First Look - Buildings That Grow Food

Spring 2010
Urban planners are considering vertical farms as a way of generating revenue from obsolete, abandoned or condemned sites.

Given the current economy, adaptive re-use of existing buildings is the new darling. Some older properties are refreshed with small retailers looking to save money, some become art galleries for starving artists, still others are just remade into more modern space for workers or residents. But there’s another, less common use – growing food.

Demographics predict that the earth will host 9.5 billion people by 2050. Since each person requires a minimum of 1,500 calories a day, civilization will have to cultivate another 2.1 billion acres if farming continues to be practiced as it is today. Most large cities have obsolete, abandoned or condemned sites that could benefit from such a potential revenue-generating project. New York City, for example, has the former Floyd Bennett Field naval base, a 2.1-square-mile tract abandoned in 1972, and Governors Island, a 172-acre site that the U.S. government recently gave back to the city.

According to the Scientific American, a one-square block farm 30 stories high could yield as much food as 2,400 outdoor acres, with less subsequent spoilage. Existing hydroponic greenhouses such as Eurofresh Farms in Willcox, Ariz., provide a basis for prototype vertical farms now being considered by urban planners in cities worldwide.


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