Sunday, November 8, 2009

Diggable City

A quick post of something we seem to have not covered:

An example from the always enviable Portland, Oregon, where the city's land was surveyed and inventoried to determine the portion of the city that could be utilized for urban agriculture.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ted Talks of Resistance

Talks of Resistance Relating to Several of our Posts.

Adam Grosser
[Refrigeration without Electricity]

William McDonough [Cradle to Cradle Design]

Mark Bittman [Food as Malnutrition]

Carolyn Steele [Hungry City]

Ann Cooper [School Lunches]

Ray Anderson [Sustainable Business Model]

Michael Pollan [Oil-Based Food]

Dennis vanEngelsdorp [Bees]

Thailand Environment Institute

Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Year: 1993-Present

Founder:Bangkok Metropolitan Administration

TEI was founded in 1993 as an NGO to "green" Thailand, focusing on sustainable development in Bangkok. Because of the rapid growth of the city in the prior two decades over 35% of the land in the city was vacant and thus identified for urban agriculture, green space, and forestry. The projects undertaken by TEI are highlighted chronologically here. This is a completely different urban setting for large scale urban agriculture projects in comparison to developed cities because one-third of the city does not have access to water or sewage treatment. The three phases of the project were to map the potential green space in the city, involve the local community through participatory planning, and implementation through local governments. The program also used indicator metrics of 1. Establishing an Urban Green Plan, 2. Community Capacity Building, 3. Poverty Reduction, 4. Links with Government, and 5. Status of Women, 6. Developing a Model for Other Communities. Though most of these are not activities of resistance, the focus on Poverty Reduction and the Status of Women are significant gestures in the developing world, especially in a city and culture known for its exploitation. This is additionally important with as much as 60% of income in the developing city going towards food expenses.

Projects include using an abandoned soccer field for ten families to grow food for themselves and sell the excess at a street market. Others included planting along a canal and clearing overgrown spaces. The sites proved sustainable and received additional investment from the local community in terms of diversifying crops and maximizing use of the available space. These were featured in Entrepreneur Magazine.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Victory Gardens

Location:San Fransisco Date: 2008
Designed:Local government

Victory gardens 2008 is a pilot project that the city of San Fransisco funded to support and encourage the transition of backyards, front yards, window boxes, rooftops and unused or left over land into organic food production areas.

The project builds on the successful Victory Garden, also called war gardens and/ or food gardens for defense during WWI and WWII. these gardens were planted with vegetables, fruits, herbs and others in private residences across the united states, United Kingdom Canada and Germany. their purpose was to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort plus to aid the war effort by keeping the morale of empowerment and labor contribution high.

The City of San Francisco redefine "Victory" in a new context as "growing food at home for increased local food security and reducing the food miles associated with the average American meal". 15 households were picked from a diverse background and participated in the program to be run again in 2009. In addition to that the Victory Gardens program created a quarter-acre, edible, ornamental landscape in front of San Francisco’s City Hall.

Urban Space Station

Designed by:Natalie Jeremijenko and Ángel Borrego.

This prototype of a parasite for urban buildings was designed to "sequester the carbon dioxide emissions from buildings and return oxygen-enriched air in exchange" and is presented as the final frontier.

It addresses New York City's existing buildings, approximately 750000, which account for nearly 80 percent of New York City’s total carbon dioxide output.

Redesigning urban socio-ecological systems means dealing with the dense array of competing interests

The prototype recognizes and addresses such problems as constrained zoning requirements, and "prohibitive construction and maintenance costs that are dominated by tremendous human capital costs" and states in opposition that the energy cost in demolition, site clearance and rebuilding any (or many) of these structures costs almost 3 times as rehabilitating these.

The installation and study bases its research on the knowledge that "the world largest cities while occupying only 2% of the surface area account for 75% of the worlds carbon emission; by 2008, for the first time, more than half of the globe’s population will reside in urban contexts" . yet density, vertical population stacking coupled with mass transit is the most carbon-efficient lifestyles. "New Yorkers, produce 71 percent less carbon dioxide per capita than the average American placing the need to continue improving this type of dwelling within a complex socio-ecological realm, is worth exploring".

Therefor the USS Interprise purpose is described as a product "to reimagine and reengineer our relationship to the urban ecological systems, now; to demonstrate, promote and advance closed and coupled system design for major improvements in resources cycling (a principle that can be widely applied if it can be concretely communicated to nonengineers); to produce a glamorous highly functional new space / facility that will seize, excite and engage the public ; to exploit the environmental services and functionality of vegetation and engineering microlandscapes; to provide and maximize habitat and nutritional resources for nonhuman organism with whom we increasingly share urban space (including small mammals, birds; insects; soil microbes; and aerobiology); to facilitate urban agriculture and beyond: to facilitate our productive interdependence with diverse organisms (beyond instrumental calorie production); and, perhaps, most critically, to invite and maximize the participation and potential of a new generations of human capital for hands-on engagement with redesigning our urban environmental systems."

