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Thesis Proposal 2010-11 :: Vertical Farming Complex -

Place making with alternative methods of food production

Tom Foley
Introduction :: The Vertical Farm - An alternative to tomorrows food crisis

A simple equation - A difficult problem

Right now, to feed humanity, we use land equivalent to the size of South
America to grow and harvest our food

By 2050 it is predicted that the worlds population will have grown to 9.5
billion people, necessitating the cultivation of another 2.1 billion acres of

Ultimately, this amount of land needed to feed the growing population is

not available.
The question than becomes - Where and how will we get the food we
need? (Despommier 80)
The challenge - Transforming the industrial machine
Controlled burning - Deforestation for farming
The current institution of industrial farming done in Americas breadbasket
and elsewhere in the world, as a major consumer of freshwater and fossil
fuels has led to significant & deleterious problems:

deforestation and agricultural runoff, the overabundance of

green house gases, and a culture, especially in America, of
unhealthy and unsustainable consumption (Despommier 80)

If we are to subsist as a species in the following century and those to come,

it is imperative that we develop modes of agriculture that do less damage to
both the environment and to our own health, while maximizing the usage
of land that is currently available

One such method of production could be that of Vertical Farming

Goals & Objectives :: The Vertical Farm - A new Institution and form of urban infrastructure
Practical Realities

Vertical farming, which proposes stacking acres of crops vertically in high-rises

instead of arraying them over the earths surface, has the potential to avoid & help
reduce many of the aforementioned problems posed by the existing industrial
food complex. Ultimately its aim is not only to produce food but to promote bet-
ter health for both human beings and for the worlds flora & fauna.

The Vertical farm would:

1. Take up a considerably smaller footprint than conventional farms both reduc-

ing the need to deforesting large amounts of land, while also allowing existing
farms to return to their natural state (promoting the absorption of more carbon

2. Be far less damaging to the environment (including ourselves) by avoiding the

use of fossil fuels and smartly eliminating its own waste with that of the city in
which it is located

The citys blackwater along with the excess plant material from the farm itself
could be incinerated generating steam to power turbines. Other renewable energy
sources such as geothermal, wind, and solar energy could be used to power the
farms production

3. With its location in a dense urban center, the vertical farm could eliminate
the need for hauling food from long distances to the point of distribution. This
would allow for a reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels, the lowering of
greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately more affordable food

4. Finally, with the addition of a community garden component, the vertical farm
could empower those who participate to become better informed about what
they eat, promoting on the whole, healthier communities (Despommier 84).

Monoculture of corn - Industrial food complex

Theoretical Issues
At its core, the Vertical farm can be viewed as a political act that subverts the values implicit in indus-
trial food production. Instead of quantity over quality, turning a profit, & the ultimate goal of a
pliable and naive consumer with which to sustain these ends, the Vertical farm, has the potential to
be a didactic agent, encouraging the costumer to think independently, thus making better decisions
when purchasing their food. By bringing the customer in close proximity to their food source, by in-
forming them of how their food is produced, by directly involving people in the production process,
through community gardens and new jobs, the currently alienating act of purchasing food becomes
a source of liberation & empowerment. Ultimately, the goal behind the Vertical farm is a healthier,
more knowledgeable citizenry that acts for the future and not just for the present.

Project Objectives
Goals for designing a vertical farm in Philadelphia are:

1. To ensure healthier, more empowered Philadelphians

2. To promote communal activity. The site at which the vertical farm springs should be a place
of meeting and coming together. It should be a home for the spreading of ideas and the promo-
tion of sustainability as a set of values. The vertical farm and the complex in which it is situated
should respond directly in terms of form/use to the adjacent city fabric while taking into consid-
eration the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods

3. To treat this problem as a problem of infrastructure. The vertical farm has the power to be-
come an important and even essential component of the various systems (energy, water, waste)
that help run this city and all others

4. To, after all else, maximize the towers presence as a symbol evoking its positive, life sustaining
purpose from near and afar

Image Credits
Table of Contents
Precedent Studies

Site Analysis

Programming Models

Functional Relationships

Space Program

Cost Estimate

Code Analysis

Project Schedule
Precedent Study #1
Title : Urban Farm, Urban Epicenter
Location : Located in the Meat Packing district in lower Manhattan,
adjacent to the Highline & river front
Author : Student Project from
Project Issues

