Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sky Farms and Green Roofs

2009 has been full of stories about sky farms and green roofs. While this blog focuses on green roofs, the concept of sky farms is very intriguing.,, and have all been bringing new information to the scene about this growing concept.

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If one considers a city, it inhabitants, food requirements and the logistics to meet those needs, it becomes clear that urban farming can be an efficient way to both feed a growing populace and reduce environmental impact.

In three previous posts, "Food in the City," "New York's Dragonfly Concept," and "Dubai's Food City," I have explored different takes on urban farming. What I have found is that sustainable food production is possible, though start up costs are quite high.

What strikes me about the urban farming concept is the synthesis of green roofs, green walls, grey water purification systems, as well as the use of solar and wind power. This synthesis of existing technologies produces a product greater than the sum of its parts.

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One question that hasn't been answered is whether the urban farms should be open to environment or walled. With the inherent pollution of a city, it would seem the open farms would naturally concentrate the pollution in the vegetation. However, a hybrid approach, using large green roofs would help to reduce both the air pollution as well as filter the rain water.

As the urban farming concept continues to grow in cities such as Las Vegas, Vancouver, and Toronto, credit has to be given to Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D., one of the leading scientists in the field.

As global urban population grows, the need to feed the population becomes more urgent. While green roofs can help reduce some of the problems of increased urban populations, urban farms can not only meet food needs, but also reduce the stress on existing farm lands.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Classic Parisian Green Roof

Paris is famous for its classic architecture and style, but it is also home to one of the older, commercial green roofs.

The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy arena (POPB), completed in 1984, has a green roof that is 68889 sq.ft., according to

It was designed by a team of architects, Andrault-Parat, Prouvé, and Guvan. Air France offers free stopovers in Paris.

The building is more well-known for its sports events and headline performers than it is for its green roofs. However, according to

In 1985 Andrault and Parat were awarded the Grand Prix National d’Architecture by the French government for their monumental and mechanistic sports arena, the Palais Omnisports de Bercy (1979–84) near the Gare de Lyon, Paris, in which four concrete shafts, surrounded by sloping grass-covered mounds, support huge metal beams.

POPB is also noteworthy as it was a renovation of a brown-field site. According to Andrew Ayers, in his book, The Architecture of Paris (2004), Bercy had been used for wine storage for many years, though by 1970, the warehouses stood empty. The site became derelict, and the city was looking for a way to renovate the area, recycling the historic cobblestones and creating as much green space as possible.

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The renovation of the area was successful from a commercial perspective, though some have been critical of the design of the other buildings. While the POPB stands out, some have called it "stark."

When next in Paris, whether to see a tennis match or Brittney Spears at the POPB, make sure to enjoy the green roof and construction, as it was ahead of its time.


By Andrew Ayers
Published by Edition Axel Menges, 2004

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Environment Park's Green Roofs in Turin, Italy

Italy has discovered the benefits of green roofs too! The Environment Park, in Turin, is a sprawling complex with green roofs on most buildings.

From Energy Planning Knowledge Base:

"The idea which comes from is the construction of a united landscape able to link river, garden and Technological Park in a system of land architecture with a vocation deeply ecological and environmental."

The Environment Park green roof is 20,000 sqm, and is build atop a former Fiat complex and was completed in 2000.

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Other recognized benefits include:
  • Improvement of micro climate
  • Reduced fine particulate matter air pollution
  • Storm water runoff management
  • Reduction of urban acoustic pollution
Finally, and an interesting fact, Environment Park uses a wood chip burning system to provide 85% of required heating in the winter. The wood chips are the result of pruning the trees that line the road through the complex. They also utilize an underground canal to help provide cooling in the summer.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New York's Dragonfly Concept

In the race to insure food for ever-larger urban populations, designers and architects are working on vertical farms inside cities.

As I have written about both Vancouver's Harvest Tower and Dubai's Food City, New York City is looking to join the club in a big way.

Vincent Callebaut Architectures
has designed the Dragonfly building, based on two vertical towers. According to World Architectural News and Fast

"Callebaut's 132 floor, 600-meter-high farm contains 28 different agricultural fields for fruit, vegetable, meat and dairy production. The fields are surrounded by houses, offices, and research laboratories laid out over several floors. The building, which is completely powered by solar and wind power, also purifies liquid waste into water suitable for crops and composts solid waste for fertilizers."

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Although there isn't sufficient surface area for a traditional green roof, the benefits of a green roof are captured in the grey water recycling as well as the CO2 reduction by the plant life.

The core of the building is a greenhouse, in the shape of a dragonfly's wing. This core supports the weight of the building and allows sunlight to pass through the building.

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The significance of urban farming is to provide sufficient agricultural goods to the city while limiting the shipping traffic traditionally associated with feeding it. There is an opinion that reducing the need for rural farm land will allow that land to revert to its original state.

