Food in the sky

High­rise farm­ing idea gains ground.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH - By MArIETTE LE rOUX

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 field 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 avant­garde 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 said 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, minipower 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. 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 rain­wa­ter, 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.

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

“Whilst the buy-in may not be as no­tice­able at the mo­ment, it cer­tainly is wide­spread and grow­ing,” said emilia Plotka, a sus­tain­abil­ity ex­pert at the Royal In­sti­tute of Royal ar­chi­tects.

“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.”

one ex­am­ple is the Pa­sona Ur­ban Sources: United Na­tions, In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency, Food and Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion. Farm – a nine-storey of­fice build­ing in tokyo that al­lows em­ploy­ees to grow their own food in spe­cially re­served green spa­ces at work.

“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,” said Plotka. — aFP

raised farm: bel­gian ar­chi­tect Vin­cent Calle­baut poses in front of a illustration of a high­rise in­cor­po­rated with farms. For Calle­baut, this kind of self-sus­tain­ing, no-waste ur­ban farm­ing is no fan­tasy but the only op­tion for the fu­ture. — aFP

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