Food in the sky? Highrise farming idea gains ground

Jan 26, 2014 by Mariette Le Roux And Claire Snegaroff
French architect Vincent Callebaut poses as he presents a picture of one of his futuristic projects on January 10, 2014 in Paris

Imagine stepping out of your highrise apartment into a sunny, plant-lined corridor, biting into an apple grown in the orchard on the fourth floor as you bid "good morning" to the farmer off to milk his cows on the fifth.

You take the lift to your office, passing the rice paddy and one of the many gardens housed in the glass edifice that not only heats and cools itself, but also captures rainwater and recirculates domestic waste as plant food.

No, this is not the setting for a futuristic movie about humans colonising a new planet.

It is the design of Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut for a 132-floor "urban farm"—the answer, he believes, to a healthier, happier future for the estimated six billion people who will live in cities by 2050.

With food, water and energy sources dwindling, the city of the future will have to be a self-sufficient "living organism", said the 36-year-old designer of avant-garde buildings some critics have dismissed as daft or a blight on the landscape.

"We need to invent new ways of living in the future," Callebaut told AFP at the Paris studio where he plies his trade.

"The city of tomorrow will be dense, green and connected. The goal is to bring agriculture and nature back into the urban core so that by 2050... we have green, sustainable cities where humans live in balance with their environment."

Each building, he said, must ultimately be a "self-sufficient, mini-power station."

The quest for sustainable urban living has never been more urgent as people continue flocking to cities which encroach ever more onto valuable rural land, gobbling up scarce natural resources and making a disproportionate contribution to pollution and Earth-warming carbon emissions.

Enter Callebaut with his project "Dragonfly"—a design for a massive, twin-towered, "vertical farm" on New York's Roosevelt Island.

French architect Vincent Callebaut poses in front of a picture of one of his futuristic projects on January 10, 2014 in Paris

From each tower springs a large, glass-and-steel wing, so that the edifice resembles the insect after which it was named.

The draft structure includes areas for meat, dairy and egg production, orchards, meadows and rice fields along with offices and flats, gardens and public recreation spaces.

Energy is harvested from the Sun and wind, and hot air is trapped between the building "wings" to provide heating in winter. In summer, cooling is achieved through natural ventilation and transpiration from the abundant plant growth.

Plants grow on the exterior shell to filter rain water, which is captured and mixed with liquid waste from the towers, treated organically and used as fertiliser.

And at the base of the colossus: A floating market on the East River for the inhabitants to sell their organic produce.

"They made fun of me. They said I created a piece of science fiction," Callebaut says of his detractors.

But as awareness has grown of the plight of our planet, overpopulation and climate change, his ideas have gained traction, and the Dragonfly design has been exhibited at an international fair in China.

No buyers, but rising interest

Callebaut has also drafted a concept for a floating city resembling a lily pad that will house refugees forced from their homes by climate change.

And he hopes to sell a design for a "farmscraper" in Shenzhen, China that will include housing, offices, leisure space and food gardens.

As yet, Callebaut has found no buyers for these big projects.

"With the recent economic recession, politicians and government may... have been reluctant to venture into such new, large-scale endeavours that have not been tested before," Emilia Plotka, a sustainability expert at the Royal Institute of Royal Architects, told AFP of Dragonfly and similar projects.

But she pointed out the concept has inspired other, smaller projects.

"Instead of majestically tall bionic towers plonked in riverbeds, vertical farms have been rather more modestly integrated into existing buildings, derelict industrial sites and floating barges," said Plotka.

One example is the Pasona Urban Farm—a nine-storey office building in Tokyo that allows employees to grow their own food in specially reserved green spaces at work.

"Whilst the buy-in may not be as noticeable at the moment, it certainly is widespread and growing," said Plotka of the "vertical farm" movement.

"I suspect most other new vertical farms will remain hidden in disused urban spaces or existing business and domestic blocks, which is not bad at all as they will use fewer resources to be set up and enhance their surrounding environments and communities."

