Manhattan envisages skyscraper farms

The BBC reports that scientists at Columbia University have devised a plan for interior skyscraper farms for New Yorkers.

Columbia University Professor Dickson Despommier and his students took existing greenhouse technology as a starting point and are now convinced that vertical farms within city skyscrapers are a practical suggestion.

In their design, energy is generated from a giant solar panel, with incinerators which use the farm’s waste products for fuel. All the water in the entire system is recycled, and the plan’s whole complex sustainable.

This project parallels the fresh foods from urban wastes pilot project currently being undertaken by Central Queensland University, led by Professor David Midmore.
Columbia University’s Professor Despommier told the BBC that advantages of this CBD agriculture include year-round crop production in a controlled environment; minimal exposure to pests (and therefore organic produce); elimination of dangerous agricultural runoff into river systems; and zero food miles, as produce would be conusmed locally.

This is a practical way to address climate change, the report says. The BBC’s Jeremy Cooke reports of a design that incorporates:

a 30-storey building with glass walls, topped off with a huge solar panel. On each floor there would be giant planting beds, indoor fields in effect. There would be a sophisticated irrigation system.

Even if it’s not quite natural…you’re going to get back the rest of the earth

Professor Dickson Despommier

And so crops of all kinds and small livestock could all be grown in a controlled environment in the most urban of settings.

That means there would be no shipping costs, and no pollution caused by moving produce around the country.

The report says these types of city farms would free up cleared farmland to be reforested.


June 21, 2007 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

A beautiful way to fight climate change

June 5, 2007: “Green roofs have really captured many people’s imagination as a beautiful way to fight climate change and save money.” The words come from Steven Peck, Founder and President of Toronto-based Green Roofs for Healthy Cities-North America, which has more than 1,300 members among North American municipal governments and green roof businesses.

“Green roofs deliver more public and private benefits than any other green building technology. This is why we anticipate continued strong growth of the North American green roof industry”, he said.

According to Mr Peck there was 25% expansion in 2006 of the green roof industry of Canada and the United States. In the intensive green roof sector (where larger plants are incorporated into rooftop designs) the expansion was 110% in 2006, he said.

“The green roof industry is growing rapidly in response to the pressing need for cleaner air, better storm-water management, improved energy efficiency an more usable green space in our communities,” Steven Peck said.

Strong growth of North America’s rapidly expanding green roof industry is expected to stimulate similar growth in Australia.

  • Pictured: A lack of green urban spaces prompted a group from Dalhousie School of Architecture — Asher deGroot, David Gallaugher, Kevin James, and Jacob Jebailey — to create a whimsical artistic response: a grassed walking-wheel, which hints at sculptural possibilities for turf on every angle. This (and other marvellous photos) was taken by photojournalist André Forget. Pic sourced from Inhabitat.


  1. February 25 and 26, 2008: First biennial “Introduction to Green Roofs” course at Brisbane Technology Park, Eight Mile Plains, Queensland. Register interest with
  2. February 27 and 28 2008: Second annual “Green Roofs for Australia” conference, at Brisbane Technology Park, Eight Mile Plains, Queensland. Register interest with
  3. April 30- May 2, 2008: Sixth Annual “Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities” conference in Baltimore, United States – at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel and Baltimore Convention Center. Information here.

June 5, 2007 at 2:40 am Leave a comment

World first: Brisbane addresses climate change with urban agriculture and green roofs

Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) is the first city in the world to include both urban agriculture and green roofs in an action plan to meet predicted global climate change challenges.

This is expected to develop the City of Brisbane as a centre of excellence in both technologies.

The Brisbane City Council (BCC) this week adopted, unanimously, an action plan based on commissioned reports and its own sustainability studies over the last two years.

Major parts of the action plan are aimed at reducing Brisbane’s use of energy derived from fossil fuels and encouragement of more efficient use of water.  But sensible, practical ways to mesh these aims with creating a new style of built-environment attracted enthusiastic votes for:

•    Urban agriculture for greater food security and reduced cost of living.
•    Green roofs that provide a built-environment attuned to climate change responses.

