The Executive Chef of Montreal’s convention centre doesn’t need to go far to find kale, lettuce or strawberries. There’s a good chance he’ll find what he needs on the rooftop of the building in the Urban Agricultural Lab. This state-of-the-art farming project is an extraordinary story of community partnership that has led the Palais des congrès de Montréal right to the prestigious AIPC Innovation Award in 2017.
It all started close to two decades ago with a vision and a strong commitment to sustainable development. Over the years, action plans and policies were drafted meticulously to preserve and perpetuate this commitment. Creating projects that align with the convention centre’s vision, and more importantly, that employees take pride in, is a priority. Green events, employee training, energy-saving measures, recycled waste management, certifications, urban agriculture, social and community involvement are just some of the areas the Palais and its employees are involved in.
Today the Urban Agricultural Lab appears at the top of the list of achievements.
From the greening of a roof plot to an impressive showcase of local green technologies…
The Palais des congrès de Montréal has become a showcase for experimentation in and promotion of Quebec urban farming technologies and techniques, allowing partners to use the spaces available on its rooftops to develop different greening projects.
“We are proud of the sustainability leadership role we play within the industry through our tangible actions. By opening the Urban Agriculture Lab in tandem with university and community partners, the Palais is fostering experimentation with new rooftop urban farming technologies and practices, and in the process is also reducing heat islands in the city’s downtown core” explains Raymond Larivée, President and CEO of the Palais des congrès de Montréal.
Today the Lab is comprised of four components:
- Culti-VERT (5,770 square feet of extensive green rooftops and container gardening)
- Pollinating beehives (sheltering up to 150,000 bees)
- The VERTical initiative (“edible wall” tarps on scaffolds, a first in North America spanning 6,000 square feet of floor space and 5,000 square feet of vertical space)
- Canada’s first urban rooftop vineyard (2,000 square feet of Urban Vines)
While contributing to reducing heat island effects by 12 to 20%, the Lab produces each summer about 60 to 80 kg of honey as well as 650 kg to one metric ton of pesticide and transportation-free fruit, vegetables and fine herbs. These fresh ingredients are used in dishes prepared by the convention centre’s exclusive caterer Capital Catering and served to meeting delegates. They are also donated to homeless shelter La Maison du Père, a long-time partner of the Palais’ sustainable development efforts.
In 2017 the Lab became a provincial research centre funded by the Quebec Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The various projects housed in the Lab certainly helped Montreal and the Palais to receive ASTM certification as a sustainable destination and meeting venue.
An inspiration for other downtown property owners…
“We have an immense rooftop surface right in the heart of the city, and we knew that by working with environmental experts we could make a positive contribution by repurposing this vast space. Scientists, engineers, crop farmers, bee farmers, managers and a host of other specialists worked together with the Palais’ building management team to make this project happen, which we believe will inspire other property owners to do the same” says Chrystine Loriaux, the Palais des congrès Director of Marketing and Communications.
Visibility generated by the project has inspired various stakeholders in the city to follow the Palais’ lead and develop similar projects adapted to their own needs and objectives. Already a nearby hotel, restaurant and business have decided to site gardens on their rooftops, also joining the fight against urban heat islands.
The Palais’ Urban Agriculture Lab is a living demonstration that a collaborative approach – uniting leaders from the meetings industry, university research, community organisations and local businesses – can lead to a flagship sustainability project.
The Palais’ Urban Agriculture Lab: a rooftop agricultural legacy.