Archive for the ‘Sustainable Cities’ Category

First-Ever Vertical Farming Summit

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

This weekend in Berkeley, experts from a variety of disciplines including architecture, structural engineering, greenhouse growing, composting, alternative energy, aquaculture, hydroponics, integrated biological systems, sustainable farming, and urban agriculture are meeting for the first summit on vertical farming in urban areas, also rather inelegantly known as building-integrated sustainable agriculture.

The summit’s co-organizers are Keith Agoada and James Kalin, founder and technical director, respectively, of Sky Vegetables, launched by Agoada to build hydroponic greenhouses on the rooftops of grocery stores. A list of presenters and presentations will be posted on the Sky Vegetables website at the close of the conference. Their prototype system is featured on the site. 

Superstar City

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

If you’re headed to the Venice Biennale in the next couple of months, check out the latest figment of MAD Architects‘ imagination — Superstar, a mobile, self-sustaining city capable of housing, growing food, producing energy, and recycling the waste of 15,000 people. The Beijing-based firm conceived Superstar as an alternative to the “sloppy patchwork of poor construction and nostalgia” (if not the astonishing diversity of the vegetable markets and array of restaurants) of the typical Chinatown in cities around the world. The sparkling, three-dimensional star-shaped superstructure, which has been described as looking a little like a Cylon Base Star from Battlestar Galactica by Inhabitat, will be able to travel around the globe, providing a taste of Chinese cuisine and culture wherever it docks. 

Edible Walls

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Urban Farming, a nonprofit group that plants crops for the needy on rooftops and other unused spaces in cities, has launched a vertical agriculture project at four locations in and around downtown L.A. The four new urban farms employ the green wall system developed by Green Living Technologies, a series of modular, 2 foot by 2 foot by 4 inch, stainless steel panels divided into growing cells that are mounted to a building facade. The four L.A. edible walls are between 24 and 30 feet across and 6 feet high and have been planted with bell peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatillos, strawberries, spinach, leeks, and a variety of herbs. Members of the community will maintain the gardens and harvest the food.

Olympic Village Earns Gold

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Last week the Olympic Village in Beijing officially earned the LEED Gold award from the U.S. Green Building Council under its pilot LEED for Neighborhood Development program. Among the sustainable design features of the complex, as reported in Inhabitat: rainwater, graywater, and storm water collection systems, lots of green roofs and open space, drought-resistant and native plantings, and a network of bicycle and pedestrian paths.

Urban Pick Your Own

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

No, we’re not talking about picking dandelion leaves from a tree pit that Fido probably peed on, but rather plucking peaches, apples, and other fruit from city trees — fruit that otherwise would be scraped off the sidewalk and shipped to a landfill or at best composted. As reported in Gristmill, a handful of cities are getting organized about harvesting urban fruit and nuts, using interactive mapping tools posted online so anyone can find the nearest pomegranate or avocado ripe for the taking. 

On Saturday mornings beginning August 2, the Portland Fruit Tree Project will be holding Harvest Parties, where city dwellers get together to collect orphan fruits and donate a percentage to local food banks. Last year, the group gathered 3400 pounds of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste. 

Green Megalopolis

Friday, July 11th, 2008

The July issue of Popular Science has a story on the megalopolis of the future. Hint: It looks nothing like smog-choked Mexico City or sprawling LA. Instead, picture things like pod cars, sidewalks that turn footsteps into electricity, an algae park with a super breed of algae engineered at UC Berkeley to generate energy, and 30-story hydroponic farms tended by robots. The interactive web feature is fun, but here’s hoping the ecotropolis of 2050 has better music. 

Urban Grow Bags

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Can half-ton bags of soil lined up in abandoned lots help make cities more self-sufficient in food production? Architects Ulrike Steven and Gareth Morris of What if: Projects Ltd. think so. Working with an inner city neighborhood in London, they arranged 70 of them on concrete in a vacant lot where local residents are now growing an astonishing array of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. For the past two years these unusual containers have been transformed into a vibrant community garden.

One of the local residents describes how his initial investment of about $12 for seeds has yielded “200 lettuces, cucumbers, beetroots galore, spring onions”   so many that he and his neighbors are able to swap a portion of their harvests.

Currently, according to a report in The Times, 80 percent of London’s food comes from abroad and the rest is shipped in from other parts of the U.K. Only a minuscule amount is produced locally. However, a London Assembly member estimates that the city could produce as much as 25 percent of its food using Urban Grow Bags and other means. 

Lilypad City

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Something about the lilypad apparently appeals deeply to biomimics. Maybe the way they float through life with a kind of desultory beauty. Kind of like bobbing around a tropical lagoon with a mojito and a floppy hat.

A few weeks ago the eco-design community was wowed by the Solar Lilypad. Now comes Vincent Callebaut’s Lilypad. Designed to look like a water-lily, it’s a completely self-sufficient, zero-emission floating city intended to provide shelter for future climate change refugees in low-lying areas around the world. Each Lilypad, with varied topography including three ridges and a central lake, could support about 50,000 people afloat in the ocean. 

Agricultural Skyscrapers

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Fritz Haeg has been deemed a horticultural revolutionary of late for daring to propose scrapping front lawns for “edible estates.” But his proposal pales compared to Columbia professor Dickson Despommier’s vision of entire skyscrapers devoted to growing crops. Such “vertical farms” could reduce the carbon footprint of city dwellers by conserving energy used for long-distance transport of food to urban markets. Even better, they could free up expanses of farmland to return to forest, radically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Among the other benefits of skycropping: a year-round supply of organically grown fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish; no weather-related crop failures; no polluting agricultural runoff; lots of green collar jobs in inner cities; and an intensive form of food production capable of feeding the 3 billion additional people predicted by the year 2050, most of whom will live in urban areas.

Several sky farm designs are featured on Despommier’s website. He says roughly 150 30-story towers could feed the entire population of New York City for a year. This article, published in New York magazine last year, explains in detail how they would work.