Both urban agriculture and green roof developments in their widest context were foreseen by BCC councillors as important for improving both living conditions for people during climate change, and to maintain and develop businesses and employment.

Brisbane City Council comprises 25 councillors led by Lord Mayor, Cr Campbell Newman.  It is the largest municipal government in Australia.  As such it provides considerable leadership to all municipal government in Australia.

BCC’s adoption of urban agriculture and green roof technologies in its climate change action plan is expected to trigger similar interest around Australia.

In August 2006 Brisbane City Council appointed a Climate Change and Energy Taskforce to ensure that Brisbane is adequately prepared to respond to and address the challenges of climate change, increasing energy consumption, rising petrol prices and peak oil.

On 12 March 2007, its Climate Change and Energy Taskforce, led by Professor Ian Lowe,  presented its independent report titled ‘A Call For Action’ to Council. The Taskforce considered comments from an earlier discussion forum last December. Councilors were well- backgrounded on urban agriculture and green roofs (BCC councilors and staff were a major part of the Green Roofs for Australia conference on February 22 and 23, 2007).
A debate on Monday, 30 April, has produced an action plan the BCC will take to its ratepayers for one month of comment before adoption in its final form, probably by June 30, 2007.

Further information: Geoff Wilson, President, Green Roofs for Healthy  Australian Cities, and President, Urban Agriculture Network Australia.  Phone: +61 7 3411 4524 or +61 (0)412 622 779. Email: Geoff  Address: 32 David Rd. Holland Park, Queensland 4121, Australia

May 1, 2007 at 10:52 pm 1 comment

New group tackles Australia’s forgotten façade

One of the interesting consequences of Google Earth satellite viewing has been bird’s-eye critiques of architecture. Google Earth, reports the Los Angeles Times, has enabled people to look at cities with ”a new kind of architectural tourism… What’s changing most radically, in other words, is not how buildings look but how we look at buildings.”

From the crow’s-eye view a tangle of urban problems are apparent: a paucity of aesthetic considerations, poorly-planned physical infrastructure, density, congestion, wasted spaces. Most urban issues are invisible: water and waste management, effects of climate change, energy conservation, air quality, and loss of native habitat. Not so in many European and north American cities, where architects, town planners and landscapers are using very visible, simple and profitable solutions to all these problems in what is known as the “fifth façade” and the “forgotten façade”: the rooftop.

These issues were all discussed at the recent Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities (GRHAC) conference in Brisbane, where attendees considered ways to merge the ‘black arts’ (engineering) with the ‘green arts’ (landscaping). Another consideration is, of course, the ‘muddy-grey arts’: bureacracy. Luckily, foundation members of GRHAC include urban planners, landscape architects, horticulture experts and engineers. Pictured above is the new committee.

  • Back row: Raylene Mibus (Vic, landscape design, horticulture), Sidonie Carpenter (Qld, landscape architect), Josh Kidd (Qld, engineer), Robyn Shaw (NT, landscape architect). Front row: Ben Nicholson (Vic, urban planner), Paul Downton (SA, architect), Geoff Wilson (Qld, founder & president).

Crosss-posted at

April 5, 2007 at 4:13 am Leave a comment

A roofing answer to climate change

See Geoff Wilson’s article in Online Opinion.

February 15, 2007 at 6:25 am Leave a comment

Fresh roof-food from urban wastes

Queensland’s future green roof businesses can expect to produce healthy fresh food from recycled organic wastes. (more…)

February 15, 2007 at 6:23 am 3 comments

A convenient truth: green rooftops are great for the environment, and for local business

Green roofs represent a goldmine business opportunity for Australian architects, urban planners, developers, builders, horticulturalists and building owners – but it will require some quick local footwork. (more…)

February 15, 2007 at 6:21 am Leave a comment

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