Would ‘tree canopy’ bus shelters work? UBC students want to find out

Students want to build at least three shelters to measure their effectiveness

An artist’s concept handout image shows the proposed shelters and their intended use. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tabinda Shah)

Students at the University of British Columbia are hoping to build bus shelters with environmental benefits.

Tabinda Shah, a final-year urban forestry student, said she and several other students are working to build a “tree canopy bus shelter,” which would not only shelter people from the rain as they wait for their ride, but also help the environment.

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“The aim of the project is to bring ecologically conscious infrastructure into dense urban areas by maximizing opportunities for green infrastructure in small spaces,” she said in an email.

The roof or shelter would be made of treated wood that can withstand the elements and host a layer of plants that are hardy and succulent, and can thrive in not just the rain but the dry months too. The excess water from the roof would run off into the ground to recharge the water table.

The students are crowdfunding the project and want to build at least three bus shelters to measure their effectiveness. Shah said each shelter costs about $50,000, and the team is hoping to have a prototype shelter built by sometime next year.

Daniel Roehr, associate professor at UBC, said while the team does not have any arrangement with the City of Vancouver or the transit agency, they do have permits to build three structures on the UBC campus.

Shah said Vancouver is a very walkable city, but that hardly anyone wants to walk in it during the winter because of a lack of pedestrian shelter from the rain.

“Being an urban forestry student, I wanted to bring a multifaceted solution to the table that would not only increase walkability in the city, but also create habitat space, more sustainable stormwater management and a biophilic city,” she said.

Roehr said Vancouver has a number of green roofs but most of them need to be irrigated, so one of the main design aims of these tree canopy bus shelters was that they would be self-sufficient.

Roehr and Shah are working with a team of other students from different disciplines on the shelters.

“We have flow devices to measure rainwater runoff from these roofs and how effective they are,” Roehr said. “We want to monitor it. And if it is effective we can use it all over the city — we could use it on all bus shelters.”

Shah said this will be the first type of bus shelter to measure how much rainwater is runoff. She added that such bus shelters are important because they are one more step towards tackling climate change.

The prototype and research will help justify whether a larger investment into such an idea would be worth it, she said.

“We’re hoping to have the prototype constructed along Wesbrook Mall at the University of British Columbia, but in an ideal world, we would want these all over the city street networks of Vancouver,” Shah said.

The Canadian Press

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