Food Producing Facades Key to Sustainable Future
Proposal by Christopher Leininger, PhD-BPD Candidate
Friday, 03 May 2019 | 9:00-11:00am
MMCH 415 IW Large Conference Room
Volker Hartkopf, Chair
This research project investigates the role of plants, in terms of building systems integration, as part of a bioclimatic living façade implementation design strategy. Buildings today use 48% of all energy and 76% of all electricity in the US and contribute to the Urban Heat Island effect, consuming more than 1000 times the energy density per unit of area of a mature ecosystem. Simultaneously, population growth and urban development have outpaced food production globally. Using ecological design principles to guide urban development is based on the concept that the Earth is bioregenerative, meaning that “plants, animals and especially microorganisms regenerate, recycle and control life’s necessities.” (Odum, 1994). In response, there has been a growing trend to further develop the ancient tradition of incorporating plants into the built environment via green roofs, green facades, urban agriculture and other green infrastructure. This research study is focused on the design, construction and operation of a food producing green façade vertical garden that simultaneously produces vegetables and herbs, reduces façade temperature during the summer, utilizes rainwater for primary irrigation and reduces fine particulates in the air. This system is installed on portions of the south and west façade of the L. Robert Preger Intelligent Workplace, home of the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Using Almono Fabricated Soil for the growing media, the system is a hybrid panel and trellis system using modular wood framed one foot by one foot by eight inch (1’x1’x8”) planting boxes and two inch by four inch galvanized wire trellis. Preliminary results indicate that a maximum production of 0.4 pounds of vegetables per square foot of façade panel can be produced annually, while reducing the façade temperature 20 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, utilizing rainwater capture for primary irrigation, an average of 10-12 gallons per day, and showing mixed results in reducing PM2.5 particulate levels. Rainwater is pumped to the drip irrigation hoses using photovoltaic solar energy stored in a 6 volt recharged battery, creating a system that uses no fossil fuel energy for operation. No fertilizer was used for the first four growing seasons, except for fresh compost application annually. An organic pelletized dry fertilizer was mixed in with the compost application during the fifth growing season. This research has been developed within and contributed to the Systems Integration Design framework utilizing the Total Building Performance matrix for measuring Indoor Environmental Qualities based on the human senses. This research adds the gustatory, or sense of taste, to the existing framework covering thermal, visual, acoustic, spatial and air qualities. Integrating the daily cycles of food consumption, waste and regeneration that occur within the metabolism of the building is the primary strategy for achieving energy efficiency and environmental effectiveness within this research project. Replacing energy, materials and equipment with design integration and living systems, creating productive systems at the building façade to generate food, cooling, storm water storage and use, and improved air quality, utilizing the concepts of biophilia and bioclimatic façade design is the focus of this applied research project.