The Double Impact Floating Islands Are Making Along the Chicago River Waterfront

8 October 2017

This month we’re sharing a beautification case study of our floating islands at work in Chicago, IL. Once considered a grungy area of town, the Chicago Riverwalk is now an attraction that has added value to the windy city. Five areas were constructed, including the Marina, The Cove, Water Plaza, the Jetty and the Boardwalk through an initiative to improve the environment for the enjoyment of not only Chicagoans, but also for the inhabitants beneath the surface of the water. Along the Riverwalk you will find fountains, mists and sprays for children to play in along with seating and staircases, but the Jetty has an educational focus.

The Work of Floating Islands in The Jetty

This section of the Riverwalk includes floating wetlands and water gardens along the piers, providing an opportunity for people to learn about the river’s ecology and search for fish. Because of The Jetty the aquatic species beneath the surface now have better living conditions as floating islands work diligently to remove contaminants in the water. Sasaki Associates, one of the architect organizations that led this beautification project, says that floating Islands “provide a healthy habitat for the Chicago River’s diverse native fish population, as well as educational and recreational opportunities for visitors to observe and interact with the aquatic ecosystem.” We’re connecting people with the wonder of nature by bringing nature to them through floating islands.

Beyond Beautification

Sasaki Principal and landscape architect Gina Ford of ASLA started off with the thought of creating an experimental “fish hotel”. A critical element of the aquatic ecosystem are the plants in the floating islands whose roots enable biofilm to grow and filter river water. The Chicago Riverwalk’s “unique plant palette” was designed by Terry Ryan, ASLA, of Jacobs/Ryan Associates. What is so fascinating about this case study is that floating islands are a part of an elaborate design that provides aesthetic beauty to the Chicago River but also makes a huge impact on the environment. Sasaki says, “The Jetty falls in line with understanding that truly sustainable design accounts for the whole environment—not only for humans, but also for all species of wildlife and plants potentially impacted by a design.”

The Chicago River was once polluted and uninviting but it has come quite a long way. With the construction improvements, the mindset of the riverfront of Chicago has changed and it has become yet another place for Chicagoans to gather. We’re thrilled to play a role in this project by helping educate the public, improving water quality for aquatic life, and providing beauty that invites people to the waterfront. Click here to learn more about our floating islands and how they work both below and above the surface of the water.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the installation process of our floating islands:

(Original post by Nicole Waguespack of MartinEcosystems, Louisiana, USA.  MartinEcosystems supply BioHaven floating wetlands/islands to South Africa’s DH Environmental Consulting.   DH Environmental is the South African representative for Floating Islands International, originator of the BioHaven range.

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