Birmingham New Street & SustainabilitySurface Transport & Logistics

New Street Station, a central transport hub hadn't seen any changes since the 1960s. It was our task along with our partners to bring this key transport facility into the new era.

The Challenge of £600 million renovation of the Birmingham New Street station that has long been neglected and was due a much needed revamp. Qsustain utilised innovative solution to reduce the carbon footprint and use the latest technologies.


How to turn Birmingham New Street station: a dark, unwelcoming and overcrowded hub with poor access for passengers, into a light bright welcoming space.

The environmental challenge – how to convert a very dated and energy intensive systems of heating, cooling and ventilation which were poorly  maintained and controlled then convert into a modern, green, sustainable development while adhering to stringent rail standards.

Network Rail’s £650m New Street station redevelopment is now over three times the size of the old station and has 31 new escalators and 29 new lifts. To cater for future demand and create a better passenger experience for all, more energy is required and Q Sustain tirelessly explored all avenues to achieve a sustainable development and legacy by implementing best practice and beyond.


Network Rail, delivery partner Mace, designers, Atkins and Sustainability Consultants Q Sustain Ltd have successfully implemented the first BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rated rail station, as well as delivering the first BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rated accommodation for Cross Country Trains (called The Lampblock) on platform 1.

These initiatives at New Street have set a new benchmark in Network Rail of how to adapt and create innovative sustainable solutions in complex rail environments that include an 80m long green wall, rainwater harvesting systems, predicted to supply 60% of toilet flushing demand from recovered rainwater, and LED Lighting with close control.

Over 12,500 tons of concrete was removed from a disused car park and the roof.  All the waste concrete removed from the site was taken to a waste recycling facility for use on other projects and avoid waste to landfill.

The station is the first to install a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant and led the way to significantly expand a city district heating network with modelled reduction of 3,000Tons carbon / year. Such a scheme shall reduce the cities carbon emissions and assist neighbouring businesses and developments with the option for a greener fuel source, creating a carbon smart and energy wise station.


  • BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) has become the principle measure used to describe a building’s environmental performance and Network Rail is dedicated to ensuring best practice for sustainability measures where viable.
  • It has been a tough journey but the station has met its target to gain a BREEAM rating of ‘very good’ for the design stage and on target for the post completion final submission.


  • Network Rail, Q Sustain and its partners have been working closely with many external bodies throughout the project, including The Carbon Trust, WRAP (Waste & Resource Action Programme) and NISP (National Industrial Symbiosis Programme) to support government initiatives and best practice in avoiding waste to landfill.
  • The project has also created and implemented a bespoke Project materials procurement policy to ensure the supply chain sign up to legal and responsible sourcing of materials.
  • We also ensured our supply chain hold Environmental Management Certificates to ISO 14001 or BES 6001 or equivalent.
  • Working around an operational railway can be a challenge in itself; however it also provides a very accessible resource that the project team uses to transport material into and from site, without having to use carbon intensive lorries around the busy city centre.
  • Every week, the train made two journeys into the construction site from a logistics depot in Bordesley, on the outskirts of the city and was estimated in saving 10,000 lorry journeys off Birmingham’s roads throughout the life of the project.

Energy and a Carbon Smart Station

  • The expansion of the station concourse and additional lifts and escalators will mean that we will need nearly double the amount of power. Therefore, Network Rail worked closely with Q Sustain Ltd and lead consultant, Atkins, to make the main concourse area naturally ventilated to minimize energy usage. Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modelling was carried out to ensure the new atrium worked effectively in extracting warm air in the summer using the stack effect and the station concourse was not too cold in the winter. Exploration of various renewable and low carbon technologies ranging from Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP), Biomass boilers, and Photovoltaic (PV) to cover 2,000m2 around the South of the station façade. Using an existing city centre location meant special constraints excluded the use of many technologies such as Biomass and wind.
  • Network Rail have implemented a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) system to provide the station with electric generated from gas that contain a low carbon factor and also connects into the local district heating network from the North of the station. This now reduces carbon emissions from a site based micro generation, as opposed to traditional power station generated grid electric, reduce transmission losses and use the waste by-product of heat that is normally lost in the cooling towers of old power stations. The preferred bidder, Cofely were also very keen to use the subterranean network beneath the station to supply the south of the city and avoid disruption around the city centre.
  • With the inclusion of John Lewis agreeing to sign up to a heat agreement with Cofely, a carefully co-ordinated agreement was created that acquired simultaneous signing of Energy Supply Contracts.

