While there is no doubting the impact air travel has on the environment, this is being offset by green wall installations and other environmental initiatives at the terminals.
Vertical gardens are a popular feature at airports, but in April 2012 Edmonton International Airport (EIA) unveiled the first to be installed within the terminal itself, making aviation history. A gigantic living “triptych” of around 8,000 plants, the modular structure covers more than 1,400 sq.ft and encompasses 32 unique species. As well as being visually stunning, it has an important environmental role to play; improving the quality of the air while promoting the airport’s commitment to sustainability. Created using recycled materials, the botanical masterpiece will develop three-dimensionally as time goes on, extending up to 10ft.
Vancouver International was the first Canadian airport to have a botanical wall, and since 2009 has been greeting passengers with a living tapestry of colour on the exterior of the SkyTrain terminal. Part of an overall conservation project to ease the environmental impact of air travel, it was the largest vertical garden in North America when it was unveiled. While it covers a slightly smaller area than the one at Edmonton, it contains almost 27,400 plants! However, this is dwarfed by the Il Fiordaliso shopping centre in Milan. Officially the world’s largest vertical garden, the magnificent walls are dressed with more than 44,000 individual plants, spanning almost 13,600 sq.ft.
Returning to Vancouver, green design can be a feature of airport hotels, too. The Westin Wall Centre at Vancouver Airport is well named, featuring a vertical garden of over 9000 native plants. Complemented by a landscaped green roof, the hotel – like the airport itself – is committed to environmental initiatives.
Living walls also feature at the world’s busiest airport – Heathrow. One of the quirkiest plantings is in the new Terminal 5 travel lounge, where passengers can relax in two suspended egg chairs, in front of a serene canopy of tropical plants.