Social: The primary focus of this project is to provide a new social infrastruc-
ture that will link people through the production of food (new jobs & ways of
consuming and distributing).
1.) At the towers base there is a major civic plaza. Within there is a great room
where a farmers market and food distribution occur. Also at the base are shops
and retail that continue the adjacent, existing city fabric
2.) With a raised public plinth for farming the tower proper connects to a new
and major public thoroughfare, the Highline
3.) The tower has a substantial mixture of public & private functions. Where
farming is not occurring, on the north side, are public uses such as reading rooms
and lounges. These spaces continue all the way up to a wetlands display, where at
the end there is an observation deck for the general public.
4.) The tower, in plan rotates to achieve views down the Hudson River for both
public and private users

Technological: A secondary focus for the project is that of how one efficiently
grows crops in a conditioned atmosphere, while minimizing energy consumption
1.) Where the farming occurs there is a major southern orientation, allowing for
sunlight to drive much of the growth. Plants are located in plan according to how
much sun exposure they need. In section, the farming area steps back each floor,
allowing for an angled envelope most conducive for solar penetration
2.) The floor plates slope toward the southern most corner carrying water to
plants via gravity.
3.) Offices & residences work in tandem with the water purification section to
eliminate waste and re-use water for hydroponic farming
4.) The towers ventilation is powered by the stack effect drawing air up a large
atrium space allowing it to exit at the buildings midpoint. The small floor plate
at upper floors allow for cross ventilation.
Programmatic Section

Programmatic Relationships: Water Collection

Plan & Section

Mixed use programming
provides for a greater variety Residences Private
of activities within the tower.
They also feed into the Water
Vertical Circulation Purification element, supply-
Programmatic Floor ing it with black/grey water Offices
Farming Support Public Programs
facilities -Reading Areas Communal
-Storage -Book Stacks, Greenhouse
-Labs -Public Lounge
-Working areas Public Observation
-Private Lounge Private Public Water Purification Deck
Farmers Market 1. Anaerobic Septic
Below Tank
2. Aerobic Reactor Public
Sloping floor 3. Clarifier
plate 4. Indoor Wetlands
Vegetable Growth Area
-The floor plates slope
toward the south carrying
water via gravity to plants
& Private/Public
Experimental Farming


Community Gardens/Farming

Farmers Market, Shops, & Civic Plaza Public

Street Level
Precedent Study #2
Title : Experimental Vertical Farm - Urban artificial ecosystem
Location : Santiago, Chile; as a prototype located in wasted urban
areas such as at the intersections of major road/highways where clovers
Author : Student Project from
Project Issues

Social: The social component doesnt express itself in the projects given program
but rather in the exposition - a case is made for why vertical farming can be a
more environmentally responsible solution to the question of food production
than traditional farming, how the thoughtful placement of vertical farms in a city
can turn unproductive vestigial spaces into vital food producing places with posi-
tive identities, & finally how the vertical farm will create new job opportunities
for local residences. The only public program is at the towers base where there
is an array of gardens & the distribution center, which functions as the public
Technological: While the previous project stressed the public connections the
vertical farm as a typology must make with its surrounds, this project places
emphasis on the VFs role as a major source of food, and thus on the buildings
overall efficiency. The intention is for it to function just as a natural ecosystem
would using sunlight, wind, & gravity to do the work rather than fossil fuels.
1.) The programmatic layout in section works to streamline production so that
the plants/crops are always traveling downward in the production process
2.) Like with the other project the floor plates for the actual growing of plants are
sloped to efficiently carry water & air
3.) More emphasis is placed in this project on the building skin and how it will
capture and store heat for ventilation purposes
4.) There is less concern or sensitivity, than with the first project, to how sun
actually penetrates the building skin and what angle or form the skin might take
on to optimize that penetration
5.) Plants are located within each floor plate according to how much light they
Programmatic Section

Programmatic Relationships: Energy collection Private

Solar panels
Plan & Section The programmatic layout in sec-
tion mimics the industrial food
production model:
Crop Unit
The main floor plate in agri- 1. Food production- plants
cultural production slops so as harvest energy to grow
to more efficiently distribute 2. Harvesting & processing-
water and air via gravity taking the plant, cleaning it,
making it ready for consumption
3. Distribution of product-
moving the plants to local
distributors Agricultural Production
1. Planting
2. Maintenance Private
3. Harvest

