Curzon Street station shows what’s possible for lean, green infrastructure of the future

HS2’s Curzon Street station has been designed to be net zero in operation, using a range of technologies to generate energy from renewable sources. WSP’s Tim Danson explains how this landmark project is achieving a sustainable and efficient design...

It was at Birmingham City Council’s inaugural virtual meeting in April 2020 that its planning committee approved the landmark Curzon Street station:, the first across the HS2 programme to attain planning permission. Council members commended the scheme for “striking a balance between the built and natural environment” and described its design as “truly world-class”.

The sustainability credentials for the HS2 railway station are significant, not least the pathway we have developed to an unprecedented 55% carbon emissions reduction, over the 120-year lifecycle
Tim Danson Environment and Sustainability Lead, WSP

Advancing the Employer’s Reference Design (adopted in February 2018), the Curzon Street Team (with WSP as lead consultant, Grimshaws as building architect and Grants Associates as landscape and public realm lead has meticulously sought to achieve a modern, welcoming and striking architectural statement that also minimised impacts on the environment, while creating opportunities for businesses and communities alike. 

WSP’s Tim Danson, lead for Environment & Sustainability on the project , started his journey on sustainability with the London 2012 Olympics in 2007-2008, following eight years in environmental management. Tim notes how the Olympic Delivery Authority approach to delivering sustainable design has advanced and evolved over the years, but with major building and infrastructure schemes now consistently applying the best of the collaborative, co-located and ‘exemplar contract requirements’ approach adopted for London.  To this end, an office was set up in WSP’s flagship office in Birmingham’s Mailbox for HS2 and its Curzon Street delivery partners, where the team has worked in unison for over two years to engineer sustainable, resilient outcomes. 

It was here that a ‘Future Ready’ workshop was hosted by WSP to kick start the RIBA2 design, with 40 delivery partners including David Symons (our Future Ready Lead) and Giles Perkins (our Future Mobility Lead) collaborating to consider what might be possible on the scheme across technological, community, resources and climate themes.  The breadth of expertise at the workshop generated some 150 future ready ideas, many of which have proved fundamental in the success of the design, such as engineering flexibility into the station for a future connection to the Birmingham District Energy Scheme. 

Responding to HS2’s ambitions, the Curzon Street team was responsible for weaving a sustainable, future ready thread throughout the design. Engaging, supporting and constructively challenging the design over a two year period demonstrated the intricate level of care and consideration needed to achieve a range of outcomes across community, carbon, climate, biodiversity, materials and waste themes, among others. For example: 

Over forty opportunities for carbon reduction were approved and integrated within the Scheme Cost Plan, reducing the station’s lifetime emissions by over 87,000tCO2e.  For example, the station will be net zero carbon for those assets that can be regulated (heating, cooling, lighting) , through the use of PVs (2,855m2 solar panels will be located on the platform canopies), Ground Source Heat Pumps and LED lighting.  Pre-fabricated timber soffit units (27x more carbon efficient than steel comparators) will be installed in the main station roof, and paving in the public realm has been reduced in depth by 38% (to 50mm) to reduce embodied carbon.  

HS2 BCS2

Elements throughout the building have been designed for future flexibility and deconstruction.  For example, the main concourse has a high single span roof (over 300m in length) that does not require internal support through vertical columns.  Therefore, the space beneath is available to be adapted for a myriad of future use.  Also, 100% recycled content steel roof sections comprise only seven variations and will be bolted together, rather than welded.  A Design for Deconstruction Report was also produced to capture the intended approach to adapting and dismantling a wide variety of different elements of the station.

A brand new, dedicated area of habitat will be planted on the Curzon Street site through the creation of 0.4ha of native woodland trees, incorporating a woodland glade.  In combination with other historic and artistic points of interest around the site, Curzon Street will also celebrate the archaeological remains of one of the world's first and largest steam-train roundhouses, which was uncovered in the woodland habitat area.

 Actions taken on the scheme have been further validated through the pursuit of the BREEAM Excellent rating, and WSP continues to work with HS2 to push the scheme to an Outstanding rating.  
At the heart of the new HS2 network in Birmingham City Centre, Birmingham Curzon Street Station incorporates clever and innovative design with environmental aspects aiming to make it one of the most environmentally friendly stations in the world. This has been achieved through the use of renewable technologies and lean design as well as achieving a sustainable design in the round.
Hannah Leggatt HS2 Environment Manager, Curzon Street Station

Hannah Leggatt continues:

The station will also form an integral part of major new transport changes for the city as a whole, incorporating the Midland Metro running alongside and underneath the station, new pedestrian routes and access to new local bus and train services.

During the design process WSP has employed various measures such as rainwater harvesting, the use of photovoltaics, passive design, making designs leaner, and incorporating reused, recycled or renewable material where possible. WSP has also looked at the opportunities to use or generate low carbon energy, reduce embedded carbon in construction materials, reduce carbon emissions from construction work and incorporate these measures into the overall design of and (in the coming months) contracts for the stations.  It will achieve the ‘BREEAM Excellent’ standard and zero carbon emissions from day to day energy consumption and will also include fantastic new public spaces within the heart of the city centre.

The environmental credentials of the station design have also been recognised as Curzon Street Station has been named as a shortlisted finalist in the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) awards. These awards celebrate and recognise people and businesses that are helping to transform the world in the sustainability field. I am very proud to be a part of the fantastic design team for Curzon Street Station and cannot wait to get into the next phase of detailed design and then onto construction.” 

HS2 BCS4

Numerous other approaches to delivering sustainable outcomes on Curzon Street have been taken, as you might expect when a client and delivery team set the bar so high.  These echo the value placed on  individual and team contributions from within WSP, where actions taken by different disciplines are carefully integrated and balanced, to realise a much greater positive effect than could have been achieved in isolation – a true form of interdependency.

As Curzon Street station starts to transition into the detailed design stage, the foundations from which to regenerate a previously deprived area of land, by using a city-integrated station and public realm that will last to serve future generations, are clear.


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