The trend for “green” eco-fantasy buildings is sweeping the world of architecture, with designers now integrating gardens, terraces and all manner of vertical planting in their specifications for office blocks, apartment buildings and even skyscrapers. “Starchitects” such as Daniel Libeskind and Philippe Starck, who a few years ago would have scoffed at the idea that their sleek and shiny building might incorporate something as embarrassingly domestic and “unmodern” as a garden, are now getting in on the act, and displaying a new-found zeal for horticulture.

The world’s tallest vertical garden – One Central Park in Sydney, Australia – was opened earlier this year and “green” buildings, which are often literally green thanks to vertical planting and tree balconies, are springing up in countries across the globe where corporations and civic authorities are keen to trumpet their eco-credentials (that is: pretty much everywhere).

Planted buildings: is this the future of our cities or just an eco-fantasy?

What’s the Real Problem With Urban Agriculture: Misinformation

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In this guest post, Blue Planet Consulting summer intern Ben Mickel responds to this recent article critcizing urban agriculture: What’s the REAL Problem with Urban Agriculture by Harkyo Hutri Baskoro

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Before trying to answer what the problems with urban agriculture might be, lets first define what exactly urban ag is: Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. (Bailkey, M., and J. Nasr. 2000. From Brownfields to Greenfields: Producing Food in North American Cities. Community Food SECURITY News. Fall 1999/Winter 2000:6)

This is a complex industry that exists at the intersection of Horticulture, Technology, Urban Planning and Food Security.  There is so much positive support coming from the community and an influx of capital is driving the expansion of high tech urban agriculture around the world and sometimes its difficult to know if its all just “hype” or really part of the future of cities. 

Growing Food in the Middle of the City is only Half the Story

Let’s address some of the cons Baskoro raised about Urban Ag. The first issue Baskoro addresses is whether or not it is “worth it to farm in the middle of the city” despite the fact that still most urban agriculture occurs not in the heart of most cities but in the peri-urban areas. In fact, some of the greatest opportunities for urban agriculture lie on the edge of the city where the land is cheaper but access to infrastructure and customers is still high. Lets stop thinking about urban agriculture simply as picturesque farms in the city and start determining how we can feed more of the city from nearby sustainable farms.

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Blogger Evan Bromfield Questions the Sustainability of Vertical Farms

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Evan Bromfield is a research assistant at the Centre For Food Safety in Washington D.C. and a vertical farming enthusiast and blogger. Read this recent article from his blog that considers what most don’t consider when thinking about vertical farming. 

Designers love to praise vertical farms’ sustainability and combating climate change is a huge part of that, but there’s a lot more nuance than most other articles go into.

Sustainability is not just a measure of how much water your system recycles or how many solar panels it uses, and these resources are not the only things that affect climate change.

Not only that, but also there isn’t just one type of vertical farm: there are farmscrapers, farms that float, rooftop gardens, converted warehouses, and tricked-out greenhouses just to name a few.

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The kicker? Each model is going to have entirely different measures of sustainability, especially when it comes to a carbon footprint.

Let’s take the obvious example.  The original farmscraper envisioned by Dickson Despommier, whose name everyone should know, is a 30-story building bearing a tremendous amounts of water and carbon-rich plant weight.  What is such a structure’s carbon footprint?

Looking at one emblematic skyscraper (1 Penn Plaza for the purposes of this exercise), we can calculate the estimated square footage of such a farmscraper.*  Once we have an estimated square footage, we can use a carbon footprint calculator to see where it falls. In New York City, the carbon footprint of one of Despommier’s vertical farms is 63,360 metric tons of CO2 just in construction.**  This means that for every floor built, 2,112 tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere.  To put that into perspective, the average American produced 19.8 tonnes from 1980-2006 (much higher than the average Chinese citizen who only produced 4.6 tonnes).

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NEWFARM/NEWYORK: Mixed-Use Manhattan Vertical Farm

Recently, a few friends and colleagues of Agritecture.com partnered on this vertical farm design for an empty lot next to the highline in Chelsea, Manhattan, NYC. 

Special thanks to: 

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Its time for a NEWFARM in New York. In the midst of the complexity of the concrete jungle, this urban food hub and vertical farm in Chelsea, Manhattan represents an evolution of both agriculture and architecture. One purpose of NEWFARM is to produce fresh vegetables for its inhabitants and visitors all year long. NEWFARM is also a place where buyers and sellers of food can interact with makers, artists, and growers. The vertical farming components of NEWFARM are composed of water-saving and highly productive hydroponic agriculture systems. The productivity of the farming systems compliment the artist and “maker” spaces of the building that come with the residences. Above all, NEWFARM is a bridge between nature and architecture.

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forbetterliving:

Urban Farming in Tokyo

In the center of Tokyo’s busy financial district is Pasona, a multi-national recruitment firm. When the company decided they needed a new headquarters they hired Japanese architect Yoshimi Kono to help renovate a large, 9-story building and adorn it with a lush, green wall. But the vegetation doesn’t just live on the exterior. Integrated within the building are urban farming facilities that occupy roughly 20% of the entire office space and support 200 species of fruits, vegetables and rice. Office workers take turns helping to maintain the urban farm and harvest the food, most of which ends up being served in the office cafeteria. “It is the largest and most direct farm-to-table of its kind ever realized inside an office building in Japan,” says the architect.

the video