Sustainability: Greening the Campus

The downtown campus has constantly evolved over the years.  More recently, there has been a push to make the campus more sustainable - an ideal that McGill has embraced as part of the Greening Lower Campus project. Creating a greener, pedestrian-friendly Downtown Lower Campus, as free as possible of motorized vehicles, is a key objective of McGill University’s Master Plan.  

For information of vehicle access and circulation, please visit here.

Some of the changes to campus include:

Pedestrian Zone

The lower campus is now a pedestrian-zone (with restricted vehicle access and reducing parking), resulting in a safer, more physically-active environment.  This has included the removal of 150 parking spaces by McGill.   

    Pedestrianized McTavish Street

    In early 2010, the Ville-Marie borough approved by-law CA-24-138, transferring the management of the urban space on McTavish Street to McGill. On May 28th, 2010 the section of McTavish Street between Sherbrooke Street and Dr. Penfield Avenue was transformed into a pedestrian zone.  The pedestrianization of McTavish Street, is unique as it is the first privately managed, year-round and non-commercial pedestrian street in the City.

    To facilitate this project, 50 parking spaces removed by the Ville de Montreal.

    Squares, Terraces and Green Space

    Replacing under-used grey spaces with functional green spaces.  McGill has recently transformed James Square and Stewart Terrace into well-landscaped, thoughtfully designed social spaces.  James Square, seen by many as a focal point of campus, now has terraced green spaces, paving stones and a sculpture garden.

    McGill is in the process of redesigning Redpath Terrace.

    Street Furniture and Outdoor Infrastructure

    McGill has recently introduced a significant number of planters, benches and picnic tables, in addition to doubling the number of bike racks on campus.

    In 2010, McGill offered an outdoor skating rink to the campus, and the surrounding community - an item we hope to replcate in the future.

    In addition to these items we have been experimenting on McTavish Street with different interventions, in order to provide a friendly space that reduces the heat-island effect and better manages water runoff.  This innovative pilot project integrates new technologies and the environmental performance of drought- and pollution-resistant plants in urban areas. Due to scheduled infrastructure repair under the road surface, this project  will be used to inspire the futre streetscape.

    The 2011 experiments included:

    Roadway insertions

    Round saw cuts made in asphalt planted with urban tolerant species : thyme, prunella, geranium and June grass.
    This test was not conclusive because of a combination of factors, including water run-offs and the under estimated truck circulation on the street during delivery hours. All holes were cancelled.

    Structural ground cover

    Planting bed reinforced with polyethylene structural grid supports vehicular traffic. Permeable ground cover promotes surface water infiltration and reduces heat island effect. Plant material : thyme, sedum and eco-turf lawn with clover.

    Green hills

    Green roof systems at ground level : sedum or grass grown on layers of felt and wire mesh form unique street furniture. 

    Permeable paving

    Made from shredded car tires, crushed stone and bound with resin. Strong enough for vehicular circulation, porous enough for rain water to infiltrate.



    In making the campus greener, McGill has not only made the space more environmentally sustainable, but is also promoting a more sustainable lifestyle to the thousands of people who will ideally take these priorities with them when they leave.

    We see this the Greening of campus as an evolving process; incrementally transforming the campus to provide the best possible environment in order to undertake McGill’s core mission of teaching and research.  This project aims to create people-friendly spaces that encourage conversation, reflection and the sharing of ideas.

    For further information about the Greening project, e-mail us at: green.campus [at]

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