While it is clear that the Dragonfly concept isn't capable of being built today, the concepts included in the design can influence future buildings.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Food in the City

Vancouver seeks to been one of the greenest and sustainable cities in the world. To help reach their goal, they held the FormShift Vancouver Competition, and Harvest Tower won an Honorable Mention. reports that this new complex, a tower, green roofs, and grazing area, "... consists of interlocking tubes that grow various fruits and vegetables, house chickens and contain an aquaponic fish farm." Hydroponic garden

While this is more ambitious than Los Angeles's edible green roof, it is in the same league as Dubai's Food City. Vancouver also boasts Canada's largest green roof.

Other agricultural products include, "... a livestock grazing plain, as well as a bird habitat and boutique sheep and goat dairy facility." There will also be a restaurant, and grocery store.

Sustainability is also important in this project, through the use of wind turbines, photovalic glazing, and methane captured from composting. I think composting is a euphemism for manure. Water will be provided by a large rain cistern on the roof. Water Barrels and Storage The green roofs will also provide filtration, mitigate storm water runoff and reduce air pollution.

While vertical farming is being studied elsewhere by "...Dr. Dickson Despommier, an environmental health scientist at Columbia University, his work reveals that for every one acre of indoor farming, four to six acres of outdoor land can be saved." While farming in the city keeps the food local and reduces transport pollution, the once-farmed land can be returned to natural habitats.

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Dubai's Food City

As I have written about both Abu Dhabi's green roofs, and Los Angeles's edible green roof, Dubai has outdone both. reports that Dubai, in coordination with green landscaping firm, GCLA, are going to build a "Food City," complete ", self-sufficient metropolis." Taste the Purest Tea on the Planet – Organic and Fair Trade Certified Shop Numi Organic Tea

How does one do that in Dubai, one of driest climates on earth? The answer (starting with green roofs!):

"...atmospheric water harvesting, solar desalination through concentrated solar collectors, grey water recycling, and application of hydroponic sand to minimize water loss."

All of this requires significant electricity, which will done via solar collectors focused on towers. Water Barrels and Storage

I wish Dubai luck, though I feel the project may be a bit ambitious.

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Two Great Sites

I wanted to write a short post about two great sites I found, Sustainable Cities Collective and Landscape + Urbanism. Both are really great sites with neat pictures and interesting content. They cover a variety of topics, and not just green roofs, that I think you may find interesting.

I will put a link under Related Links so you can find them in the future.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Korea's New Green Addition

World Architecture has a great article about a new, planned city in Korea that incorporates green roofs.

From the article:

"The $185million Chung Nam Provincial Office and Park will be situated approximately two hours drive south of Seoul and will be central to a newly planned city in the heart of the Korean ‘breadbasket’ rural area."

The project was won by two teams, John Reed Architecture and Mooyoung Architects and Engineers and Field Operations. John Reed Architecture has several projects that combine green roofs with other natural features. $20 Off AeroGardens

The new city is to resemble ancient Korean cities, as the buildings represent mountains, typical of the landscape. From the article,

"This 102,300 sq m administrative center, designed by john reed architecture celebrates Baekje Culture through a number of architectural and landscape design themes... Green roofs will combine with Photovoltaic panels providing both pleasing aesthetics and sustainable satisfaction. The project is slated for completion in 2012."

John Reed Architecture has other Korean projects with green building techniques. One is Sewoon District Four, Chuncheon G5, and Haeundae Spa. More information is available at the architect's web site.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Green Roofs in Taiwan once again brings a great article about green roofs. This green roof is in Taiwan, and is part of the Hsinchu Biomedical Science Park in Hsinchu County.

The green roof is only part of the structure. The key elements of the complex, designed by Manfredi Nicoletti and Arco Architects & Designers, are the "... twin nautilus shell structures..." and the "... structure of the outer skin is laced with geometric patterns that represent the four symbols of the DNA sequence of the dangerous bacteria being studied within."

While the purpose of the green roof is to aid in controlling heating and cooling costs, its stated purpose is to "... provide(s) insulation while blending the project in with its surrounding environment. " This type of green roof is similar to one in Singapore at the Nanyang Technological University. Hydroponic garden

The center, due to be completed in 2013, as reported in "The China Post," cost approximately NT$20 billion ($60,650,000). The purpose of the center is to "... be a national medical center that focuses on clinical research and translational medicine" as well as to "...bridge the gap between clinical practice and biomedical research to boost Taiwan’s biomedical industry. "

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Australia's First Carbon Neutral Office Building reports that Australia is building a four story, carbon neutral building. What makes this building unique is not its green roof, but rather, all of the building's power needs are met by non-carbon sources.

Additionally, the power generated in excess of its needs will eliminate the carbon emissions used in construction. Go Green and SAVE at Eco Friendly Power Tools & More.

The developer, Grocon, notes,

"Any carbon emissions used in the building’s ongoing operation will be offset by renewable energy from large photovoltaic (solar) panels on the roof as well as wind turbines,” says Daniel Grollo, Grocon’s CEO.

Approximately 75% of the roof surface will be dedicated to a green roof. The green roof will be made up of simple grasses. Additionally, the green roof will help capture rain water for the building itself, as well as reducing storm water runoff. The building also includes a gray-water treatment capability, using a reed bed system. Hydroponic garden

This building may be a economical model for future construction, as it uses many traditional building materials, such as concrete, heat pumps, and "...reasonably traditional commercial building materials."