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Life support systems

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Life support systems at the Biodôme.
Photo: Biodôme de Montréal

How does the Biodôme manage to maintain four habitats with such completely different climates all under the same roof? And how does it keep the thousands of plants and animals healthy 365 days a year?

The answer is found in the Biodôme’s vast basement levels. From there, sophisticated technical systems extend discreetly but very efficiently through the artificial rocks and along the pathway through the ecosystems.

Energy

The electricity and heat required for the ecosystems come from the Olympic Stadium, since the Biodôme is not equipped with its own boiler. If ever there is a power failure, an emergency generator kicks in. Every effort has been made to ensure that the equipment is as energy efficient as possible, for obvious environmental and economic reasons.

Lighting

Light is indispensable for plant growth and for regulating the natural rhythms of plants and animals. But despite the 58 skylights in the roof of the Biodôme, much less light reaches the “ground” than in nature, especially in the Tropical Rainforest.

The solution is to provide computer-controlled back-up lighting systems for the ecosystems, activated by sensors, so as to provide the proper quantity and quality of light. In the Tropical Rainforest, for instance, the photoperiod is the same as in Costa Rica, and combining different wavelengths makes it possible to recreate sunrise and sunset light conditions.

Monitoring and control

At any time, thanks to our computerized control system, staff can:

  • monitor conditions throughout the Biodôme;
  • remotely adjust any component in the technical systems;
  • activate automatic functions such as watering and misting.

The system is designed so that a breakdown in one of its components will not jeopardize operations throughout the entire facility. A number of operations also remain under manual control.

Hydraulics

The Biodôme's hydraulic system is a vitally important life support system, carrying over 4 million litres of warm, cool or glacial fresh and salt water – enough to fill 140 swimming pools 6 metres across!

All this water is produced and treated in-house, by means of various systems. To begin, water from the city aqueduct is placed in storage tanks so that the chlorine can evaporate.

The water is then treated by mechanical filtration and/or biological filtration (cleansing bacteria) and/or purification using ozone or ultraviolet rays.

Finally, it is demineralized using reverse osmosis, to avoid the accumulation of calcium deposits in the narrow piping carrying water and providing humidity throughout the ecosystems.

Water for washroom facilities is provided by a separate subsystem.

Did you know?

  • The pipes leading to the basins are made of plastic to protect the fish from any toxic substances.
  • The pumps and filters recycle the water at the high speed required to support organisms living in an aquatic habitat (eight times faster than in a family swimming pool).
  • Various mechanisms are used to recreate the movement of the tide and the undulation of the aquatic plants in the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem.
  • The huge basin in the Gulf of St. Lawrence ecosystem holds 2.5 million litres of “sea water”, constantly filtered through a 90-minute cycle by means of six filters measuring 3.7 m in diameter!
  • Although it looks continuous, the rio in the Tropical Rainforest is actually a series of separate water bodies.
  • Most of the water bodies have their own specific circulation loops, including a cleaning process. This arrangement allows for individual maintenance and prevents any contamination from spreading.

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