by Dan Albert
At a time when the world ponders how to feed its nine billion people, Seattle architects Weber Thompson have designed a Vertical Farm for the Garden State to help solve that problem. The Newark Vertical Farm (NVF) a radically new prototype for Newark, NJ, illustrates the ideas promoted by Dr. Dickson Despommier for an approach to high capacity controlled environment urban farming. Principal Peter David Greaves, AIA, LEED AP and Ecological Designer Dan Albert, Associate ASLA, LEED AP and Dr. Despommier made a presentation of the design to government officials including Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Stefan Pryor and City Councilman Donald Payne, Jr., along with leaders from the Greater Newark Conservancy and Brick City Development Corporation.
The term “Vertical Farm” was originally coined by Dr. Dickson Despommier at Columbia University. The vertical farming concept begins with a simple idea: grow food in a climate-controlled multistory building free of pollutants, pesticides and seasons while producing the highest-quality produce in an urban environment. The Vertical Farm, designed to supplement the existing food supply while bringing more healthful products to our cities, is but one of a host of solutions needed to address the complexities of bringing food to people. Despommier envisions buildings filled with stacked soil-less growing systems designed to produce the maximum yield and eliminate contamination. This concept has been illustrated by designs ranging from 10-story structures to dragonfly wing-inspired behemoths that tower over Manhattan.
The Newark Vertical Farm represents not only the next generation for Urban Agriculture and Vertical Farming but also an approach to design which incorporates integrated and overlapping sustainable design features. More than just a Vertical Farm, it is a research and development program for sustainable design in an urban context. It is an open system designed to attract any number of features for both demonstration and research into the best ideas for sustainable design of our cities. Both a demonstration project and a laboratory, NVF is envisioned to be a flexible armature for uses relating to vertical farming, urban agriculture, sustainable design and energy efficiency. The main building contains the vertical greenhouse, and research labs separated by a full height atrium for light and ventilation. The greenhouse space contains high intensity soilless growing systems and is designed to be flexible and adaptable. The ground floor showcases a demonstration green house for public interaction while the upper floors serve as an agricultural laboratory. The purpose of the building is to develop, test, and educate with the ultimate goal of a commercially viable building type.
The site is also designed to showcase sustainable site strategies in an urban environment. The buildings and the site are oriented to maximize solar exposure, with the Vertical Farm green house section facing due south and the more conventional urban agriculture plot with south to north rows. The spaces are arranged in a series of overlapping rooms that allow both observation and function to coexist. The parcel is organized to create numerous opportunities for both demonstration and research platforms relating to the study of vertical farming, urban agriculture, urban gardens, water conservation, constructed wetlands, on-site power generation, and more. The site, like the buildings, is designed to attract a range of uses and to be adaptable as these uses evolve over time.
Dr. Despommier, Peter Greaves and Dan Albert have spoken of the Vertical Farm concept and emerging ideas about urban agriculture at a number of conferences including The King County Government Confluence and the Living Futures 2010 unConference. Dr. Despommier and Dan Albert will also be on a panel this coming fall at the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design on September 29th in New York, NY. This is the second prototype vertical farm structure designed by Weber Thompson. Their Eco-Laboratory project has won numerous national and regional awards.
Dr. Dickson Despommier is the author of The Vertical Farm: Feeding Ourselves and the World in the 21st Century to be released by Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press on October 12, 2010.
For more information on the rationale behind Vertical Farms please see:
A new use for urban high-rises: farming by Dan Albert
The Vertical Farm Project - Dickson Despommier
All images: Copyright © 2010 Weber Thompson, PLLC All Rights Reserved
Figure 1: Overall view of Newark Vertical Farm site.
Figure 2: View of vertical farm from community center terrace, with conventional urban agriculture field to right.
Figure 3: Interior view of atrium with vertical farm to left.
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