Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Monday, September 5, 2011

Advances on vertical urban agriculture

Figure 12: Project for West Haymarket, Lincoln, VAST 2008, by Brown, Nelson and Patzlaff, UNL. Rendering. Source: Abel/UNL.
Figure 13: Project for West Haymarket, Lincoln, VAST 2008, by Brodersen, Burke an Stovall, UNL. Rendering. Source: Abel/UNL.

¨Since 2008 a substantial level of urban agriculture has also been included in VAST projects. Already threatened in many countries by drought and reduced capacity, the effects of global warming on food production around the world are likely to hit consumers especially hard in the future, as souring fuel prices in turn raise the cost of importing food from distant sources overseas, which may themselves be sorely stressed by climate change. However, as with trigeneration and other forms of distributed energy, the benefits of closing distances between the points of production and consumption are applicable to any part of the world, as in North America, where great distances typically separate consumers from producers. As fuel costs rise and alternative sources shrink, the economics of producing food within cities on expensive sites will also doubtless become more favorable in future. The growing use of intensive farming techniques such as hydroponics and aeroponics, which greatly increase the efficiency of food production whilst reducing the amount of water and space required, will also ultimately help to lower costs. However, aside from subsidized or experimental projects, the high capital investment entailed in building purpose-designed structures would appear to limit the development of stand-alone vertical farms in cities for some time yet.
The approach to vertical farming in VAST projects has instead been to create flexible spaces for food production within large scale, mixed-use developments where opportunities exist for offsetting the higher costs of providing space for one function against the lower costs of another. This has been combined with on-site systems of water collection and power generation, including, as with some of the UNL and UNSW projects, integrated wind turbines. One team at UNL, for example, capitalized on the favourable conditions in Nebraska for wind power - the state is proudly described locally as the future 'Saudi Arabia of wind power' - filling open spaces between the vertical elements of their design with large arrays of vertical axis turbines, or 'wind harps' (Figure 12). Another UNL team proposed a regular infrastructure of farming towers and wind-turbines combined with multi-functional blocks of space on the city grid that could be extended throughout Lincoln (Figure 13).¨

Project for Barangaroo, Sydney, VAST 2009, by Lei, Guo and Zheng.

Excerpt from the article The Vertical Garden City: Towards a New Urban Topology, by Chris Abel:

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