Nature and buildings intermingle on the EPFL campus in Ecublens. This natural and built heritage offers a strong potential for improvement for open air activities, in harmony with a greater biodiversity and a better adaptation to climate change.
Within the Sustainability unit, a team dedicated to outdoor public spaces and green space development was hired in 2022. Its activities are organized in accordance with the Nature and Economy certification, obtained by EPFL in 2002, which aims to maintain at least 30% of outdoor spaces close to natural.
On the campus, there are approximately :
- 1000 trees
- 27’000 m2 of shrubs and wooded areas
- 95’000 m2 of flowering meadows and lawns
- 17’000 m2 of green roofs
- 13’000 m2 of plant containers
- 10’000 m2 of permeable mineral surface
- 2 wetland biotopes of about 500m2 each (one of which is managed by the cantonal forestry service)
- Approximately 1 km of the Sorge riverbank identified as a cantonal ecological network
However, over the years and the surge of new buildings, the campus has undergone several transformations that have caused some outdoor spaces to lose their use value and increased the amount of impervious surfaces. It is therefore necessary to find a balance between the missions of EPFL, the well-being of its community and the protection of its direct environment, which guarantees a pleasant living environment.
The missions of the team dedicated to outdoor public spaces and green space development are as follows:
Maintain the green heritage, safeguard and develop biodiversity
- Improve the visibility and coherence of flowered areas
- Limit mowing, pruning and mechanical trimming wherever constraints allow
- Convert mowed areas to flowering grass, meadows or pastures
- Control invasive plants
- Increase the proportion of areas maintained by third parties (hiring student assistants, partnering with associations for vegetable growing or renaturation, ecological maintenance)
- Increase the proportion of territory reserved for targeted interventions in favor of biodiversity
Adapt the campus to climate issues
- Improve the canopy index by increasing tree cover on streets and squares to fight against heat islands: planting more, in the right places and better (diversification of species, use of native species)
- Preserve open spaces
- Increase permeable surfaces
- Promote the systematic greening of roofs (65,000 m2 of flat roofs currently made of gravel and potentially greener)
Improve the quality of existing public spaces
- Collaborate with the Campus Piéton project for modular and inclusive spaces, in collaboration with the Mobility team and the services of the Vice Presidency for Operations (VPO)
- Accompany the development of the campus by proposing qualitative developments within the framework of a future Master plan for Mobility & Public Spaces, in line with the Master Plan of the Higher Education Institutions
- Collaborate with the VPO on projects included in the Master Plan for the structural and energy renovation of EPFL buildings and the densification of EPFL campuses
- Increase the presence of vegetation in all forms and the proportion of permeable surfaces in all new public space developments
Projects, achievements, collaborations
For its 50th anniversary in 2019, EPFL has planted 50 trees north of the Rolex Learning Center, on the axis between Route des Noyerettes and Avenue Piccard, corresponding to the perimeter of the future “Campus Piéton” project.
41 trees cropped up in air-pots alongside the Rolex Learning Center and nearby Avenue Piccard in May 2022, marking the first tangible achievement of EPFL’s “Campus Piéton” project.
A greener, more user-friendly campus, better adapted to climate change: this is the aim of the “Campus Piéton” (Pedestrian Campus) project, to which the EPFL community is called upon to contribute from 2022.