Choosing greening street furniture for safer, ecologically-friendly cities

04 Mar 2020

Why not combine street safety, downtown revegetation and public space modularity? Difficult, but not impossible! New equipment can meet the challenges with which all cities are confronted. To discuss this new street furniture generation we talked to Fabrice Boinard, creator of CityMur Arcadia Protect, which won the special Jury prize award in the Paysalia Innovations Trophies contest in 2019.

CityMur Arcadia Protect is a street furniture item composed of vegetation and concrete blocks. A sustainable urban planning project which won the special Jury prize award in the Paysalia Innovations Trophies contest in 2019!

Street furniture that can make communities safer

Fabrice Boinard imagined the CityMur Arcadia Protect after the “truck-ramming” attack in Nice, France, in 2016. After the attack, the local authorities deployed concrete blocks in risk areas – effective, but not very good looking! So horticulturist Fabrice Boinard came up with a solution that was both “design” and adapted to local problems.

“I live in Bordeaux and saw how the appearance of concrete blocks disfigured the Place de la Bourse and its splendid water mirror. This historic site lost all its personality. We have been working on plant separators in urban environments for 10 years and my idea was simple – to protect pedestrians from car-ramming attacks with concrete blocks shaped to hold plants.”

In addition to eliminating risks of terrorist attacks, the separators also help public authorities solve the thorny problem of driver incivility by preventing unauthorized parking. This hybrid street furniture is ideal for making downtown areas pedestrian-only.

“Grand Paris Express called for tenders for projects to equip its public spaces with protective street furniture that also ensured user wellbeing – and our bid won! That a small horticultural company like us could compete and be awarded such a major contract shows that the market exists and is sure to grow!” 

To summarize, protective street furniture must be sufficiently eco-friendly to gain user approbation – without them realizing that it is there to keep them safe!

Paysalia is a great springboard for innovative products and services!

“Winning a Paysalia Innovations Trophy showed us that we were heading in the right direction. That motivated us to work for a whole year on this project – a big investment in time and money. The Trade Fair boosted our corporate recognition and introduced us to a lot of architects.”

— Fabrice Boinard

Public parks safety: an overview of major challenges

Greened street furniture are also a great way to solve the problem of heat pockets!

Summers have got much hotter over the last few years – and the trend is likely to continue! An alarming situation reinforced by the heat pocket phenomenon in urban areas which obliges locals to stay indoors and is life-threatening to the most fragile. To protect populations, cities must become greener! The ideal solution would be to plant more trees to create islands of coolness, but this is not always possible in urban areas as the ground is usually filled with utility networks (water, electricity, gas, etc.) which prevent digging foundation ditches. For Fabrice Boinard the solution was simple – put plants in public authority street furniture! 

“For 20 years, I have been designing sustainable urban planning solutions for places where it is impossible to plant in the ground. I imagined CityMur Arcadia Protect as a replacement tree. Starting from this urban tree, we create tunnels of shade to improve the comfort of people’s walks downtown. We use cleansing and nectar source plants adapted to local climates to facilitate maintenance.”

The CityMur Arcadia Protect in front of the prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis. © citeflor.fr

This solution enables revegetation even in tough initial conditions and can be upgraded all the time. The next step is to include misters in CityMur Arcadia Protect to refresh users! Not just human passers-by but also insects and birds! And to boost the attractiveness of cities as they grow greener.

Green cities, the last rampart in the disappearance of birds from towns

Modularity is the key word in ensuring that protective street furniture meets the needs of the users!

And why not imagine communities in which the street furniture evolves to meet new needs? Current solutions – concrete blocks or trees – have the disadvantage of being fixed. Once they are installed, it is impossible to modulate public spaces to improve ease of use!

“Public spaces equipped with our protective street furniture are easy to transform – for example to create the space needed for the Sunday market or to host a music festival. You draw a place today and tomorrow you decide on a different layout. And why not organize small events with edible green walls or gardens scented with roses or jasmine? Locals can adapt the spaces to meet their needs fully. It is this mobility which attracts our customers!” explains Fabrice Boinard.

Using landscape design to create user-friendly parks

Urban spaces which adapt to the needs of users and not the other way around is the challenge facing public authorities in the years to come! Protective street furniture is already changing to provide safety and greener cities. And for even more sustainable urban planning, why not use the sun to power your street furniture?

Find out the finalists of the Carré des Jardiniers 2019
who worked on the "village square" theme!


© Photo credit: Nicolas Rodet

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