Vertical Farm Arcology Is A Self-Sufficient Urban Environment


All images courtesy Gordon Graff

One of the concerns expressed about Gordon Graff's vertical farm concept shown in a previous post was the lack of connection to the surrounding urban environment. In fact, Graff has designed a vertical farm project that is an arcology, or a " a web of symbiotic resource flow relationships that enable the building to operate with a self-sufficiency similar to that of ecological systems." Graff writes:

The residential units demand food, water (both potable and non-potable), fresh air, and electricity, while expelling biowaste, waste water, and carbon-dioxide rich air. The vertical farm produces food, potable water, oxygen-rich air, biowaste, and waste water while demanding non-potable water, carbon-dioxide rich air, elemental nutrients, and electricity. Anaerobic digesters would consume the dual streams of biowaste to produce the dually demanded electricity, as well as the elemental nutrients needed by the vertical farm.


The form of Agro-arcology is largely that of the mixed-use condominium typology, bifurcated by a glazed vertical farm. Ranging from three to fifteen storeys, the size of the building's eight residential 'wings' have been designed to maximize access to sunlight, while also achieving the high densities warranted by a proximity to the downtown core.

The roofs of Agro-arcology have been designed for community garden plots, measuring a combined 5,200 m2. The elevated position ensures excellent light throughout the growing season, while nutrient-rich digestates supplied by the anaerobic digester offer a readily available source of soil fortifier.

The scale of the farm was determined by the space required to produce a high percentage of the basic caloric needs for each of the 1,000 residents year-round, with sufficient saleable surplus to cover the vertical farm's cost of operation.


So we have a complete system: The building takes waste from the residents, converts it to methane to run the generators that run the farm, giving back fertilizer for the rooftop allotment gardens and food from the vertical farm portion.

Waste water is circulated through the Living Machine and condensed by the dehumidifiers and returned to the residents. Graff writes:

Architect Paolo Soleri's extensive work with the arcology concept in the latter half of the 20th century largely sidestepped this issue, owing to the lack of a technological means to apply urban self-containment to agriculture. Thanks to the emergence of the technologies associated with vertical farming we now have the means to provide all essential resources for urban living - food, fresh water, fresh air, and energy - from on-site processes disconnected from natural ecosystems.

We are so used to sucking our resources in one end and pushing our waste out the other, all out of sight, out of mind. There is real logic in combining this kind of vertical farming, that not only provides us with food but also with water and electricity, into our cities and our architecture.

More on Gordon Graff and Vertical Farms:
Sky Farm Proposed for Downtown Toronto
More Detail on Gordon Graff's Skyfarm
Vertical Farms: Not Just Green Eye Candy, They Can Actually Work

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Tags: Architects | Toronto

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