Is Vertical Farming the Solution for the Future?

As the population grows, cities will also grow. The suburbs will become a part of the city, and the outskirts of the city will then become the suburbs and so on and so forth. There will be a point in the future where many Urban centers will have to transport fresh produce from farms in the Midwest or further to support the populations. Since there will be a smaller countryside outside of the city, those farms will not be able to support the demand of fresh produce as they once did. The produce coming from the Midwest will not be “fresh” when it reaches the cities. So how can we fix this?

Just imagine a city with instead of an area dedicated to Industrial Park companies, and replace those with Vertical farming parks! How much of a difference would that make? And we can push this further than the United States. How about countries that have little vegetation growth because of the extreme climates such as the Saharan countries of Africa, the deserts of Australia, the tundra of Russia. This goes back to my last post discussing the possibilities of utilizing space that was once undesirable. Not only could it promote health and growth in population in those nations, but also create economic growth. Vertical farming is more efficient than regular farming since almost everything is recycled and reused. It takes up less land and allows for more land to be preserved as a park or for enjoyment. Vertical farming means less processed food. Think of portions of cities that are in “food deserts” that lack access to fresh produce but are within a stones throw of a number of fast food options. It seems to have healthier impacts on people and the earth in general. We can avoid another Dust Bowl scenario where the land has been over tilled and malnourished.

Are there any pros? Well sure. In order to build the farms you have to give up real estate. It is more efficient than a farm, but it may not yield as much produce as a normal farm would. The biggest thing concern is the cost of running and operation such as this and the technology involved. It is cheaper just to buy land in the middle of nowhere and plow it than buying land in a dense urban complex and build there the infrastructure there. Other pros are the effect it will have on animals. What will happen to the Peter Rabbits that depend on the carrots stolen from the farmers yard? Well that is if we some how reach a state where landscape farming is obsolete to vertical farming.

Urban Farming in Detroit

As for now there isn’t much to worry about. It is still a good idea to be thinking about, especially in large cities. This idea is spreading in cities like Chicago and New York. Urban farming is happening in shipping containers in cities like Boston for locally gone produce for restaurants. Detroit is using its land to make large scale community gardens to clean up the image of empty lots that plague the city. There have already been talks about building vertical gardens in Abu Dhabi, Incheon, Portland, Toronto, and Beijing.

Here are a few designs of what future designs may appear as:


Utilizing Underutilized Space

In each city, there are events in history that are either presented or covered up, depending on the content and context of the event. One guest lecturer spoke of a project in Memphis where an interstate was planned to run through Overton Park and already tore through some surrounding areas, however the local community came together to protest the move and eventually winning a Supreme Court case to halt the advancement of the Interstate. He then had a proposal to create a building commemorating that crucial win for the city, in remnants of a mound that would have been used as a base of the proposed interstate. Within the mound would be a museum that would display the park’s history and how the case was won. The outside of the mound would retain the qualities of a mound, with grass that would be a part of the park itself. It is creating useful space in a space that was long forgotten and never tended to after the government tore through to create the highway.

The plan for the interstate bisecting Overton Park

It made me think about a project that was done in Virginia Beach. Mount Trashmore is a landfill-converted-park. It took this undesirable area and created it to be one of the most popular parks in Virginia Beach. Unlike the proposed idea in Memphis, there is no program happening within the mound (thank you), however the area around, has be came a desirable place to run, boat, fly kites, and allow children to play. It became a place to stay away from due to the smell, to a place of revitalization and energy, boosting the area around it up as well in home value. By just adding one thing or revamping another can have a big influence on its popularity. Trashmore.jpg

The Commerzbank Building Commerzbank Building in Frankfurt, Germany largely inspired the design of my final project for Architecture 3010. As I learned of the program for the project, which was to be a Rehabilitation Center for Wounded Veterans, I struggled with figuring out how to incorporate a garden for meditation into a high-rise building in the middle of New York City and have it utilized to the fullest potential. The Commerzbank building features “sky gardens” which occur on nine floors throughout the building that serves multiple functions. First, it allows views into the surrounding landscape. Second, it allows views within the building and allows interconnections to occur. Finally, it allows light to filter into a building, arguably the most important element to design for when designing a building or skyscraper. I took the ideas that Norman Foster and his team created and tried to adjust and rework them to fit my scale and program.

Rehabilitation requires a few things. It requires patience, personal space, interaction, reflection, and rehab. The therapy garden would be a space of rehab that would flank the highline to the east. It would almost seem as if an extension of the highline into the building. This would create interaction between the residents of the building and those walking along the highline. It would be a more public space that could be used for motivation. Maybe people passing by would say encouraging things to the veterans, thanking them for all they have done in the line of duty, encouraging them to keep pushing. But I felt like there needed to be more to it.


