fruition

Trevor Payne, Director of Estates

With the help of Innovation Gateway, the University is looking for truly innovative solutions for this project, supporting those in industry to learn best practice for retrofit projects such as this whilst providing experts in both Professional Services and Academia at the University with valuable knowledge and data on the future of Smart Housing. The even wider ambition of this project is to roll out successful pilots into similar existing houses across Birmingham, the Midlands, and the UK.

Matt Beveridge, Head of Innovation and Partnerships (Estates Office) at the University of Birmingham, said: “This project perfectly exemplifies our responsibility to Birmingham as the first Civic University, and our commitment to both world leading research and achieving Net Zero Carbon on campus by 2045.”

A call has been made for submissions of interest from innovators in low carbon building materials, heat infrastructure, SMART technology, or hard landscaping such as grey water storage solutions. Businesses can submit their ideas to Innovation Gateway who will, alongside the University, invite a group of shortlisted innovators to pitch their solutions in front of a panel in early Spring 2023.

If you are a business who would like to collaborate in this initiative, or if you are interested and would like to find out more about our Smart Campus work, visit our website