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Associated Architects wins approval for Birmingham’s tallest tower

The practice claims the £360 million Curzon Wharf scheme will also be one of the world’s first net-zero carbon skyscrapers (see below),

The main 498-flat tower would be joined by three other buildings, standing at 41, 14 and 9 storeys, as part of the 92,300m² development.

Under the proposals, which have been six years in the planning, the 41-storey tower would contain 732 student homes, while the 14-storey building would have 122 homes – down from the 265 co-living homes proposed when the plans were first revealed.


A separate nine-storey building would contain 12,000m2 of office and life science research space.

The Curzon Wharf scheme will sit on a site by Dartmouth Circus, part of Birmingham’s ring road to the north of the city’s centre. The site is currently home to 1960s warehouses and is near the forthcoming HS2 Curzon Street Station.

The developer, Woodbourne Group, has consistently claimed the scheme would be ‘net zero carbon,’ previously stating that ‘science is now showing with alarming clarity how quickly we are running out of time to avoid catastrophic and irreversible changes to the world’.

Woodbourne Group chief executive Tani Dulay said: ‘We’ve worked hard to reach this point and it is incredibly satisfying to stand on the brink of delivering such a world-class development for a city I’m proud to call home.’

He added: ‘We need to help power the economic recovery by facilitating investment, creating jobs and acting as a catalyst to further success.’


If built, the 172m tower would be in contention to be the tallest in Birmingham. This is currently the 130m-tall Beetham Tower though Glenn Howells Architects’ Octagon tower in the Paradise redevelopment scheme and currently under construction, will be 155m when it completes.

Glancy Nicholl’s 100 Broad Street scheme which was approved in 2020 would have been taller at 193m. However, in March, Glenn Howells Architects unveiled plans for a replacement that was roughly half the size of the never-realised 62-storey scheme.

A future timescale for Curzon Wharf is not yet known.

Project data

Location Birmingham City Centre
Local authority Birmingham City Council
Type of project Mixed-Use
Client Woodbourne Group
Architect Associated Architects
Landscape architect Node
Planning consultant CBRE
Structural engineer Cundall
M&E consultant Cundall
Quantity surveyor MGAC
Principal designer Associated Architects
Lighting consultant Cundall
Main contractor Finalising
Funding Woodbourne Group
Tender date Finalising
Start on site date Finalising
Completion date Finalising
Contract duration 48 months
Gross internal floor area m² 92,257m²
Form of contract and/or procurement Finalising
Total cost £360 million

Curzon Wharf, Birmingham Photo: Associated Architects

How will the scheme be net zero carbon?

Associated Architects, working with sustainability engineering consultant Cundall, has drawn up plans for ‘an optimised thermal envelope in line with Passivhaus principles’ for the four buildings.

The walls, floor and roof will be ‘super-insulated’ and the windows triple-glazed, while the buildings will also have LED lighting and smart heating controls. The project team says fossil fuels will be ‘eliminated from the site’, with heat pumps meeting energy demands.

A vision document for the development said the three residential towers would each produce at least 69 per cent less carbon from operational energy use than if they only met the minimum standards set out in Part L of the Building Regulations. The smaller research building would produce 43 per less carbon than required by a Part L-compliant building.

Cundall’s structures partner Alex Carter told the AJ that the project team had also looked at how to reduce its embodied carbon through a ‘lean design’, for instance by maximising use of GGBS, a lower-carbon cement replacement.

While the project is still effectively at RIBA Stage 2, he said the team was hoping to meet embodied carbon figures in line with LETI 2030 targets.

Carter admitted that ‘at some point in time, to achieve net zero carbon, there will have to be some [carbon] offsetting’, but pointed out: ‘That is not unique to this project.’

He concluded: ‘The important thing is not offsetting, the important thing is the building is efficient and is set up to be a very, very low-carbon building. Ultimately there is always a small amount left after that.’

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