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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Birmingham’s sustainable new road scheme

The lifeblood of any city is its transportation network and Birmingham is no exception, being at the heart of a sprawling conglomeration of waterways, motorways and railways. To alleviate some of the traffic pressure burdening the strategically vital A38 into the city centre through Selly Oak, a new 1.5km road is taking shape.

Its construction is vital for the regeneration of the suburb and its surrounding area. The consequential traffic reduction on the existing road will greatly improve safety for residents as well as bringing better local connections and a much enhanced environment throughout the area.

The project, which is being delivered by a joint venture between Birse Civils and Birse Rail for Birmingham City Council, incorporates two major junctions and three highway structures, together with a bridge and aqueduct through the embankment that currently supports both a railway and the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Sensitive location

The scheme is situated in a brownfield area and the embankment provides an environmentally sensitive green corridor. Extensive surveys for contamination, invasive weeds, badgers and water voles were carried out by the Birse team before work started.

Early sustainability and value engineering workshops were also held to ensure the most appropriate materials, techniques and processes would be used wherever possible. The project team’s aim was to be as sustainable as possible by reducing site traffic movements and minimising waste. An innovative approach was taken wherever it would bring benefits to the project and its stakeholders. This has included accommodating the whole team in Birse’s ‘ECO cabins’ which feature double glazing, insulation, water saving devices, lights-on-occupancy sensors, timed heating as well as segregated recycling bins for office waste.

Sustainable earthworks strategy

The development of a sustainable earthworks strategy has maximised the use of site-won material. Wherever possible, any imported material is of a recycled nature such as the use of crushed demolition rubble and road planings to construct footpaths. The access ramps up to the canal and rail structures are reinforced with site demolition waste as fill, saving the import and export of around 7,000 tonnes of material.

Crushed tyre bales have been used extensively to build banks, ramps and dams during construction of the new railway and canal structures. The Birse team consulted with the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) to source a supplier. These bales have not only removed the dependence on primary aggregate raw material but also offered a sustainable option for the re-use of a great many waste tyres. When the project is complete, they will be shredded for exploitation as a heat fuel source. NISP also helped to locate ground glass as an aggregate replacement on the site.

Protecting water courses

Prior to the temporary diversion of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to make way for the new aqueduct, a fish rescue operation took place to protect the waterway’s natural inhabitants.

Attenuation and spillage containment devices have also been put in to protect Bourn Brook which runs alongside the site.

Planning ahead

Beyond recycled and reclaimed materials, the project has implemented other innovative solutions. To provide site access across the canal during the work, a temporary lift bridge has been installed to minimise disruption to canal users. The design incorporates a recycled vehicle ramp – this removed the requirement to manufacture new products and reduced the amount of imported structural fill needed. The bridge can also be reused once the project is complete.

Tree clearance works were carefully planned so that larger trees could be used as baulks for demarcation and safety curbing on site. Smaller trees and brushwood have been converted into wood burner fuel for local causes, with the remainder chipped as mulch for site landscaping.

The project is currently gearing up for the installation of the 75m long railway bridge which will take place during a 100-hour possession over the Christmas period. This will see the 3,850 tonne structure moved into position using self-propelled modular transporters.

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