USS is designed as a closed approach of a space station for an urban agriculture facility for urban roof systems with an open green roof. it is designed to address the structural constraints of a roof space with specific focus on loads coupled with the use of HVAC CO2 enriched output air and capturing more radiative heat energy. Its form is designed to to maximize radiative heat and internal thermal distribution etc. in addition the space station can generate its own energy plus provide a surplus of energy to the building.


Location:Wuhan, China
Designed by: Knafo Klimmer architects
Winning entry: Living Steel Website

Agro-housing combines urban and rural living together by designing vertical greenhouse spaces within high-rise apartment building.

The concept was developed because of concern for prediction by the United nations that state that 50% of China's one billion people will live in its cities, a common trend in many developing countries in the world.

The design challenges the 'new' strains on energy resources, infrastructure, and community displacemnet by presenting a new urban and social vision. The representation of a new building typology that will create a new order in the city creates as a space close to homes where families can produce their own food supply according to "their own abilities, tastes and choices to promote independent living, freedom and potentially provide additional income".

Moreover these greenhouse spaces provide a gathering space for the community. Agro-housing is one project but is meant to become a model for a new urbanity in China, contributing to the preservation of traditions and community values and diminishing the trials of rural migration.

The architects list a few advantages for this innovative building typology,some are:

Produces food for tenants and the surrounding community.

Produces organic and healthy food that is disease and fertilizer free

Creates an abundance of crops for self-consumption and sale for the neighbors.

Requires no special skill set for greenhouse operation

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Redesign Your Farmers’ Market

Since 2006 GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits that have been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who care about health cities and the environment..

This website is an ongoing exploration of what GOOD is and what it can be. they recently ran a competition that asked for design solutions that would help food grown by local farmers to be more effectively delivered and distributed to urban residents.

the winner 'Farm on Wheels' by Mia Lehrer + Associates is a simple proposal that targets the problem effectively and creatively. It is mobile vending concept consisting of a fleet of electric trucks dispatched from three permanent markets to disperse fresh produce more effectively in Los Angeles.

The program selects fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and distributes the produce through a network of farm trucks. To engage more people in the consumption of fresh foods and support local and urban agriculture, Farm on Wheels creates a simplified and convenient food distribution network between farmers and consumers.


The small town of Ludlow in western England has a pioneering anaerobic digestion plant.
Run by BiogenGreenfinch the plant is intended to deal with the food-waste crisis at the same time as generating clean, renewable energy. The process works by the use of microbes that thrive in the absence of oxygen break down the organic matter, releasing methane as they do so Inside metal tanks.
these microbes are an opportunity in the struggle to deal with unwanted food.
The process starts with the waste being pulverised and then pumped through four processing tanks. These are linked to each other by pipes channeling gas, fluid and solids to their particular destinations.
Once the microbes have completed their job, in about a month or so , the organic waste comes out and farmers collect it and spread it on the land. “The methane is burned to create electricity and hot water, or it can be pumped directly into gas mains, or bottled and used as vehicle fuel.For every ton of food waste, the Ludlow plant generates 255kWh of renewable electricity, which it sells to Marks & Spencer, saving 110kg of carbon-dioxide emissions.”
In addition A government-commissioned study in 2007 identified “that if this system were extended to all households, it could provide between 0.5 and 1 per cent of Britain’s domestic electricity. Plus, this would avoid sending the waste to rot in landfill sites, where the methane can escape into the atmosphere, acting as a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”
The difficulty is that anaerobic digestion plants are costly to build and complex to run.

Omega Garden's

video links:

Omega Hydroponic Garden is a mega Garden system that can make high tech urban gardening economically feasible and actually more energy efficient than growing outdoors.

Omega Garden's Carousel system rotates the plants around the bulb and they claim "Using green power sources coupled with local consumption of the goods produced, would generate close to zero fossil fuel inputs compared to the present system of production with farm tractors, pesticides, a 1500 mile farm to market transportation statistic per food shelf item, along with packaging, refrigeration, etc., all of which are heavily dependent on fossil fuel inputs."

In addition to claiming that the process and strategy reduces water consumption by 99% and eliminates runoff.

