Onyx Case study


To develop the Onyx student accommodation in Birmingham with a focus on sustainability, incorporating a recreational podium area and green roofs, aimed at achieving a BREEAM Excellent rating.


The challenge

Sustainable and Recreational Space Design: Integrating a recreational podium and green roofs into the building envelope of a high-rise student accommodation.

BREEAM Excellence: Ensuring the development contributes to achieving a BREEAM Excellent sustainability rating.

Wind Loading Considerations: Addressing the challenge of wind loading on trees planted at height on the building’s outdoor spaces.

Logistical Constraints: Managing construction logistics in a highly urbanised area with limited site access, situated by one of Birmingham’s busiest roundabouts.

Under Birmingham’s Design Plan, ‘developments need to be supported by suitable green and social infrastructure’, making green elements key in the Onyx scheme. The green roof and landscaping were part of the BREEAM criteria. Eco Green Roofs delivered these to specification, crucial for achieving the BREEAM very good target. Most importantly, it provided students with a welcoming outdoor space to relax beside nature, despite the urban setting.

Project Manager at McAleer and Rushe


What was involved

The Onyx project, spearheaded by McAleer & Rushe, involved the ambitious development, design, and construction of a student accommodation complex featuring 1025 bedrooms across two towers, linked by a tenstorey bridge. A key aspect of this project was the adoption of the EGR SB+ Sedum Blanket Green Roof System atop the 13 and 24-storey towers, introducing sustainable green roofing to enhance the buildings’ ecological footprint. Additionally, a specially designed podium roof on the tenth floor provided a valuable outdoor communal space for students, seamlessly blending the urban living environment with natural elements. This approach not only maximised the use of green space within a compact urban setting but also contributed to the well-being of its residents by bringing nature closer to their everyday lives.


The solution

The Onyx project enhanced sustainability and aesthetics by installing the EGR SB+ Sedum Blanket Green Roof System on high-rise blocks, improving its BREEAM rating. The EGR Podium Roof System created a recreational area with a unique angular layout, incorporating pebbles, flagstones, ornamental bark, artificial grass, plant beds, and diverse greenery. This design ensured resilience against wind and complemented the residential structure’s style, promoting biodiversity and visual appeal.

The results

Onyx achieved an Excellent BREEAM rating, underscoring its commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency. It enhanced student living by integrating green roofs and recreational areas, providing access to nature and improving wellbeing. The project successfully introduced green spaces in a dense urban setting, with careful selection of trees and shrubs ensuring resilience against wind. This balanced approach between design and ecology sets a standard for future developments.

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