‘Green roof’ bus shelter incorporates the concept of forest architecture: “The prototype and research will help justify whether a larger investment into such an idea would be worth it,” said Tabinda Shah, UBC student

An artist’s rendering of a proposed “green roof” bus shelter at UBC. Illustration Karianne Howarth

UBC student hopes to grow support for ‘green roof’ bus shelter

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.

“The aim of the project is to bring ecologically conscious infrastructure into dense urban areas by maximizing opportunities for green infrastructure in small spaces,” explained Tabinda Shah.

Project Concept

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.

Green roofs receive some push-back said Shah because of building and maintenance costs to cover large areas, so she conceived a small-scale project to research the advantages and determine the effectiveness of the prototype.

If the project is built, Shah says she will compare the roof’s storm water collection to typical bus shelters where storm runoff goes into the sewers carrying pollutants from the city’s streets and eventually reaches rivers, streams or the ocean.

Shah says her project also incorporates the concept of forest architecture, as seen in projects such as Italy’s Bosco Verticale, which uses layers of greenery to simulate layers of the forest.

The shelter’s design is also aligns with UBC’s Green Building Action Plan and UBC’s Public Realm Plan to improve outdoor public spaces. Shah partnered with UBC’s Social Ecological Economic Development Studies, which coordinates faculty, staff and students for projects to improve UBC.

“Students have the ability to build up the campus. That’s unique and not a lot of campuses offer that, and it’s like a true living lab,” Shah said.

Project Funding

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.

Through grants and donations Shah has raised more than half the amount already.

Project Implementation

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 University of British Columbia 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.

Professor 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.

Professor 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,” Professor 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.