Green Roof Infrastructures at the Airport

Green Infrastructures: At the Crossroads of Environmental and Risk Management


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About the project Edit

Like the urban fabric that hosts them, airports are putting growing pressure on natural habitats and nearby dwellings. Simultaneously a source of wealth and harmful effects, the city airport – or aerotropolis – raises a complex issue that comes from territorial equity, but also one about adapting large pieces of technical equipment to climate change.

In this context, green infrastructures offer not only a way to respond to technical infrastructure management issues, but also strategic tools for mediation and dialogue with stakeholders to encourage the social acceptability of airport development projects while improving public health.

In light of this, it is obvious that green and grey airports play an important role in local communities, are a part of the urban fabric and must be adequately integrated into territorial planning. Despite the fact that airports mean constraints and risks (noise and pollution), they can play a leadership role in sustainable development (managing space in a sustainable and innovative way) and assume the responsibilities that come with a large-scale urban infrastructure.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

In brief, it is the interaction between plants, animals and development elements that create the dynamics that are naturally difficult to foresee. Every modification to the airport ecosystem will have an impact on the complex interrelations between people and communities whether they be natural or modified by humans (anthropomorphic).

We believe that vigilance of fauna enforcement patrol and research in collaboration with universities and designers will enrich on-the-ground knowledge and the design process and green infrastructure implementation. That’s why we think that cross-disciplinary competence combined with a concerted approach that supports the analysis process of bird strike risk (see references: PARPAA, Transport Canada and Jacques Lolive), can lead not only to reducing the risk of bird strikes in civil aviation, but also increase airport infrastructure resilience to climate change thereby promoting social acceptability and mostly, creating beauty.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The coexistence of transport infrastructures in the heart of communities is a complex issue. Implementing and developing an airport platform remain an enormous challenge for communities. Without claiming to resolve the question completely, the IV suggests a few options for developing the airport platform by promoting acceptability among local communities in compliance with the guidelines developed by IATA.

In this context, the IATA advances the importance of managing airports in a responsible way within a vision of sustainable development. For example, the Chicago and Munich airports set up various actions and sustain technologies, most notably the installation of green roofs and greening in certain areas, LEED/EMAS certification in their buildings, recycling, water and energy management, beekeeping, restoration of wetlands and developing a hydroponic garden.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The potential is defined by an airport’s intrinsic values that can be described as the following:

. The airport is a gathering place that often has a little discussed dimension: one of strong emotions such as joy, sadness and excitement and is, therefore, a place where the ambiance is often burned into the passengers’ memories.

. The airport is also a passageway – multicultural and symbolic. As such, it can transmit messages. However, to the traveller, it can also be a country’s image because it is often the first place of contact with the country of destination.

. The airport is also an expression of modern mobility and the meeting place between various modes of transportation and as a result, enjoys a high profile.

For some authors (Kasarda, 2009),the 21st will belong to city-airport pairs like the port cities of the 17th and 18th centuries and the train stations of the 19th and 20th centuries. By integrating to the world’s urban and airport systems in this way, we recognize the huge potential for expanding green infrastructures.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Chance encounters between reading a study on the potential of roofs in airports (Belazquez), Jean-Paul Ganem’s Land Art exhibit close to the Mirabel airport and a newspapers article on the impact of atmospheric pollution in the city. Of course, working in an airport helps bring out the meaning of this combination between engineering, design art and health.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Only in North America despite fauna enforcement efforts, experts estimate that the annual cost for the aeronautic industry “could be realistically evaluated at more than $500 million” in direct and indirect costs (TC, 2004).

Moreover, on the social-health plan, Quebec’s National Public Health Institute concluded recently that “green spaces are very important in the urban environment and must be considered a central element in urban planning. In particular, they allow atmospheric contaminants to be absorbed which is a must for a city like Montreal where more than 1,5040 deaths are linked to air pollution every year and even more hospitalizations and emergency room visits for various illnesses.

Furthermore, urban green spaces produce oxygen, reduce ground-level ozone, trap dust and heavy metals, consume carbon dioxide and absorb less heat thereby reducing the number of urban heat islands. As well, urban green spaces reduce noise which is a significant contributing factor of stress and provide a visual screen for less appealing and less inviting landscapes” (INSPQ, 2011).

According to the Agency for Environment and Energy Management, in France “the direct costs linked to the French population’s health caused by atmospheric pollution have been evaluated at more than 35 billion francs per year, of which 20 million (57%) is generated by road transportation pollution. It seems that in theory, the French are ready to pay six time more to reduce health risks and loss of well-being linked to atmospheric pollution and seven times more the direct costs linked to road transportation to eliminate the effects” (ADEME, 1997).

Despite the challenges in terms of safety, from an accounting plan we can see the coexistence of grey and green infrastructures, integration even blending, seems inevitable. This is even more necessary when considering the fundamental roles that the IV accomplishes when it adapts equipment to climate change, protects public health, maintains biodiversity and hence, community cohesiveness that are recognized more and more for their interdependence with the natural environments that surround them (Belazquez, 2008; INSPQ, 2011; CABE, 2010; Lancet, 2006).

One of the biggest challenges of implementing green infrastructures is the resistance to change and an attitude of business as usual. Soft-engineering contrasts with the conventional, technocentric approach that is capital-intensive, but still widespread in the design and management of technical equipment (CABE, 2011).


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