Green infrastructure


Green infrastructure for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

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uilding on its experience in natural environments, Prof. Grégory Mahy's Biolandscape team has extended its scope. It creates a link between biodiversity and industrial activities: it is developing a research and applied projects programme on urban sites, concerning biodiversity and sustainability.  The team is able to demonstrate its skills in spatial design and ecological engineering within green infrastructures and urban ecosystems.  

At the heart of the WASABI platform, these green infrastructure projects allow us to study:

Differentiated management of urban green spaces

Differentiated management consists of adapting the management method according to the constraints of each area.  This makes it possible to limit the number of management interventions, as well as the associated environmental impacts. Within the WASABI platform, the diversity of ecosystems is representative of urban green spaces: ornamental grass, flowering grass, flower beds, flowering meadows, hedges of native species, tree groves and natural undergrowth, uncultivated land with spontaneous flora, etc. Experiments with the vegetation of mineralised spaces (car parks, paving stones, etc.) also take place. In collaboration with the green space services of the faculty of Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech ULiège, the techniques for creating and managing these ecosystems are being tested: sowing techniques, composition of the sowings, mowing methods, control of invasive species, etc. The biodiversity of these ecosystems and their ecosystem services will be monitored thanks to both a citizen monitoring application, BioPlanner, and the work of bioengineering students and landscape architects. A partnership with Adalia, a structure responsible for the supervision of municipalities in differentiated management, will allow the site to be opened to those involved in the management of green spaces.

Some Figures

  • 32,000 m2 of urban wasteland, including 13 m2 on the WASABI site
  • 2 permanent ponds, the WASABI pond being vegetated with native aquatic plants adapted to different depths
  • 9 hectares of late-mown meadows, of which 0.5 hectares is included in the platform
  • 2 hectares of flowered lawns, 3300 m² of which are in WASABI
  • 100 m² of ditches (i.e. buffer zones for runoff) similar to mesophilic grasslands
  • 110 m of small fruit trees
  • 100 m of hedgerows, which will be planted at the level of the rain garden and the permaculture mounds in WASABI.

Sustainable green roofs and walls

Green roofs and walls are 'Nature Based Solutions' contributing to the development of quality urban environments. However, these techno-ecosystems raise questions of sustainability both at the biological level (choice of species) and at the technological level (irrigation, life cycle of materials, eco-balance, etc.).  Within the WASABI platform, ecological engineering solutions are being tested to create green roofs and walls. These maximise support for biodiversity, as they require minimal input, irrigation and maintenance, while delivering ecosystem services that contribute to the sustainability of the urban environment (mitigation of climate extremes, water cycle, air quality, access to a quality living environment, opportunities for recreation, etc.). Green roofs and green walls are also capable of hosting habitats similar to natural environments (dry grasslands, screes, meadows, etc.). This offers real support for biodiversity. Research on techno-soils is part of a circular economy approach, maximising the recycling of urban materials. The regulation of the water cycle, a major problem in urban areas, is studied in close collaboration with Professor Aurore Degré, a specialist in hydrology.  In addition to contributing to scientific research and technological innovation, the systems in place also serve as a demonstration platform for professionals and other partners in the sector.

In support of this structure, and still within WASABI, the Cityroof and MURVERT projects were created:

  • Cityroof: supported and financed by ULiège, this project studies the development of similar and sustainable green roofs. The project brings together 3 PhD students with complementary profiles (architecture, engineering and bioengineering). At Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech ULiège, the interactions between biodiversity and techno-soil are studied both in controlled experimental devices (experiments in pots, mini green roofs, etc.) and in real situations on the green roof of the TERRA research centre.  In the near future, the roof of the new Smart Gastronomy Lab (a lab in Ghent dedicated to both gastronomy and technology) will also be the site of experiments of this type. 

Some Figures for Cityroof

  • More than 2 million seeds ordered from local nurseries and sown on 400 m² of the TERRA green roof
  • 15 m2 of experimental roofs closely monitored over 3 years, which corresponds to nearly 200 hours of observation
  • 5 dissertations and 1 doctoral these
  • thousands of pollinators fed by plant flowers
  • 60 mini green roofs
  • 500 plants of native species supplied by Belgian nurseries
  • More than 3 tons of steel
  • 1400 litres of runoff water collected in 1 month
  • More than 2000 litres of water retained by the system in 1 month
  • MURVERT: MURVERT is a spin-off supported by the SPW (First Spin-Off Fund). Its ambition is to create sustainable plant walls that will fit into the functioning of a city as well as into the regional ecological network.  The first pillar is based on the adaptation of the choice of plant species to the ecological context of the building. The second pillar is the technical solution for greening facades. The third pillar supports an eco-responsible vision (minimisation of input, improvement of the life cycle, promotion of short circuits for the choice of materials from regional sources).

Some Figures for MURVERT

  • More than 500 of water savings per year for a 150 m² wall, compared to a traditional green wall
  • More than 3000 plants monitored for prototyping
  • More than 1.5 tons of recycled elements in the test walls
  • 300,000 euro budget for prototyping
  • 60 modules being tested in the WASABI experimental area
  • 30 atmospheric and hydrological sensors to study the prototypes

BioPlanner

BioPlanner is a digital tool to support the management of biodiversity in city buildings.  With this tool, any company or space manager wishing to carry out developments in favour of biodiversity can target specific areas on a map and access a guide to the fauna and flora. The tool makes it possible to monitor in the field actions and the effects on biodiversity thanks to simple and reliable indicators. The tool is designed in a collaborative, interactive and adaptative spirit: both company staff and private individuals can add to it as part of a citizen approach. BioPlanner is WASABI's tool for implementing and managing the differentiated management of green spaces.

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