Not all parts of the rehabilitation should be seen. There are times where one needs to be alone to contemplate the situation and reflect. The public therapy garden couldn’t be a place where one could feel as if they were outside of the city, with no one watching their every move. There has to be a space that is private for just the veterans themselves. An indoor garden would allow for privacy and be able to be used throughout the year no matter the weather. This could be that space of contemplation.



By placing a garden lower in my building plan, it allowed light to reach lower places. It allowed the patients see other patients and their rooms creating a visual connection. By placing an indoor garden higher in the building, it allowed for a space that seemed to be not in the midst of the city, hovering over it. It created a space that would allow for humility and reflection.

Systems within Final Project

For the final project for Systems, Sites, and Buildings, we were asked to incorporate a set of systems that could enhance our buildings functionality in to our final project for Architecture 3010. The site is located in New York City, near the recently opened Highline Park, an elevated railway-converted-park, which is a unique experience being on a park in the sky with a dense city. The program is a Rehabilitation Center for Wounded Veterans and would consist of rehab gyms, a chapel, a cafe, therapy pool, and therapy gardens, as well 48 housing units. To create a desirable space, it must get adequate light, especially in a city like New York, and it must be well ventilated. This is achieved through the introduction of louvers along the facade of the building which allows for the facilitation of cross-ventilation allowing the natural cooling of the building.

Sun Diagram of the Site

Plan View of Ventilation

The Introduction of Louvers-Light and Visibility

Controlling the amount of sun exposure for the comfort of the guests are essential to any building design. For this project, the louvers serve multiple purposes. They serve as a way to reflect or diffuse light, depending on the angle at which they are rotated. The louvers serve as a way to usher in air and cross-ventilate the building in the summer and retain heat within the space to create balconies so that they can be occupied year round. The louvers also act as a way of creating privacy from the busy streets below and the pedestrian-heavy Highline as the louvers are transparent in some sections and translucent in others. Privacy is important, especially in a rehab center where, there are times were you may need to be alone to reflect to overcome an obstacle that you are facing. The louvers are made of glass as it provides little interference with the views of the Highline to the east of the site, and the Hudson River to the west. Glass also allows for the ability to trap heat, so in the winter, the balcony will be able to be used more a a way to relax or socialize instead of turning into a storage room as many balconies on tall building unconsciously convert into. These balconies can become greenhouses, allowing for occupants to grow their own food as a form of meditation. Most of the glass louvers will be frosted to give a sense of privacy , however two rows of panels  will be left clear to allow a view out. The frosted glass panels shade the balcony from the harsh glare of the sun and diffuses the light further into the room.  When tilted at an angle, the sunlight can be deflected to bounce of the ceiling of the balcony or of the room to light up the interior space. The indirect light can filter through multiple rooms through the use of clerestory windows.

Sections of Louver Usage

Louvers for Ventilation

The louvers allow  for the individual rooms of the patients to recieve ventilation. The wind comes from the south-southeast for most of the year. On summer days, this will allow for some cool air to reach the patients. New York is very humid in the summer, so in order to take some of that humidity away, there are gardens that cool the air for some residences by bring the air through shade of the trees and cooling it. The whole building uses its thermal mass to cool the building. The floors will be concrete and cooled  allow the patients to be cooled during the day along with  the wind.

During the Winter, the closed glass louvers can begin to act like a greenhouse and heat up the balcony space. The balcony space can heat up the rest of the apartment through radiant heat. Due to the fact that the it is not always sunny during the winter, the balcony idea may not always work. The thermal mass of the building can heat the floors and allow heat to rise throughout the apartment. In larger spaces, such as the rehab gym or lobby area, the amount of activity going on within the space can help create heat within the human scale.

The Lower part of the building is unable to use cross-ventilation due to the fact that it is up against a parti-wall to the west of the site. These floor use the stack effect to create ventilation. Air flows in from the eastern side of the building to the western side which has and enclosed heat chimney to rise the heat up and out of the building once it clears the building to the west.

Section Through Building showing Ventilation

How Sunlight Affects Us Biologically

Sunlight is a huge factor in practically every part of our daily life. We live most of our lives in the presence of sunlight, planning activities around it, and then in the evening, imitating sunlight through electrified means to extend the hours of productivity past sundown. Our ancestors would work during daylight hours and rest once the Sun fell past the horizon. Many typically feel sleepy in dark rooms as our bodies natural circadian rhythm is not wired to work in the dark. Your body runs on a biological clock will wake up around the same time every day. Even if you disrupt your normal schedule on one occasion, you still wake up around the time that you would normal arise (or in the case of you waking up earlier than your normal schedule, its harder for you to start functioning). This biological clock is called the Zeitgeber, which is German for “time giver” or “synchronizer.” The Zeitgeber is mostly controlled by the presence of light. It is natural for humans to sleep during the night and work during the day. Human beings are not nocturnal. So in order to be productive at night and to postpone our stages of sleep, we introduce lights to mimic the sun. For those who work late night or all night shifts, they must train their biological clock to stay awake during the night and sleep during the day, along with the help of a caffeinated drink or other foods that will provide more energy.

