Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vertical Farming and ETFE

9 May 2012: There was a Vertical Farming conference in the University, and I spent all day at it, with some of my students. It's very important to our Tall Building Studio, and we have had students doing vertical farming (of one sort or another) for as long as I have been doing Tall Buildings - not all of them, but it always gets chosen by a few. Some do it very well. Now that the University of Nottingham is taking a leading role in the UK in promoting the idea, we shall all be even better informed about it.
Vertical Pharmaceutical farm proposal by Rob Streather of my
Tall Building design studio, June 2011
VF does not automatically mean tall buildings, but it does accept that we need to stack growing spaces in urban locations and on rooftops to meet the demands of growing population, obtain greater productivity, and shorten food miles. The science of Hydroponics, Aquaponics, Vaquaculture, Vermiponics and the like are advancing quickly, and are being integrated in ingenious ways. Buildings are very expensive when the client is vegetables, worms or fish, so the most likely implementations of the idea are likely to be either in very light frame buildings, or by adaptation of disused factories and empty high rises.

Holscot and ETFE:
While at the conference, I met the company Holscot who are a leading R & D and manufacturer of applications of ETFE (Ethylene Tetra Fluoro Ethylene) which is strong clear plastic sheet with exceptional toughness and transparency. I wish I had used it last summer. I thought of it, but didn't feel I would be able to obtain such a small quantity or get a suitable construction detail.
  Holscot can provide double glazed panels (as in the picture) with a light aluminium frame (of any reasonable dimension), and they do not need an inflated cushion - the sheets is heat shrinkable, so will fit tightly to the frame and not require inflation (although it is better with light inflation, but they can provide that too.)
  These could almost be a direct swap with the existing front panels of the Sunbox. with something like 98% transparency, allowing maximum solar heat to fall on the black chillers. This would make the Sunbox almost as efficient in sunlight as if it was uncovered altogether.
  There will be scaffolding up for the house extension, if we ever build it! I have written to Holscot to ask for a special deal on replacement front panels.

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