Outdoor spaces and green areas

Campus © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
EPFL Campus © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13

Nature and buildings merge together seamlessly on our Lausanne campus. The natural environment combined with heritage buildings provides a greater opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities, while also improving biodiversity and adapting to climate change.

In 2022, the EPFL Sustainability unit hired a team to focus on developing and adapting outdoor spaces and green areas. Everything the team does follows criteria set by the Nature & Economie certification (French or German only) that we were awarded in 2002. One goal under this certification is to keep at least 30% of outdoor spaces as natural as possible.

On our campus, there are approximately:

  • 1,500 trees
  • 56,000 m2 of shrubs and wooded areas
  • 91,000 m2 of flowering meadows and lawns
  • 19,000 m2 of green roofs
  • 10,000 m2 of planters
  • 45’000 flower bulbs blooming every year
  • 10,000 m2 of permeable mineral surface
  • Two wetland biotopes of about 500m2 each (one of which is managed by the water department of the commune of Ecublens)
  • Two biotopes for wild bees
  • Approximately 1 km of the Sorge riverbank, identified as a superior biological interest zone at the cantonal level

As new buildings have been built on campus over the years, the amount of paved-over surface area has increased and that of outdoor spaces and vegetation has decreased. We therefore need to find the right balance between achieving our objectives, ensuring the well-being of our community and protecting our natural surroundings in order to guarantee a pleasant working and living environment.

The team that was hired to improve our outdoor spaces and green areas has the following goals:

Preserve our natural heritage, and safeguard and develop biodiversity

Entretien © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
Maintenance © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
  • Improve the visibility and harmony of flowered areas
  • Limit mowing, pruning and mechanical trimming wherever possible
  • Convert mowed areas to flowering grass, meadows or pastures
  • Control invasive alien plants
  • Increase the proportion of areas that are maintained by third parties (e.g., hire student assistants and partner with community organizations to grow vegetables (PDF, 250 KB), restore land or protect biodiversity)
  • Increase the amount of land available for activities that favor biodiversity

Adapt our campus to climate issues

Toits verts © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
Green rooftops © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
  • Improve the canopy index by increasing tree cover on streets and squares to mitigate heat islands: plant more, plant in the right places and plant better, using a diverse range of species, including native species
  • Preserve open spaces
  • Increase permeable surfaces
  • Install more green roofs (65,000 m2 of flat roofs are currently made of gravel but could be made green)

Improve the quality of existing public spaces

Détente © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
Relaxation © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13
  • Work under the Campus Piéton project to create adaptable and inclusive spaces, in collaboration with EPFL’s transportation team and the Vice Presidency for Operations (VPO)
  • Support campus development by proposing qualitative improvements as part of an upcoming strategy for transportation and public spaces, in accordance with the Master Plan of the Universities
  • Collaborate with the VPO on projects included in the Masterplan for the structural and energy renovation of EPFL buildings, and the densification of our campuses, such as the renovation of our buildings to make them more energy efficient and structurally sound, and the urban consolidation of our campuses
  • Increase vegetation in all its forms and the proportion of permeable surfaces in all new public spaces


Campus trees © EPFL Niels Ackermann / Lundi13

Campus trees: a growing population to protect

There are over a thousand trees on the EPFL campus, and they are constantly increasing every year. The aim is to double this tree population. How do we go about achieving this? And what are the challenges?

Arbres du campus EPFL par Lina Bentires-Alj

New trees to improve well-being on campus

In an effort to adapt outdoor spaces to climate change, enrich biodiversity and increase the comfort of the EPFL community, several hundred trees and shrubs were planted in 2022-2023..