Date of release: Friday, December 12, 2014

William Hague

First Secretary of State, Rt Hon William Hague MP praised Britain's universities as 'one of our nation's most distinctive contributions to the world' as he officially opened the University of Greenwich's new library and academic building at Stockwell Street on Tuesday 9 December 2014.

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.

He said: "It is an honour to join in opening this spectacular new library and academic building, which sends an extremely strong message about the future of the University of Greenwich, and of Greenwich itself.

"This university has one of the largest bodies of international students of any London university. The mingling of students from around the world brings together ideas and experiences derived from many different cultures, enriching the life of this university and creating a web of connections around the globe. These connections are a huge asset and advantage for our country, enabling the exchange of ideas across borders, religions and cultures, and the transmission of the democratic values and ideals fostered here in Britain.

"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."

Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Maguire, added: "I am delighted at the excitement that our new building has generated. It serves to remind all of us what can be achieved when you aim high. We expect a great deal from our students and, quite rightly, they expect a great deal from us. This building will allow the university to advance our excellent 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."

Other speakers included the university's Chancellor, Baroness Scotland, and former Vice-Chancellor, Baroness Blackstone. The Tessa Blackstone Lecture Theatre, the largest in the new building, has been named in her honour.

Rapolas Vilunas, a student from the Faculty of Architecture & Humanities who is based in Stockwell Street, explained how it had transformed his experience of learning.

The £80 million building is home to the university's main research and study library, as well as the Department of Architecture & Landscape and the Department of Creative Professions and Digital Arts.

Designed by Dublin-based heneghan peng architects, the building extends the university into the heart of Greenwich and creates a new landmark for the town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One extraordinary feature is the landscaped green roof which is about the same area as 12 tennis courts, making it Europe's largest teaching and learning green roof. 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. These extend the UK's capabilities for ground-breaking research in several important areas including biodegradable fuels, carbon-capture, biotic building materials and sustainable urban farming.

Dominating one side of the building, the library provides students, academics and researchers with access to over 130,000 hard copy volumes as well as a state-of-the-art digital learning environment.

With comprehensive wifi and world-class online research resources, the library attracts more than 3,000 students every day and is able to provide a 24/7 service during exam and assessment schedules.

The university is justifiably proud of its commitment to civic engagement. The ground floor is open to the public and provides visitors with two exhibition galleries, the Stephen Lawrence Gallery and the larger internal Project Gallery). There is also a café and a community drop-in centre, which provides expert legal advice on employment and business law and family legal advice. The university has also provided space and customers for a local business helping to support Greenwich's economy.

Story by Public Relations