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Lecture on world food supply and vertical farming.

University of Applied Arts Vienna, Institute of Architecture, Department of Energy Design. 11.04.2016

BEFORE SUNRISE frames influencing parameters for the development of a new building typology – the vertical farm – at the edge of physics, plant physiology and architecture. The food sector which supplies citizens with energy stands at the beginning of every discussion on energy efficiencies of urban systems. Energy consumption, land use and waste of resources of this sector must be regarded and taken into account to make cities resilient.

Vertical farming has been an issue of controversial discussion since the publication of the manifesto written by Dickson Despommier. “BEFORE SUNRISE – VERTICAL FARMING” sketches key parameters influencing a typological development of vertical farms. In addition the presentation opens discussions on a raison d‘être for vertical farming by analysing the current situation of world agriculture in terms of energy consumption, land use, its consequences of increasing productivity on the actual agricultural land in use and also the potential increase of natural land conversion into arable land, exploiting the total biocapacity of the world.
World total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2014 was around 550 Exajoule (EJ).
A third of this is consumed by the food sector. For every calorie we need to cover our daily energy requirement, we consume nearly six calories of total primary energy. One percent of the global landmass is defined as built-up land, where with the exception of a small percentage of indigenous populations, more than 7 billion people live. The area required to supply the world population with food is ten times higher. In other words: Each square meter of new-planned city asks for more than ten new square meters of agricultural land to supply urban population with food.

World population will continue to grow over the next decades, reaching a plateau in 2075 (9.22 billion) before it starts to decline. This presentation introduces in plant physiology and parameters influencing the energy performance of a vertical farm. Results indicate potentials of vertical farms to increase the overall energy efficiency of cities if crops are chosen properly and new design parameters for the building typology have been taken into account.
Very rarely the architect has the opportunity to think about a new building typology. Skyscrapers, shopping malls and airports were the new typologies of the 20th century. The typology of the vertical farm is one of the most promising and challenging one for the resilient city of the 21st century. The United Nations 2030 Agenda calls for global action. Economic inclusion, social development and environmental protection are key drivers for the resilient city. The vertical farm is a structural element of the urban system, situated in the centre. It becomes part of the daily social life. It is an expression of bundled material- and energy flows between environmental influences and the existing urban life.

Daniel Podmirseg studied at TU Wien, University of Applied arts an at the Academy of fine arts, Institute for Art and Architecture where he graduated with “SPUROPE 2050”, a vertical farm for London, supported by Prof. Markus Schäfer. His dissertation (“up! Contribution of Vertical Farms to increase the overall Energy Efficiency of Cities”) was developed at the Institute for Buildings and Energy and supported by Prof. Brian Cody and defended with distinction in winter 2015. He is research fellow and teaches at the Intitute for Buildings and Energy, Graz Univeristy of Technology and head and founder of VFI, vertical farm institute in Vienna.