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User comments : 14

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mememine69
1 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2014
The Reefer Madness of Climate Blame

Climate science says it COULD be.
You "believers" tell our kids it WILL be.
And now 30 years of science's "maybe".
Proves it's a crisis that certainly "won't be".
Big oil doesn't feed us deniers.
Oil execs don't stuff cash in our pockets.
It's science's consensus of "maybe" and never "will be"
That feeds all denial like jet-fuel feeds rockets.
To end this costly debate.
To save the planet.
Science needs to stop agreeing it just "could be".
Otherwise we are doomed dam it.
Climate blame reporting has done to journalism.
What suicide bombers did for religion.
To you clowns 30 years of needless panic is just fine.
But history will call it a war crime.

Al Gore! "Yes, hell hath frozen over!"
Budding Geologist
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...
VENDItardE
1 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2014
while I agree he is tedious at least he is not clueless like you
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (1) Jan 26, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...

Where is the 95% probability figure coming from?
Sinister1812
not rated yet Jan 27, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...


I know what you mean, his posts are getting so repetitive now. And someone needs to ban this guy.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...


Where is the 95% probability figure coming from?

Dang, Sin. Just asked a serious question and ya One me? What's up with that?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2014
Highrise farms.

Con:
1) Pollution. Cities are not known for their clean air. Until/unless that changes anything grown there will have to use costly filtration methods for air/water.
2) Fertlizer (this may be a minor issue). But somehow I don't see truckloads of fertilizer being delivered to these farms without some olfactory fallout on the immediate area
3) Sunlight. Going vertical does not increase the amount of sunlight the footprint of the tower gets. All extra light for the plants in the vertical space will have to be created artificially (effectively turning this into a very expensive greenhouse)
4) Structural integrity. Soil/water is heavy. Much heavier than, say, an office block that is mostly empty air with a few people and furniture.
5) The same amount of growing space can be had much cheaper elsewhere without problems 1-4.

Pro:
1) It looks cool.

I'm not surprise he has found no buyers.
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...


Where is the 95% probability figure coming from?

Dang, Sin. Just asked a serious question and ya One me? What's up with that?


Sorry, thought you were agreeing with mememine69
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2014

Sorry, thought you were agreeing with mememine69

Nor at all. I found it obnoxious, as well.
However, I do believe in verification of certain data sets. "Keeping an eye on the detectives..." sort of thing...
semmsterr
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2014
The Reefer Madness of Climate Blame

Climate science says it COULD be.
You "believers" tell our kids it WILL be.
And now 30 years of science's "maybe".
Proves it's a crisis that certainly "won't be".
Big oil doesn't feed us deniers.
Oil execs don't stuff cash in our pockets.
It's science's consensus of "maybe" and never "will be"
That feeds all denial like jet-fuel feeds rockets.
To end this costly debate.
To save the planet.
Science needs to stop agreeing it just "could be".
Otherwise we are doomed dam it.
Climate blame reporting has done to journalism.
What suicide bombers did for religion.
To you clowns 30 years of needless panic is just fine.
But history will call it a war crime.

Al Gore! "Yes, hell hath frozen over!"


Think you're off point. With a large, complex, system such as the earth's climate it is presumptuous to make exact and definitive statements in many cases. There are however, obvious trends that must not be ignored or kept secret. That's science.
goracle
5 / 5 (1) Jan 28, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...

It would be nice to get this zealot banned from here and from the CBC, where the same c*** has been posted for months.
Sinister1812
not rated yet Jan 28, 2014
Is there a way to get this guy to stop posting the same ignorant comment on every story which makes any mention of climate change? I am tired of seeing him confuse, highly probable (95%+ liklihood), with could be. Now he's writing poems...

It would be nice to get this zealot banned from here and from the CBC, where the same c*** has been posted for months.


I wish they could ban the other usual suspects too. All they do is come here and start arguments.
n39w50
not rated yet Jan 29, 2014
It is refreshing to read an article on cockamamie skyscraper ideas that uses the word "daft" and points out that the visionary architect "has found no buyers". This fanciful stuff is a distraction from the need to make hard choices to address climate change--choices related to the cost of fossil fuels and to the construction of nuclear power plants--and to make less sensational changes related to energy efficiency in buildings and in industry.
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Jan 30, 2014
I call bullshit to this.

"With food, water and energy sources dwindling",

But yeah - adding crop walls - thinish window frames like glass houses, roof areas, balconies, filled with crops, and adding wind turbines, solar panels, and decent insulation etc through great design is a good idea.

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