Malaga Airport goes greener


Passengers walk in front of the vertical garden in the main hall of Terminal 3 at Malaga Airport. francis silva


  • Aena has installed four vertical gardens with more than 10,000 plants in the terminal building to enhance environmental quality and the wellbeing of travellers

In these times of pandemic, Malaga Airport is taking advantage of the reduction in traffic due to the travel restrictions and making improvements to its facilities. And one very striking change is the installation of vertical gardens in different parts of the building.

The project consists of four large green screens which will create one of the biggest 'indoor parks' of this type in Andalucía, covering 400 square metres in total. One of the vertical gardens is in the main hall of Terminal 3 and is 200 square metres in size, explained Ignacio Benthem, the head of ACER Espacios Naturales, a company specialising in gardening which won the contract when it was put to tender by the airport operator Aena early last year.

Setting up the structures for the gardens was complicated because of the places designated for their locations. It has required specific architectural planning and specialist welders, working on lifting platforms. This part of the work has always been carried out at night to minimise inconvenience for passengers.

Malaga Airport goes greener

More than 10,000 plants have been cultivated on these supports. Each vertical garden is equipped with a smart system which measures the degree of humidity and automatically injects water and fertiliser into the soil when needed. This optimises consumption to the maximum.

"The maintenance is totally automised. All that is needed is a check once a month to see how the plants are doing," said Benthem. During the first year, this task will be carried out by the installation company.

With regard to the plants themselves, Bentham explained that more than 22 different species have been used to make up the compositions and the combination of shapes and colours. These include alternanthera, caladium, cerastium, chamaedorea, chlorophytum, drosanthemum, euonimus, helxine, heuchera, hosta, lobularia, ophiopogon, pittosporum and tradescantia.

He pointed out that these are international, not native, species, and they have been selected because they are very resistant: "They survive well in hostile environments, with little light and little maintenance."

In fact, this week the vertical gardens will benefit from special illumination which has been designed to encourage growth in indoor plants, because there is not enough natural light. This will be the final step before the works on creating this indoor garden are complete

What are they for?

The initiative, which has cost more than 200,000 euros, is not just meant to look attractive. In fact there are several objectives, including improving the wellbeing of travellers. According to studies on which Aena has based this project, plants have a tranquilising effect on people who are stressed and a stimulating effect on those who are tired. They also have numerous environmental benefits.

Vegetation contributes to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere , and the plants produce oxygen. They also 'clean' the air by capturing suspended particles and dust, and they regulate the level of humidity. At the same time, they are able to absorb noxious substances such as aerosols, formaldehydes and carbon monoxide, which stick to their tissues. All this has a favourable effect on respiration and health in general and that, in these times marked by Covid, is something for which we can all be grateful.

Bentham says there are also other effects which may be less well-known to the general public, such as the fact that these panels act as barricades to the heat and cold from outside, and they are able to naturally reduce the indoor temperature by up to five degrees in the summer.

They also help to reduce noise pollution, because the plants absorb sound waves and lower the level of decibels in the environment.

The company responsible for this unusual project is also carrying out others on the Cosa del Sol, including the gardens of the Higuerón West development in Fuengirola, for which it has been commissioned by the developers, Urbania, and is using native vegetation such as pine and olive trees.

It is also remodelling the gardens at the Almenara hotel in Sotogrande, and looking after the maintenance of several luxury villas in La Zagaleta residential development.