Lighting and Controls

  • All lighting was changed to low energy LEDs and lighting controls significantly improved to ensure lights are turned off in back of house areas for prolonged unoccupied periods and dimmed in public areas where passengers are not present. All lighting shall be centrally controlled and monitored via a Building Management System (BMS) based in the control room.


  • The project aims to minimise the consumption of potable water by the use of dual flush cisterns in all toilets along with low flow sensor taps. All water consumption is also to be monitored via the BMS to allow close monitoring of consumption, something not regularly carried out at managed stations. A leak detection system will also produce an alarm in the control room if a leak is detected in the system.
  • The project has also constructed a large rainwater collection tank that collects rainwater from the roof and façade to provide for more than 60% of the stations toilet flushing demand and irrigation for planting.
  • Attenuation tanks have also been installed to prevent flooding from overwhelming the main local sewer during periods of intense rainfall due to the future effects of climate change and increase risk of flooding in the city.
  • Close monitoring and strict methods of all ground works and piling were observed by the project to protect an aquifer below. A number of boreholes were used for periodically testing and monitoring the aquifer throughout the period of platform and ground works. Due to the methodology and processes placed early on, the aquifer remained protected and free from any increase in contaminants.


  • Sourcing materials that have a low environmental impact has also been a key consideration. Processes introduced on the project by Q Sustain at an early stage ensure suppliers and contractors responsibly source all materials to ISO 14001 or equivalent and legally source all timber to FSC and PEFC conformance.
  • Q Sustain researched and sourced alternative materials and sourced carpet tiles from Miliken of which the yarn is made from recycled fishing nets and the base from recycled off cuts from car seats.

Land Use and Ecology

  • Despite the location for New Street having a low ecology site, Network Rail appointed suitably qualified ecologists to advise and report on enhancing and protecting the ecological value of the site. A key feature Q Sustain helped deliver was a 325 m2 green wall with over 25 different species along the Moor Street link to the East of the new station, creating a completely new welcoming route into the station and concealing a long dark and dirty retaining wall.
  • Delivering the first BREEAM Excellent Modular building in a live rail environment
  • Q Sustain, Mace and Network Rail delivered a new and very green office building situated on platform 1 for our colleagues at Cross Country Trains.  It has a green roof, solar photovoltaic panels to generate power and solar thermal panels for hot water generation. This building has achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) rating of ‘Excellent’.
  • On site we insisted our contractors use responsibly sourced materials and legally sourced timber, as well as having environmental management systems in place. Waste produced from any prior demolition works and packaging on site has achieved high recycled / re-used rates in excess of 95%.


  • Overall, Q Sustain has helped the redevelopment of New Street Station set a new precedent for rail buildings and a good practice delivery benchmark for Network Rail to follow, changing the culture by creating awareness for sustainable buildings within the rail sector.
  • The project has also created a realisation in the wider rail organisation and sector that despite challenges of working in a live complex rail environment with tight deadlines and within a limited work area and stringent governance, sustainable buildings can be delivered using innovative methods of construction with strong Leadership, commitment and a realisation we all have a responsibility to consider the needs of future generations.
  • Q Sustain has also been engaged in providing Benchmark data and input into a revised corporate Sustainability policy in Network Rail Infrastructure Projects.

Birmingham New Street - 5 years in 5 minutes

How can we help you?

Contact us at the Qsustain office or submit a business inquiry online.

The detail of the report was excellent to see and much appreciated by everyone who read it. This is far above reports of a similar nature that we have had in the past from other providers. It was also greatly appreciated that the team were willing to do more than one site visit to ensure as much information could be gathered to inform the report.

Alex Fay
Energy and Environment Delivery Manager, Northern Rail