Moreover the rotation of the plants actually increases the yield significantly. They explain this by declaring that "Geotropism relates to the effect of gravity on plant growth hormones called Auxins... if plants are continually rotated horizontally top to bottom these Auxins are evenly distributed throughout the plant aiding in plant growth and strength. The distribution of Auxins due to plant rotation increases plant growth rates by several times that of a stationary plant assuming that all other factors are equal. This phenomenon has been termed "Orbitropism" by Omega Garden Int.".


Location: USA

due to the difficulty of identifying the pesticides used and the route taken to grow and transport food to our local supermarket, foods grown locally make are safer for those who want more control over what they put into their bodies.

In addition locally grown food helps in the fight against global warming.Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture states that "the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there".

Moreover eating locally benefits the local economy and farmers in particular.
according to treehuggers website ( "farmers on average receive only 20 cents of each food dollar spent...the rest going for transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing".

website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodiesare more common now and help you make easier decisions about eating healthy.

one such website is local harvest which helps you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies by just typing in your zip code, city, or state.





URL: or

Sourcemap is an open project

You might have been advised that buying local is "greener". You might have also heard the counter-arguments that state that efficiently made and transported products might be more sustainable than a local product. But if you don't know where your stuff comes from then you have no way of comparing.

SOURCE MAP is an attempt and project to create a platform for researching, optimizing and sharing the supply chains behind products. It believes that people need to be aware and have the right to know where things come from and not only where they are put together. Source map assumes that because we don’t know those details, we are more likely to make unintentionally unsustainable choices. It recognizes that it’s nearly impossible to find out how products and services impact the earth and society and believes that source map will help. Even though source map does not seem to be limited to food maps it suggests a possible new way of eating sustainably.

Public Farm 1 (PF1)

Location: NYC-USA

Years: 2008

Funded by: MoMA/PS1 Young Architect Program

Designed by:
WORK Architecture Company

In the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center's courtyards , the temporary installation introduced a functioning urban farm in the form of a folded plane built entirely of biodegradable and recyclable materials .

In addition the farm was powered by solar energy and irrigated by a rooftop rainwater collection system that kept the project off the city's grid.

PF1 combines infrastructure with public space, engaging and challenging the users to re-imagine and question rural engagement in urban environments.
The installation was grown picked and used within a commercial farmer’s market. plantings included basil, lavender, mint, rhubarb, strawberries, broccoli, watermelon and herbs. at the same time the project provided shade over pools of water with the well designed and interesting 'daisy' pattern.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Vertical Farm Project

Location: International
Director: Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D.

Vertical Farm Video

The Vertical Farm Project is active in proposing solutions to the increased food demand and decreased agricultural land supply that will result from the growing population. It is a project based out of Columbia University’s Environmental Health Science department that serves as a sort of drop box for architects’ proposals on how to feed urban populations throughout the world. Their argument is that indoor farming is advantageous because it protects crops from natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts which destroy millions of tons of harvestable crops each year.

Advantages of Vertical Farming:
* Year-round crop production; 1 indoor acre is equivalent to 4-6 outdoor acres or more, depending upon the crop (e.g., strawberries: 1 indoor acre = 30 outdoor acres)
No weather-related crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests
* All food is grown organically: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers
*virtually eliminates agricultural runoff by recycling black water
*returns farmland to nature, restoring ecosystem functions and services
*greatly reduces the incidence of many infectious diseases that are acquired at the agricultural inter face
*converts black and gray water into potable water by collecting the water of
*adds energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible
parts of plants and animals
*dramatically reduces fossil fuel use (no tractors, plows, shipping.)
*converts abandoned urban properties into food production centers
*creates sustainable environments for urban centers
*creates new employment opportunities

Organic Consumers Association

Location: USA
Years: 1998-present
National Director: Ronnie Cummins

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit public interest organization campaigning for health, justice and sustainability. They were formed in 1998 after the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed controversial national regulations for organic food. The OCA is currently working on 12 campaigns which promote the organic lifestyle by pushing for stronger food regulations, among other things.

The OCA’s overall political prgram is the Organic Agenda 2015 which is a six point platform calling for:

*The conversion of American agriculture to at least 30% organic by the year 2015, including major reforms in agricultural subsidies and appropriations to help family farmers make the transition to organic, develop local and regional markets, and adopt renewable energy practices.
*Fair Trade and economic justice, not so-called corporate-driven “Free Trade” as the global norm.
*A global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops.
*A phase-out of the most dangerous industrial agriculture and factory farming practices.
*Universal health care with an emphasis on prevention, nutrition, and wellness promotion.
* Energy independence and the conversion of US and global agriculture, transportation, and utilities to conservation practices and renewable energy.