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The Vertical Farm
 

The Vertical Farm

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Following the 2008 "Re-imaging Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil symposium, Penn IUR solicited manuscripts on environmental and energy challenges and their effect on the redesign of urban ...

Following the 2008 "Re-imaging Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil symposium, Penn IUR solicited manuscripts on environmental and energy challenges and their effect on the redesign of urban environments.

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    The Vertical Farm The Vertical Farm Document Transcript

    • Working  Paper     The  Vertical  Farm:  Growing  Eco-­Cities   Dickson  Despommier     Currently,  over  800  million  hectares  are  committed  to  some  form  of   agriculture;  this  represents  about  38%  of  the  total  landmass  of  the  earth.  Over  the   last  10,000  years  of  human  history,  farming  has  increasingly  rearranged  the   landscape  in  favor  of  cultivated  fields  and  herds  of  cattle  at  the  expense  of  natural   ecozones,  reducing  most  of  them  to  fragmented,  semi-­‐functional  units  and   completely  eliminating  others.  This  incursion  has  had  significant  costs  in  terms  of   both  human  and  ecological  health.  On  the  human  side,  the  transmission  of  a  wide   T variety  of  infectious  agents—influenza,  rabies,  yellow  fever,  dengue  fever,  malaria,   AF trypanosomiasis,  hookworm,  schistosomiasis—occurs  with  relentless  and   devastating  regularity  at  the  tropical  and  sub-­‐tropical  agricultural  interface  and   emerging  infections,  many  of  which  are  viral  zoonoses  (e.g.,  Ebola,  Lassa  fever),   R rapidly  adapt  to  the  human  host  following  human  encroachment  into  natural   environments.  Exposure  to  toxic  levels  of  some  classes  of  agrochemicals  (pesticides,   D fungicides)  and  trauma  are  two  other  significant  health  risks  associated  with   traditional  agricultural  practices.  On  the  ecological  side,  farming  consumes  huge   quantities  of  fossil  fuels  in  the  developed  world.  In  the  United  States,  alone,  over   20%  of  all  the  fossil  fuel  consumed  is  used  for  agriculture.  This  of  course  translates   into  ever  increasing  levels  of  greenhouse  gasses.  Both  of  these  human  and  ecological   costs  are  likely  to  grow  more  severe  as  the  human  population  is  expected  to  rise  to   at  least  8.6  billion  over  the  next  40  years.  This  growth  will  require  the  support  of  an   additional  109  hectares  (roughly  the  size  of  Brazil),  using  current  technologies.  That    
    • Working  Paper    quantity  of  farmland  is  no  longer  available  and  so  these  increases  will  have  to  be  supplied  in  part  by  more  intensive,  and  potentially  more  environmentally  degrading  practices.  And  even  if  farming  on  this  scale  were  not  itself  energy  intensive  or  environmentally  depleting,  the  cleared  land  necessary  would  still  hamper  one  of  our  best  and  most  economical  ways  to  slow  the  rapidity  of  climate  change:  re-­‐forestation.   [INSERT  FIGURE  1]    It  is  clear  that  we  need  a  solution  to  the  entire  problem,  not  just  to  the  food  and  agriculture  part.  But  how  can  we  supply  10  billion  people  with  adequate  food   Tand  water  and  still  repair  the  environment?  In  my  view,  if  just  50-­‐60%  of  traditional   AFfarming  could  be  replaced  by  constructing  urban  food  production  centers,  then  a  long-­‐term  benefit  would  be  the  gradual  repair  of  many  of  the  world’s  damaged  ecosystems  through  the  systematic  abandonment  of  farmland.  This  is  already   Rhappening  in  places  where  agriculture  has  failed,  particularly  in  the  northeastern  region  of  the  United  States.  In  the  Midwest,  large  tracts  of  land  in  Minnesota  and   DWisconsin  are  being  abandoned.  We  need  to  see  these  vacated  lands  not  simply  as  empty  sites  but  as  sites  of  active  recovery.  Ecological  repair  is  what  nature  is  best  at,  so  a  hands-­‐off  policy  actually  works,  and  in  most  cases,  within  a  very  short  time  frame.  An  excellent  example  is  the  de-­‐militarized  zone  between  North  and  South  Korea.  No  one  has  stepped  into  it  since  1953  and  it  is  the  most  verdant  portion  of  either  country.  The  dust  bowl  of  the  1930s  has  come  back  to  a  tall  and  mixed  grass  prairie.  Even  Chernobyl  has  recovered  its  biodiversity,  again  due  to  human  abandonment  of  the  area.  The  restoration  of  natural  balance  in  even  those    
