Adaptation to climate change in the redevelopment of an urban area in Montreal: results from a living lab


The processes surrounding the redevelopment of urban areas raise particular issues for climate change adaptation. As part of their partnership, the City of Montreal and Ouranos called on researchers to set up an action research process, inspired by the living lab approach, to encourage innovation in this field. The Lachine-Est sector was chosen as a case study.


The general objective is to increase the integration of adaptation to climate change in the development and implementation processes of urban projects in Montreal. The governance framework and planning practices are at the core of this action research.

The specific objectives were to assess challenges and act on:

  • coordination between stakeholders;
  • expertise used in climate change adaptation, in the context of an urban project;
  • increasing the visibility of choices and trade-offs related to climate adaptation.


The 3 phases of the Labo Climat Montréal in Lachine-Est

Phase 1 – Understanding: Research internships on urban project governance, water management, green infrastructure and urban planning issues on the site, 26 interviews, documentary analysis, stakeholder network analysis, participation in planning meetings

Phase 2 – Experimenting: 5 living lab workshops

Ongoing: documenting the collaborative research process

Phase 3: Transversal analysis, dissemination and knowledge transfer events


The action-research process allows us to draw some conclusions about the integration of adaptation to climate change in the urban project process in Montreal. With the living lab workshops and our involvement in planning and participatory meetings, we have observed learning and strong commitments for urban planning of sustainable living environments participating in climate change adaptation. Concepts and new practices are being tested: for Lachine-Est, work is being done on the mutualization of infrastructures and the creation of resilient public places, while new governance and participatory structures were put in place, to work closely with local civil society. Planning and regulatory tools to frame urban projects in favour of adaptation are being developed, while also allowing for sufficient flexibility to adjust as needed . We noticed important progress in the integration of storm water management in urban planning and a significant increase in the greening rate. In terms of coordination, we have worked on bringing together stakeholders within the workshops. We note several interdepartmental collaborations as well as coordination between the City and the borough, which will increase with the Shared Project Office set up in March 2020. These relationships, however, depend on a limited number of persons and face constraints related to the urban project process, as well as the institutional and financial framework. The lack of relations with external institutional stakeholders, especially the public transit sector, seems to undermine the early consideration of climate change adaptation in urban projects.

In terms of expertise, we noted a low level of knowledge mobilization regarding the anticipation of heat waves and the prevention of the heat island effect in the planning of Lachine-Est, which we worked on in the workshops. The issue of social vulnerabilities to heat waves is even less addressed. In contrast, the City of Montreal expertise in adapting to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events is well represented and called upon in the planning of Lachine-Est, although improvements are needed to improve planning for the co-benefits of interventions. Interventions on this theme are also limited by the fragmentation of stormwater regulation between the public and private domains, the fragmentation of the governance of green infrastructure in the City, and the lack of practice in taking topography into account.

Finally, the Labo Climat workshops and participatory exercises show that adaptation to climate change involves choices and trade-offs. Decisions about which measures to prioritize are neither neutral nor solely technical. Many stakeholders in the Lachine community would like to see the Lachine-Est sector become a eco-district model, with a focus on heritage protection and an inclusive neighbourhood. The specific standards and criteria defining the exemplary nature of the eco-district, as well as the methods of their implementation, have yet to be specified by the public authorities, in conversation with civil society and real estate developers.

Full reference to the report :

Van Neste S L, Rochefort M, Dagenais D, Paquette S, Cloutier G, Lapointe D, Duschesne S, Madenian, Hélène, Guillemard A, Provencal J, Fournier C, Chené F, Bonneau A, Demard E, Houde-Tremblau É, Poulin É, 2021, L’adaptation aux changements climatiques dans le réaménagement d’un secteur urbain à Montréal : documentation du processus et expérimentations en ateliers. Labo Climat Montréal, INRS. https://laboclimatmtl.inrs.ca/resultats/

Peer-reviewed article : Forthcoming