New York is known as the city that never sleeps. Through all hours of the night, there is some sort of noise, whether it is the honking of a car, the siren of a emergency vehicle, or the bright lights of the street, billboards, or surrounding buildings. When I had visited Times Square during the day, it was a chaotic scene, but yet just as any other part of the world. The sun was out, casting shadows on some parts of the square but the entire square was filled with daylight. I had decided to visit Times Square later in the evening to eat at a restaurant. The walk towards Times Square, like any normal city, was filled with street lights and car headlights illuminating the road.  As I turned the corner and had reached Times Square, the amount of light given off in this one area was shocking. Once inside the restaurant, looking out of a window I lost the since of what time it was. It looked as if it was 1 PM instead of 1 AM. The intensity of the light was very strong. I felt more energized and lost any feeling of sleepiness I had felt prior to walking to there. My zeitgeber slowly began to accept the presence of light.

In Perception and Lighting, Lam begins to talk about how sunlight is a basic biological need that we usher into our homes during the day, even if it is a small percentage of it. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of our productivity, we welcome it.  New York has not only welcomed it during the day and into the evening and well into the night. This is the case in many homes and buildings across the country, trying to extend our productivity by introducing artificial light and altering the effects of our biological clock.

Energy Flows of the Thermal Baths by Peter Zumthor

The Thermal Baths at Vals, designed by Peter Zumthor, is an amazing example of a series of systems that come together to create a unique experience. The bath complex utilizes natural thermal springs for the heating the water and the building to create a relaxing experience for those who visit. I am interested in seeing the interaction of the elements such as sound, water, concrete, and light to create an awe-inspiring experience. By tracking how the earth creates heat that begins to warm water and produce steam that is heating the building and its water, we can understand how Zumthor planned the use of materials to help retain the heat and diffuse it. It is interesting that he chose concrete as the predominate material because of the range of temperatures that concrete can inhibit depending on the temperature around it. Then, I would like to see how that then translates to our feelings when we enter the different temperatures. By understanding these relationships, we can begin to see how the body responds to different extremes in temperature and how body absorbs and releases energy in almost the same way as a material such as concrete.

The first step of this energy flow begins in the mantle of the earth where the immense pressure from gravity is pushing every part of the earth towards its center, or core, causes rocks to melt and give off heat. This heat radiates outward from the core  toward the cooler layers of rock of the crust where it heats underground springs. These heated springs give off steam, like the Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, that can be used as geothermal energy which can be turned into electricity or in this case, heating and cooling. The Thermal Baths at Vals, Switzerland uses the heat from the thermal springs to heat the waters within the spa itself.

This Diagram shows how gravity causes the layers of earth to compact and be pushed down toward the center of the Earth. As this happens, heat builds up, rises to the crust of the earth and begins to heat the springs. The Earth is also heated from the Sun.

From the Earth to the Slab

In the Thermal baths at Vals, Peter Zumthor combined gneiss, a local stone, with concrete to create the walls and floor of the spa. By using the combination of natural stone and concrete, it creates a thermal mass that conducts heat faster than concrete mixed with other aggregates. This allows for the heated to the concrete slabs of the spa. Concrete allows for the energy transferred from the spring to the wall to be stored within the mass itself, heating up the wall faster but retains the energy for longer periods of time. Concrete is very energy efficient because it releases energy slower than many other materials. Using concrete also keeps the temperature differences between pools consistent, due to the ability to retain energy.

From Slab to the Body

The human body is an essential part of the design of the Thermal Baths. It takes into consideration all five senses of the body by implementing different experiences that caters to at least one sense at any given moment. One of the senses that are exploited throughout the spa is the sense of touch. The interaction between the temperature of the water and the body of an occupant in the spa occurs by touching the water. The body has a temperature range that it has to stay within to function. 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is the average body temperature for a healthy human. If the core body temperature gets hotter than that, the body releases water, known as sweat, to cool the body down or in the case of the body temperature gets colder, muscles in the body begin to contract and expand quickly, known as shivering, to release energy and heat to warm the body. As an occupant first enters the spa, there is a period where the body  needs to adjust to the temperature of the water. This is the body losing or gaining energy to the surrounding water. Skin is a conductor which means it allows energy to be gained or lost. This is why we wear coats in the winter and not during the summer because the coat insulates us and retains the energy we would otherwise lose to the outside air surrounding us. In the pools, however, little can insulate the occupant from losing energy. So we feel less comfortable in cold or hot water. The water has to be around our core body temperature to feel comfortable to us. In the Thermal baths, there are three different pools called the Fire bath, the Iced bath, and the Sound bath. The Fire bath is a pool filled with hot water that eases the muscles, while the iced bath causes muscles to tense up. Because physics says that heat moves from something warm to something cold, this may be the reason why we react to cold water in such a strange manner. When we are in cold water, we are heating up the surrounding water through shivering, allowing our body to adjust to the water temperature. The same goes for the Fire bath. As the water is heating us up, the energy from the pool is being transferred into our bodies to equal out the difference. This explains why our bodies are hot when we get out of a hot shower. So when the occupant moves from the Fire bath to the Iced bath, the water feels colder than if they had just went into the Iced bath first followed by the Fire bath. The body has to lose more energy to become equal to the temperature of the water as the body gained more energy from the hotter waters of the Fire bath. In a way, our bodies act in the same way as the concrete, absorbing and losing energy to maintain the same temperature of the surroundings.