Floor plate Floor of air & water

Central Core
Programmatic Floor 1. main plumbing/ventilation
2. storage
Plan 3. freight elevators
Cleaning & Private
4. walkways from floor to floor Simple processing

Crop area Storage Private

Building skin
Plants located in dif-
The double skin acts as a
ferent zones per how
trombe wall capturing and
much light/radiation
controlling heat gain - helping
they need
to maintain constant tempera- Private
tures during the day and night Dispatching & Distributing

Exterior patchwork gardens

Project Site
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Part of what makes vertical farming a viable solu-
tion for the future production of food is the ability
to locate the building close to distributors and
purchasers of produce. Whereas the food which
comprises the average American meal travels 1500 Reading Viaduct
miles from the source to the plate, with the verti-
cal farm it might travel a mile (Pollan). Accord-
ingly, this proximity cuts down tremendously on
fuel consumption.

Locating a vertical farm in Philadelphia, Ive cho-

sen a site that will maximize the vertical farms ef- Independence Mall
fectiveness in this regard. Placing it in an area just
north of the Convention Center that is bounded
by the Vine Street Expressway, the vertical farm
will be closest to the greatest number of people, Rittenhouse Park
right in the heart of Center City.
Schuylkill River Delaware River

It would take just 15 30-story Connections

vertical farms to feed one mil-
lion people (Despommier 85). With a vertical farm at this site there are several important
contextual relationships to consider both at the scale of the
If two towers at this size city and the immediate site -
were erected on site, 134,000 Vine Street
people could be fed covering Current food distributors

Focus Area
well over the residential popu- VF Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphias grocery
lation of Center City, which stores & farmers markets
is 88,000 people. The towers
could also feed some of the Adjacent communities needs
Race Street VF Center City, Chinatown, Loft District
147,000 people who commute
to Center City daily for the
purpose of working Urban pattern
Convention Center VF Within the site (typology, form & scale, historic
import), the immediate context (Hanamen hospi
tal, the Convention Center, the Vine Street
Broad Street

Expressway), the Reading Viaduct

11th Street

Reading Current Infrastructure

Terminal VF Waste management, water & energy supplies, city
transit systems
Immediate Context Buildable land within the site
The site is home to low-rise warehouses, surface parking lots along Vine Street, historic In considering the towers placement within the focus area one
buildings and rowhomes, hotels/lofts, & small scale commercial activity along Race has to look at the current land uses, where there are vacancies,
Street. and what buildings or developments because of their connec-
tions to place & their historic presence must be maintained
Its boarded by three main districts: Chinatown to the east, the Loft District to the
north, & Center City to the south and west The area from which I am drawing a site is currently being
studied by the citys Urban Design Division within the City
Planning Commission - the below diagrams are taken from that
study of which I was a contributing member
Land Use Key

Site Benefits
1. Available parcels which have
gone unbuilt along with many Existing Land Use
Photograph of the area of focus with Benjamin Franklin bridge properties that have derelict &
in the background under-utilized warehouses

2. Proximity to the greatest

Center City number of people; located in
center city

3. Full exposure to the south

(from the convention center)
allowing for natural lighting and
Reading solar energy
Terminal Historic Buildings in blue

Vine St Expressway
Focus Area

11th St

Loft District Arch St
Broad St
Buildable Areas
Programming Models Precedent Programs
Contextual program
Potential VF Program Housing - hotel, lofts, rowhomes, within the VF tower Study #1
Offices - within the VF tower
Farming program Retail - ethnic shops (extension of Chinatown), grocery store, 1. Industrial/experimental farming
Hydroponic growing area farmers market -Farming support facilities
Support facilities - research laboratories, experimental growing +Storage
Building systems - energy collection/generation, waste manage- Community program +Labs
ment, ventilation, water circulation Community gardens +Working areas
Vertical circulation - general/freight elevators, fire stairs Outreach - educational facilities, community rooms, observa- +Private lounge
Administration - offices, lounges, kitchen, reception tion deck -Hydroponic growing area
Packing & Distribution - processing, loading area, crop storage Civic plaza/Great room -Public outreach
+Reading areas
+Book stacks