    • Working  Paper    environments  most  traumatized  by  humans  indicates  the  effectiveness  of  abandonment  as  an  ecological  strategy.  But  if  we  are  to  both  abandon  areas  currently  in  use  and  conserve  those  lands  not  already  under  cultivation,  our  agricultural  operations  will  need  to  be  located  in  places  already  of  relatively  high  density.  Our  farms,  this  is  to  say,  will  need  to  share  land  with  our  cities.     [INSERT  FIGURE  2]   A  vertical  farm  is  one  possible  solution  to  sustainable  urban  agriculture.  In  addition  to  reducing  the  diseases  transmitted  at  the  agricultural  interface  and  sparing  uncultivated  land  the  encroachment  of  agricultural  operations,  raising  crops   Tin  high-­‐rise  buildings  has  a  number  of  advantages  over  traditional  farming.  Crops   AFare  protected  from  adverse  weather  conditions  (floods,  droughts,  etc.),  greatly  regularizing  the  supply  and  quality  of  produce.  Year-­‐round  production  is  possible,  thus  reducing  greatly  the  space  required  to  raise  large  quantities  of  produce.  Indoor   Rfarming  employing  hydroponics  and  aeroponics  consumes  orders  of  magnitudes  less  water  (70-­‐80%  less)  than  conventional  outdoor  farming,  conserving  a  vital   Dresource  for  which  there  is  no  substitute  and  whose  supply  is  likely  to  be  an  issue  dominating  political  and  ecological  decisions  in  future  decades.  New  job  opportunities  will  result  from  the  establishing  of  vertical  farms  as  inner  cities  are  able  to  diversify  their  economies  in  a  hitherto  inconceivable  direction  and  abandoned  and  degraded  city  properties  are  reclaimed  and  given  new  value.     [INSERT  FIGURE  3a  AND  3b]     Vertical  farming  is  still  a  virtual  concept,  but  its  success  will  be  due  to  its  imitation  of  nature.  All  biological  material  will  be  re-­‐cycled  to  greatly  reduce  greatly    
    • Working  Paper    or  completely  eliminate  waste.  Degradation  of  plant  and  animal  waste  into  energy  by  some  high-­‐tech  incineration  or  gasification  process  could  make  the  urban  high-­‐rise  farm  completely  independent  of  the  energy  grid.  Urban  farming  in  tall  buildings  also  solves  the  global  problem  of  agricultural  runoff,  currently  the  number  one  source  of  pollution  worldwide.  In  addition,  some  city  farms  could  be  used  just  to  produce  bio-­‐fuels  or  to  remediate  gray  water  (de-­‐watered  sludge).  The  vertical  farm  will  bio-­‐remediate  gray  and  black  water  sources,  allowing  for  the  re-­‐cycling  of  potable  water  back  into  the  community.  The  safe  use  of  human  feces  and  urine  as  a  starting  source  for  energy  generation  further  reduces  the  chances  of  transmission  of   Tpathogens  that  depend  upon  the  fecal-­‐oral  route.  Vertical  farming  will  require  little   AFin  the  way  of  cutting-­‐edge  engineering  technologies,  with  the  possible  exception  of  the  need  for  new  chemically-­‐defined  plant  foods  for  specific  crops.    Virtually  any  commercially  viable  crop  can  be  grown  indoors,  including  numerous  animal  species.           R [INSERT  FIGURE  4]     Social  acceptance  of  vertical  farms  will  be  one  of  its  greatest  challenges,  but  if   Dcommunity  ownership  can  be  incorporated  into  the  business  plan,  then  the  social  and  psychological  barriers  to  its  implementation  can  be  overcome,  allowing  for  a  potentially  radical  reshaping  of  society.  The  old  image  of  “down  on  the  farm”  will  take  on  a  whole  new  meaning,  with  urban  farm  buildings  finally  living  up  to  the  public’s  expectations  as  to  what  really  constitutes  “green”  architecture!  The  ultimate  goal  is  of  course  to  live  as  one  natural  species  among  all  the  rest  without  insuring  the  wrath  of  nature  due  to  encroachment  into  ecosystems  that  we  do  not  control.    
    • Working  Paper    The  city  ecosystem  we  create  will  have  the  ability  to  live  within  its  means  and  thus  allow  all  the  other  ecosystems  to  do  the  same.   T AF R D  
    • Working  Paper     18.  The  Vertical  Farm:  Growing  Eco-­Cities   Dickson  Despommier     Figures     TFigure  1.  The  demilitarized  zone  between  North  and  South  Korea     AF R D  Figure  2.  Chernobyl,  Ukraine      
    • Working  Paper      Figure  3a.  Rendering  of  the  southern  façade  of  the  Center  for  Urban  Agriculture  by   TMithun     AF R D  Figure  3b.  Rendering  of  the  northern  façade  of  the  Center  for  Urban  Agriculture  by  Mithun      
    • Working  Paper     T AF  Figure  4.  Axonometric  section  of  La  Tour  Vivante  by  SOA  Atelier     R D  
    • Working  Paper       T AF R D