Diagram of Energy Transfer from the Earth to the Slab of concrete and water

Peter Zumthor channeled energy that essentially came from the rock on which the building sat on. We traced the creation of heat from the center of the earth to the springs, the concrete, the water, and finally the human body to give a unique experience in feeling comfort, relaxation, and peace in such extreme conditions. As the Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, we saw that energy was just passed between two objects with speed of transfer depending on the material it is going through. Any energy used is given back in some form. To take it a step further and to look within the human body, skin cells have receptors. When a stimulus reaches the receptor (let’s say temperature), the receptor the fires signals (which uses energy) to neurons, which relays those signals to the brain. The brain sends the message to all muscles stating to shiver, jump, or relax, giving back the energy that set off the receptor. In the process of relaying the messages, the billions of neurons that acted as a telephone wire are covered with covered with myelin sheath, which insulate the electrical signal so that no energy is lost and is the reason why our brain responds so fast. So if the water was extremely hot as we stepped in, we would immediately step back just as fast as we stepped in.

Shows the structure of the Neuron
Shows the pathway a stimulus would take to cause a reflex. This same diagram can be used to show the pathway it would take to cause shivering or sweating.
The energy loss and gain of the body
The energy loss and gain of the body

“Thermal Spa.” Archidose. N.p., June 1991. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <;.

Wallace, O. Wise Geek. Ed. Bronwyn Harris. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <;.

Bziotas, Euripides. “Therme Vals by P. Zumthor Concept.” Scribd. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <;.

Energy Diagrams

On a typical summer day in the Hampton Roads area, I am awaken from my sleep with the help of my alarm clock, then I proceed to take a hot shower and watch TV. I begin to text on my cell phone and relax inside the comfort of my home with great pleasure as the air conditioning creates white noise as it cools the air inside the house. Within a few hours, I start to feel hungry and turn on the stove to cook my lunch. Everything I just did required some sort of energy. Where did it come from?

Energy arises from the collecting, burning, and combining of elements to produce a reaction that release energy. This energy is then used to turn generators and produce electricity which is distributed to customers throughout the region. For me, the regional producer of electricity is the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, in Surry County, Virginia. Nuclear power plants produce energy by splitting atoms. The reaction created by the splitting of these atoms releases a large amount of energy to run turbines and generators. Dominion Power regulates the output of electricity for the State of Virginia. As the electricity makes its way from the power plant, it begins to lose energy because no insulation is one hundred percent efficient in its capacity to retain energy. The electricity makes its way to the local power station where it then is directed to the house and out from the individual outlets to the various equipment. Every appliance use a different amount of electricity and has a different efficiency in retaining that energy for use. A cell phone is more efficient than an oven because of the amount of energy a cell phone is able to store and not lose by other means.

The diagram above explains the energy consumption as well as the energy lost throughout the system. Some waste, such as water, is renewable, while others like the nuclear rods are nonrenewable. Anyone can have an impact, large or small, within the web of energy. At the human scale, I can use milder water temperature instead of my usual scalding hot water temperature when showering to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the water. On a larger scale of the house, we can use air ventilation to cool the house instead of an air conditioning unit, even though this would not be as plausible in the humid summers here in Virginia compared the summers in Boston. Only in an idealized world. This lessens the load on the electrical grid as well as lessens the amount of air lost through the insulation of the house. On the largest scale, the regional, instead of using nuclear power to generate electricity, we can rely on solar power to generate electricity. This lowers or eliminates waste energy due to the fact that the sun is a renewable source. It also doesn’t run the risk of causing cancer (maybe skin cancer) in the event of a malfunction. Another renewable source of energy along the coast of Virginia would be to install off shore wind turbines harnessing the winds coming off of the ocean or bay. If everyone makes these little changes, we can lessen our energy waste and create a safer way of harvesting energy.