Clepsydra Urban Farming
Clepsydra is a new building type -–actually an accessory building—a vertical greenhouse that can be linked to existing or new buildings. Within the framework of answering urgent environmental and ecological challenges, Clepsydra serves as a multi-faceted urban development tool to provide food security and community life.
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
Clepsydra tackles issues of: carbon dioxide emission produced by food transportation; food supply; food security, lack of farming land; reduction of water use; food packaging; and community life. Clepsydra satisfies the dietary needs of the host building’s inhabitants while providing them with a fresh air source.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
Clepsydra is a new concept for urban housing: a vertical farm linked through a bridge to host buildings with a scale applicable to new housing developments, existing urban blocks, diverse type of buildings (hospitals, dorms, hotels, supermarkets)… any kind needing food supply or green areas, from which its gray water, heat or other energy source waste can be recycled, becoming cost-effective and environmental friendly. Other applications: herbal medicine farms, flower farms, relax areas for health care buildings, labs for new species’ development.
Supplying food and recycling resources are the keys to this environmentally integrated tool.
To advance vertical farming and make it a truly effective urban design instrument we focus our mechanical engineering research on reaching a passive greenhouse solution. Energy requirements are integrated by solar panels on the roof.
The architectural and mechanical design is completed for a 10-story basic Clepsydra model. The autonomy of the stories facilitates the creation of the appropriate environment for each crop allowing year round production. The 1500 sq ft footprint urban lot prototype produces the equivalent to 6 acres of farmland for certain crops or 40 tons of tomatoes a year. The prefab structural frame is built with mechanically assembled steel rods needing no welding, enable fast mounting, disassembling and maintenance operations. The enclosure is made of a transparent, resistant structural plastic membrane (ETFE). Clepsydra can be composed into multiple kits creating sustainable neighborhoods and cities. It approaches the living and urban farming concepts together by articulating three elements: clepsydra-bridge-building, allowing flexibility to site-specific design conditions, yet maintaining unaltered the benefits and the technology that goes with it, which translates into development cost efficiencies.
Inspiration and underlying principles went together: the need to integrate water and energy resources, food production, technology and communities in a holistic sustainable lifestyle.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
Our concept considers the cultural roots in each local socio-economic context to provide daily good quality, diseases-pesticides-free food while occupying underutilized urban spaces.
We see a reference in historic concepts of social housing in urban design, agricultural societies and early 20TH century socialist housing projects, as in the typical U.S. farm in which the house is connected to the barn through an ell.
Clepsydra is a preferred state model which simply combines environmental care, food security and urban community life in one concept.
It is a balanced answer to the needs of economic growth and environmental protection, preserving local socio-cultural values. Clepsydra proposes a shift development mode that:
Promotes the development of local, self-sufficient economy in terms of food supply.
Avoids unnecessary waste of resources (packaging, food exportation, ‘agricultural colonialism’ policies, saves on related supply costs.)
Promotes a conservation culture and an environmentally aware society.
Enhances community life.
Through one unique, simple solution, Clepsydra embodies answers for sustainable livelihoods:
Provides food security;
Improves health conditions providing a balanced diet according to the recommended WHO standards;
Complements its energy needs through the waste provided by the adjacent building (energy efficiency)
Encourages an innovative way of interacting and providing for the community daily needs (enhanced livelihoods).
Raises awareness among the society and promotes environmental education programs.
It is a feasible urban farming win-win solution that addresses the contradiction between socioeconomic development and environmental conservation by developing a resource-saving society.
Our strategy should be a breakthrough because its modular simplicity and efficiency is a cost-effective solution to complex urban realities and neutralizes the agro-business system, greatly responsible for damaging our food and life quality.
We have considered potential applications in the different environmental and climate conditions of 3 Chinese cities, two of which are undergoing a massive planned migration from countryside to urban centers, where the large scale new housing typology proposed by Clepsydra could be a breakthrough.