University building with "biggest learning green roof in Europe" opened by William Hague

First secretary of state William Hague praised Britain's universities as he officially opened the University of Greenwich's new green-roof-topped building, the landscape department's new home.

William Hague (centre) at the architecture and landscape department

Hague said that Britain’s academic institutions were "one of our nation’s most distinctive contributions to the world" at the opening on Tuesday.

The former secretary of state for foreign affairs toured the building’s facilities before delivering a speech addressing the importance of universities as champions of British values such as intellectual enquiry, high academic standards and civic engagement both domestically and overseas.

The £80 million building is home to the University’s main research and study library, as well as the integrated department of architecture and landscape. Designed by Dublin based heneghan peng architects, the building features a landscaped green roof which is almost the same area as twelve tennis courts, making it Europe’s largest teaching and learning green roof.

The facilities include a wetland, climate-controlled greenhouses, a vegetable grid for research into food cultivation and urban farming, arid planting and herbaceous landscapes as well as test areas for screening plants, soil types and irrigation regimes.

The roof also houses the UK’s first purpose-built algaeponic and aquaponic rooftop units, which are used for research into biodegradable fuels, carbon-capture, biotic building materials and sustainable urban farming.

Hague said it was an honour to open the "spectacular new library and academic building" and said Greenwich’s mix of international and home students was enriching.

He added: "The strength and attractiveness of a British university education is one of our nation’s most distinctive contributions in the world. The fact that Britain remains the first destination of choice for thousands of aspiring students around the world enriches and strengthens our universities, the future of our economy and our influence in the world."

At the opening vice chancellor professor David Maguire said the building would allow the university to advance research in smart buildings, environmental sustainability and creative arts.

"Our university is on an ambitious journey as we develop our role in our community and meet the needs of students and researchers here and abroad."

The library attracts more than 3,000 students every day.

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