Packing & Distributions

+Public Lounge
Hydroponic growing

Community gardens
Vertical circulations
2. Tower base
Building systems
Support facilities

Administrations -Community gardens

Adjacency Key -Farmers market

Civic spaces


-Civic plaza

Least 3. Water Purification component
-Anaerobic septic tank
Hydroponic growing -Aerobic Reactor
Support facilities -Indoor Wetlands
4. Public observation deck
Building systems 5. Communal greenhouse
6. Offices
Vertical circulations 7. Residences
8. Water collection component
Study #2
Packing & Distributions
1. Agricultural Production
Housing -Support area
Offices +Plumbing
+Freight elevators
Retail -Hydroponic growing area
2. Tower base
Community gardens
-Dispatching & distribution
-Community gardens
3. Crop storage
Civic space/Great room 4. Packing facilities
5. Solar energy collection
Project Issues Some questions & problems
1. What program should be included to serve the surrounding communities?
Community Technology Site Outreach Phasing Form
Would the Chinatown community participate in community gardening?
Chinatown Growing of Building Educational Towers Scale What about the artist community located in the Loft District?
crops context interface What measures could be taken to help extend Chinatown west & even
Loft District Overall Height north via the vertical farming complex?
Hydroponics Rowhomes Surrounding complex
Center City communities Volume 2. What program should be included to serve the visitors to the Convention
Drip Historic Housing center?
Convention Irrigation Buildings Gardening Relationship
Center guests programs Offices to City Hall What kind of activities or level of public engagement should the project
tourists Aeroponics Lofts commit itself to, to draw in visitors, to make a lasting impression?
Tourism Retail Expression
Physical links Energy Warehouses interface 3. What kind of natural energy sources are available to this project - being
harvesting Small busi- Physical Structure located in Center City Philadelphia?
Program ness Farming/food connections
connections Waste production across Vine St Building skin If waste incineration is a major renewable energy producer for the
incineration Surface display/tours Exwy vertical farm as a building type - How can one manage this process in a
Destination parking lots Plant growth densely populated urban area? How can one harvest waste from the sur-
Solar, wind Agricultural Community rounding area?
Gardens & geothermal Vine St Ex- school gardens Human
energy pressway activity 4. How should the vertical farm as a high-rise structure relate to the existing
Roman Convention fabric of rowhomes & small historic buildings?
Building skin Reading Catholic Center Procession/
Viaduct High School connections experience/ How should the buildings base both in suggested program & scale relate
Sunlight image to that fabric? What kind of gestures should the tower proper make to
Convention Presence on mitigate the consequential difference in size?
Ventilation Center Broad St & For tourist/
Vine St Exwy visitor 5. What physical use of or connection to the Convention Center can be made?
Irrigation/wa- City Hall,
ter collection Broad St, For As a continuous surface of several city blocks exposed throughout the
Center City, Philadelphian day to sunlight, could the Convention Centers roof be co-opted to grow
Waste Reading crops?
management Terminal For local
Market 6. What relationship should the complex take on with the Vine St Expressway
Structure/ Civic space/ & Reading Viaduct?
building Hanamen Great room
materials hospital With the City looking into the Reading Viaduct as a candidate for
Views down reinvestment, can a move be made to bridge the expressway, engaging
Vertical Roman the river the Viaduct as a productive landscape for the growing of food? How
circulation Catholic can this connection also result in making a pedestrian place out of the
High School expressway helping to connect rather than separate what is to its north
and south?
Functional Relationships
Potential VF Program
Hydroponic growing

Support facilities - SF Reading Viaduct

Building systems - BS

Vertical circulation - VC Community gardens

Civic space/Great room Hydroponic growing - Solar/water collection
Administration Living & Retail
Farmers Market
Packing & Distribution P&D
Convention Center

Office N
Retail Programmatic Site Plan
Community gardens Solar/water
Public observation deck
Community space 500 - Height of
Civic space/Great room City Hall

Option 1
Living/ BS Hydroponic growing
Offices Support facilities
& Administration
Great View
Programmatic Site Section Hydroponic growing - Solar/water collection

