Birmingham car park re-imagined as 'vertical farm'

Rise of driver-less cabs means car parks can have greener future
Car park becomes 'virtual farm'

2 November 2016

  • Aston University and Birmingham City University join forces to educate the next generation on the dangers of climate change
  • News bulletin from 2045 reports Birmingham sources 75% of its fruit and vegetables from ‘vertical farms’ that used to be multi-storey car parks
  • Hosted by broadcaster Reeta Chakrabati (newsreader and journalist), featuring special guests Steve Backshall (TV adventurer), Clive Myrie (newsreader and presenter), and The Festival of the Spoken Nerd

“Birmingham now has its 35th vertical farm, thanks to the conversion of the New Street car park,” says a newsreader, reading a bulletin from the year 2045 in a greener alternative to our current future. 

This is the scenario featured in a special film produced for The Carbon Journey 2016 – a unique collaboration between Aston University and Birmingham City University to dedicate three days of second-year teaching timetable to the impact of climate change on business and society, to ensure their students are equipped to join the organisations that are aiming to make headlines like this a reality.

2,500 students had the opportunity to attend the event at the Genting Arena, NEC on 31 October 2016 which was hosted by broadcaster Reeta Chakrabati, with guest speakers including adventurer and wildlife TV presenter Steve Backshall, journalist Clive Myrie and scientific performers The Festival of the Spoken Nerd. This fun and insightful alternative to a traditional lecture aimed to help students envisage the future consequences of climate change.

Aston students who participate will receive credits towards their degree – making Aston one of the first universities to embed a dedicated module on tackling climate change open to undergraduates from all subject areas.

In a mix of exciting talks, performances and videos, the audience gained a glimpse of what the world might look like if the climate danger threshold is breached. Students were able to witness some of the catastrophic consequences which may surface if global average temperatures cross the four degree mark.

The main event was followed by two days of elective seminars given at both universities by business leaders from Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens, and Foster and Partners, who highlighted the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change within their particular sector.

Professor Alec Cameron, Vice Chancellor of Aston University, said: “This is a unique opportunity for students to learn about climate change in a way that feels real to them. So much of the science communication around global warming highlights abstract threats to our future. It’s hard to bring these back down to earth and prompt individuals to think seriously about the everyday choices they can make. Carbon Journey 2016 was designed to do just that.

“The three-day programme is just one aspect of Aston’s long-term commitment to embed low carbon education across all degree programmes, so that each and every student learns of its real-world application. At the same time, major research projects led by our academics are taking waste products and converting them to energy in the Punjab region of India (Energy Harvest) and designing the next generation of LED technology with better efficiency and longer life (NewLED).”

With more than 35,000 students and over 3,000 employees between them, Aston and Birmingham City Universities want to educate the next generation in the risks posed by climate change to economic and social structures, as well as the far-reaching benefits of a global shift to sustainability and clean energy

Professor Julian Beer, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Birmingham City University, said: “The COP21 Paris Agreement recognised that collective action is need to combat climate change. This needs to be distributed at an international, national and local level to achieve maximum change. We believe it is our responsibility to send our students out into the world as global citizens. It’s why we’re collaborating with Aston University to bring greater numbers together and share in a common cause.

“Our purpose is three-fold. We want to help students understand how global warming will hurt their future, the need to adapt to the stresses of a changing climate, and the potential for innovation to fix impending problems and open up new opportunities for transformation and growth. Because what our students do next will define which future we get.”


Notes to the editor

  • Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston will hold a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey.
  • With over 23,500 students from 80 countries, Birmingham City University is a large, diverse and increasingly popular place to study. The University puts students at the heart of everything it does, giving them the best opportunities for future success.

For more information, call Susi Turner, Press & PR Officer, on 0121 204 4978 or email