Perry Barr Bus Garage, Birmingham

Over 200 bus journeys a day start and end at the new National Express depot in Birmingham’s Perry Barr. BAM was responsible for delivering this more comfortable and sustainable working environment.

Project details

  • Customer: National Express West Midlands
  • Architects: Janus Architecture
  • Mechanical and electrical services: BAM Services Engineering

View related projects

432m2 Fact icon green roof
Certificate B Fact icon energy performance rating
418 Fact icon tonnes of carbon saved by redesigning steelwork
18 Fact icon local firms subcontracted on the project

New home for sustainable transport  

Just north west of Birmingham city centre, the suburb of Perry Barr is undergoing huge transformation, with over £700 million in public sector funding being made available for new infrastructure, homes and community spaces.

Sustainable public transport is a key pillar of this regeneration: not least bus services. For almost a hundred years, the redbrick Perry Barr Bus Depot stood in Wellhead Lane. Revolutionary in its time, the building was believed to be the largest unsupported indoor space in the UK when it was constructed in 1932. 

But the old building was no longer fit for purpose, so owners National Express West Midlands commissioned a new more sustainable and energy efficient depot to support its journey towards net zero by 2030. 

BAM worked closely with National Express to re-plan and re-engineer the proposed scheme, enabling it to achieve its ambitious sustainability targets. The new bus garage and maintenance centre includes a host of wellbeing facilities for staff, as well as state-of-the-art workshops, energy efficiency measures and the capacity to house and charge a full fleet of electric buses.

The new bus garage is part of a much broader regeneration project by Birmingham City Council, aimed at injecting new life and investment into Perry Barr. New homes are being built in the area, community facilities such as the Alexander Stadium are being improved, and sustainable transport is being encouraged, to make this one of the most well connected areas in the West Midlands.

Buses are key to this strategy. But facilities at the old depot “[did not] lend themselves to modernisation or changes to infrastructure that future technology vehicles require” according to National Express West Midlands. 

So BAM was appointed to deliver a new depot, which includes space for over 170 buses, as well as on-site parking for almost 80 staff vehicles.

Across the 6.5 acre site, the 12 maintenance bays, three refuelling bays and four bus washes are powered by 150 solar PV panels. The washing bays include a self-contained water recycling system, while the toilets are served by harvested rainwater.

Completed footage of the new Perry Barr Bus Depot designed by Janus Architecture

Efficiency and comfort

Heating at the depot is provided by a hybrid system that includes air-source heat pumps, overhead electric radiant panels and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology, so there is no need for gas on site.

The ultra lightweight green roof features over 22 different species, helping to improve air quality and providing wildlife habitats even in this distinctly urban setting.

A green wall on acoustic panelling is also designed to improve air quality while also reducing noise pollution. A wildflower garden has been planted behind the acoustic panels to provide even more habitats. 

Modelling optimum solutions

The BAM services engineering team were an integral part of this project, working closely with the architectural designers to maximise usable space and keep mechanical and electrical (M&E) services as unobtrusive as possible. 

The M&E team developed a data rich BIM 3D model so the customer could review the project in virtual reality workshops before work actually started. This allowed the design to be tweaked to improve user experiences in the finished building.

The team also created a thermal model for the ventilation, cooling and heating, to optimise system performance and comfort for users.

Positive working environment

Recruitment and retention in public transport is an on-going challenge, so the depot has been designed to provide a supportive and comfortable working environment for drivers, engineers and back-office staff alike. 

There is an on-site café, rest areas with a separate quiet space, showering facilities and dedicated training rooms. 

A fish tank, two snooker tables and a heritage mirror have also been rescued from the old building and installed at the new depot. Existing staff were involved in the project, visiting the new site before it became fully operational and helping, for example, to decide on colour schemes.

Safety is also extremely important to National Express, and that means keeping people and vehicles apart as much as possible. Designing a new depot from scratch allowed for a safer, more efficient layout for operations and maintenance.

“From the very start of the project, we wanted to create a site that offered our people a high quality working environment, but also to ensure a low environmental impact in both the build and future operations. By being able to design something from scratch, we’ve transformed how we work from top to bottom.” 

David Bradford

Managing Director, National Express West Midland