Community gardens Community gardens Civic space/Great room
Living & Retail Convention Center
Living & Retail Outreach
Farmers Market
Reading Viaduct P&D
Vine St Expressway
Buildable areas Potential phasing of the complex


Vine St Expressway 4 Connection

1 to Viaduct
Community gardens
Living & Retail

Programmatic 1
Programmatic Floor Plan Section cut Tower

St 2
Convention Hydroponic growing -
Center Solar/water collection
BS & VC Solar/water
Hydroponic growing
Public observation deck
500 - Height of
Community space
City Hall

Option 2
Living/ BS Hydroponic growing
Offices Support facilities
& Administration

Programmatic Site Section Solar/water collection

Civic space/Great room
Community gardens Outreach
Living & Retail Farmers Market Community gardens Convention Center
P&D Living & Retail
Reading Viaduct
Vine St Expressway
Space Program for Tower Support facilities
Administration 30 floors @ Space Allocations
Tower Program Gross sqft 30 floors @ 16,500 sqft
6,600 sqft
Hydroponic growing 495,000 sqft

Support facilities
198,000 sqft
Building systems growing
72,000 sqft 30 floors @
Vertical circulation 16,500 sqft
Packing & Distribution

Outreach 180,000 sqft

Civic space/Great room Vertical Circulation

Building systems Civic space
Housing 36 floors @ Outreach
495,000 sqft 2,000 sqft Farmers Market
Offices P&D
4 floors @
Tower Total 1,440,000 sqft 45,000 sqft

Maximum Living/
BS & VC Solar/water
500 tall Hydroponic growing
36 floors @ Public observation deck
500 - Height of
Community space
45,000 sqft per floor City Hall

Option 2
Living BS Hydroponic growing
Offices Support facilities
& Administration

Programmatic Site Section

Civic space/Great room
Community gardens
Convention Living & Retail
Farmers Market Community gardens
Center P&D Living & Retail
Reading Viaduct
Vine St Expressway
Code Analysis Work Cited
Despommier, Dickson. The Rise of Vertical Farms. Scientific American 301.5 (2009):
From the Urban Design Planning report for this area... 80-87. Web.

[The study area falls under a C4 classification]. C4 is a high den- Pollan, Michael. The Omnivores Dilemma: a Natural History of Four Meals. New
sity commercial district that allows mixed use development in high- York: Penguin, 2006. Print.
rise buildings. C4 has its own sign regulations. The basic amount
Woolley, Hillary. Vegetables in the Sky. Fortune International 156 (2007). Web.
of gross floor area permitted is 500%. An additional 800% of gross
floor area is permitted for meeting specific requirements Student projects from

Philadelphia Urban Design draft report from 10/2009

Spring Street Narrative - an Urban Design Study

Schedule/final product

Date Goals - By this date

Final Program -Revise program based upon given criticism

09/13/2010 -Begin to consider the final program and its relationship to the site in terms of its restrictions/affordances

Fall Group Review -Develop a schematic master plan that synthesizes the previous data gathered, presenting possible layouts and configurations of the current program
10/08/2010 on a given site
-Further accumulate case studies and technical research that will help the project transition from a master planning stage to a design stage

Intermediate Review -While responding to criticism, choose a single master plan option and focus on its preliminary design (volume, form, and aesthetic expression) as a
01/08/2011 whole
-For the vertical farm, allow the accrued technical knowledge acquired by this point to inform decisions made in plan, section, elevation concerning
basic food production, building aesthetics, and occupant experience
-Focus on the vertical farms overall expression, concentrating on its presence as a possible symbolic centerpiece for the complex and city at large

Final Review/Product -After incorporating the suggestions and criticism garnered at the intermediate review, push the architectural/expressionistic qualities of the tower
04/30/2011 and master plan so that an immediate sense of coherency, identity, and place is felt and achieved with the overall design.
-Ensure that the verbal and physical presentation evince the project as a logical, fluid, and transparent progression towards an architectural solution.
-The final product comprised of eye level and aerial perspectives, photo collages, sections/elevations/plans, and physical models will tell a varied
experiential story, demonstrating what the vertical farming complex will be like for those who work, shop, garden, grow, and live within its
physical-symbolic presence.