The "world-class" institute provides cutting-edge technology for the world of building and construction, making it easier to redevelop brownfield sites in a time when more and more people want to protect their local greenfield areas.
MP for Wolverhampton North East, Jane Stevenson, cut the ribbon at the site, along with the leader of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield; Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street; and the University of Wolverhampton's Interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Campbell.
While some of the biggest names from Black Country politics were in attendance, all eyes were on another guest: Spot the robot dog.
Spot is one of the institute's biggest – and most photogenic – assets, with many guests keen to pose with the robot dog.
Designed by Boston Dynamics, Spot can be used to scan brownfield sites that are too dangerous for humans to venture into.
High-tech scanners can be attached to Spot, meaning it can carry out scans of a potentially dangerous site autonomously, without putting human life at risk.
The institute is also home to an immersive visualisation suite, called Igloo Vision, a nine-metre-diameter cylinder, which functions like a giant Virtual Reality headset.
The cylinder suite can provide 360 degree projections, which organisations will be able to use for their own presentations, creating immersive visions of their brownfield sites and plans.
Janet Bayley and Paul Davies, knowledge transfer managers at the institute, said: "The Igloo is the closest thing to Virtual Reality without wearing a headset. It's an experience you want to share with people."
The Igloo will be able to project images produced by the institute's high-tech scanning equipment, which can produce complete scans of brownfield sites in an hour which with other equipment could take up to ten hours.
Janet and Paul added: "This is a fantastic case study for students and a great record for us. In the future, we'll be able to see what's behind a building's facade - see the electric and the gas fittings and show piece by piece what is in there.
"The service we offer means people will be able to manage the unknowns of brownfield sites. Unknowns can affect profit margins and make people hesitant.
"One of our ambitions is to be a centre of excellence, with all the information about brownfield sites in one place - accurate and easily accessible."
The ‘shovel-ready’ project benefited from £14.9million of funding from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for the West Midlands. City of Wolverhampton Council worked closely with the Black Country LEP and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to secure the funding with the remainder provided by the Government’s Towns Fund.
Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “The National Brownfield Institute is a game-changing development that further enhances the Springfield Campus as a leading Built Environment education campus.
“It will enable the City of Wolverhampton to secure its position as a world leader in sustainable construction, circular economy and brownfield development and will deliver new skills, jobs and opportunities for local people in the city.
“Coupled with the creation of a dual headquarters for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in Wolverhampton and its associated Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Taskforce, the city will be at the forefront of shaping housing policy.
“The construction of the National Brownfield Institute has been achieved while working under Covid-19 restrictions and forms part of the city’s bold and ambitious regeneration plans that are being powered by more than £4.4billion of investment on site or in the pipeline.”
Professor David Proverbs, dean of the faculty of science and engineering at the University of Wolverhampton, added: “This is another major milestone for our important regeneration project, further adding to the portfolio of construction and built environment expertise that now resides at the Springfield Campus.
“The NBI will be at the heart of a West Midlands Construction Training Offer – providing the industry with the skills needed both now and in the future. As well as being at the forefront of a transformation of the way we will build homes and communities, it will also ensure that we learn from research around the world on modern construction and remediation technique.
“The NBI will help as a catalyst in utilisation of brownfield sites and provide developers with advice and knowledge in relation to areas such as building scanning, soil analysis, ground water contamination and ground stabilisation to effectively bring those sites back into use.
“It will be a working model for brownfield remediation and new construction techniques that can be implemented regionally and nationally and exported around the world, building on existing expertise offered on site through the Thomas Telford University Technical College, the Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills and the new School of Architecture & Built Environment.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “Housebuilding on derelict industrial land has been one of the region’s real success stories of recent years and we are rightly regarded as a national leader in urban regeneration.
“Not only is our brownfield first approach helping to provide high quality, energy efficient new homes for local people it is also helping to protect our precious green belt.
“This new Institute will build on that solid track record, helping us pioneer new, modern methods of construction that can massively speed up the supply of affordable new homes while giving people the skills they need to work in the green building industries of the future.”