Shehreen Saleh

Shehreen Saleh

Atlanta, GA, US


Urban Food Forest

I. Abstract

The background research behind this project began with looking at the way modern society grows food. This method known as monoculture is cultivating one crop over a vast amount of land. This affects the biodiversity of plant and animal species by destroying the habitats of the flora and fauna. Biodiversity is important to maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystem. An alternative to monoculture farming is permaculture which uses biodiversity and the symbiotic relationships between plants and animals to thrive where these species are codependent. The infographics below demonstrate the above mentioned ideas.

The idea of designing an urban farm in a dense urban city center presents several benefits for the environment and society. Urban farming for food production is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. It is generally practiced for income-earning or food-producing activities, though in some communities the main impetus is recreation and relaxation. Urban agriculture contributes to food security and food safety in two ways: first, it increases the amount of food available to people living in cities, and second, it allows fresh vegetables, fruits, and meat products to be made available to urban consumers. It decreases food deserts. In addition urban farming also promotes energy-saving local food production, urban and peri-urban agriculture which are generally seen as sustainable agriculture.
the statistics below demonstrate the need for more urban farming developments:
• 50% of the world’s population lives in cities.
• 800 million people are involved in urban agriculture world-wide and contribute to feeding urban residents.
• Low income urban dwellers spend between 40% and 60% of their income on food each year.
• By 2015 about 26 cities in the world are expected to have a population of 10 million or more. To feed a city of this size at least 6,000 tonnes (6,600 tons) of food must be imported each day.
• 250 million hungry people in the world live in cities

This project uses the idea of urban farming, permaculture, and the model of the natural forest to develop an urban food forest in Knoxville’s Old City area near downtown. It is an urban food forest that produces food which grows in the same way as a layered forest.

The approach to this project poses to sustain biodiversity through an urban food forest. In permaculture farming, a food forest grows in a highly optimized pattern that utilizes multiple layers to make the most of both horizontal and vertical space.

A forest is comprised of seven layers where permaculture food forests are also grown in the same way. In permaculture, symbiosis is a key element in the development of food. This project attempts to use symbiosis as a means to not only grow food in this way but to allow the main program components to become mutually dependent on one another for the production of food. The special opportunity that is posed by this project is for the site to become an asset to the city by nurturing permaculture methods of farming in an urban setting that can potentially attract investors and bring revenue to the city. It could also become a model for a new way of modern farming for the world.

The main program for this project includes a food forest for food production, a community center, and residential units

The site is a prime location for food production and exchange with nearby businesses. The relationship between this exchange is symbiotic because one cannot survive without the other. This idea exemplifies the concept of permaculture farming that is based on the biodiversity becoming co-dependent for the survival of crops.

This parcel was also chosen for the square footage requirements that was needed to fullfill the program. An approximate of 200,000 square feet will be used for horizontal farming which is approximately 4.5 acres of farmland. The rest of the indoor functions for the strongest scheme option will be underground.

the Complex
The three main components of the food forest farm is in the name itself: the food, the forest, and the farm. In addition, three key functions are served on this site: the community, the residential, and the production. The complex is divided into these three zones but are integrated by the forest garden concept which serves as the common component to each function. Each zone has its own forest garden ranging from private, to semi-public, to public. All the main greenspaces are above ground except for the conditioned spaces of the residentail and community spaces.
As mentioned earlier, the comlex is divided into three distinct zones. The diagram below demonstrates the zoning and functioal spaces of each component.

The facade of the production tower is made of several layers just as a forest garden is layered. First, the steel frame holds the sandwiched panels of the steel and glass together. The glazing is fastened between two layers of steel panels which compose an interlacing design and interesting skin system. This robust yet intricate skin acts as a structural system for the tower that eliminates the need for structure inside the tower, and thus allows for maximum amount of conditioned space.

The third component of this site is the residential zone. These residences are organized as townhomes each with its own private food garden. Behind these gated gardens are community gardens which are semi-public spaces that are sold as individual parcels for food production.

the CommUNITY
The community aspect of the site is a forest garden park that serves the public as leisure and recreation space. This space can be seen from the highway and will attract visitors both local and non-local.

As mentioned earlier, the forest garden park is an exterio above ground space that contains compantion plantings that utilizes the concept of permaculture and the layered forest to dictate its organization.

The entrance to the forest garden park is the common community vestibule. From this interior conditioned space, visitors can either take an outdoor ramp, interior stairs or an elevator to the second floor forest garden level.
At the garden level, visitors will be able to pick and purchase the fruits and vegetables that are grown here depending on the season and the seasonality of the fruit and vegetable bearing plants.
An important aspect for designing the garden space was to research compantion planting or crops that are mutually dependent on each other for growth and nourishment. The diagrams and perspectives demonstrate which types of plants are grown in this garden space depending on the compatibility of the fruits and vegetables.

Aeroponics is the art of growing plants with their roots in air rather than in soil. The roots are intermittently spraying with nutrient-enriched water which allows for precise control of the amount of nutrients that the plants receive. Aeroponics yields are higher than soil gardening.

By growing aeroponically indoors, we can create an environment that can be monitored and controlled electronically. The controlled environment allows food to be grown year-round, independent of seasons. While only one harvest a year can be grown conventionally, constant-yield growth gives 4-30 harvests a year, depending on the plant. Growing indoors greatly reduces the threat of pests and plant-diseases, eliminating the need for pesticides. Aeroponics requires an input of water with dissolved mineral salts, but it uses these resources very efficiently.

In the aerofarm forest tower, each floor will have its own watering and nutrient monitoring systems. There will be sensors for every single plant that tracks how much and what kinds of nutrients the plant has absorbed. The block of program that encloses the core is the research monitoring area where agricultural ists will monitor and control the amount of nutrients sprayed on the roots of the plants. source:

The use of aeroponics with permaculture farming in the aerofarm forest tower poses several benefits. Aeroponics is used as a method of growing crops to yield more crops per square foot than soil farming. This method also helps to significatly lighten structural load of the vertical farm tower since the weight of soil and water has been eliminated. The only significant load that is apparent in the building is the load of the crops and their roots. The diagram below shows the layers of plants at the top (4th) floor of the tower. The diagram at the right illustrates all the crops planted at every other level of the tower.

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Status: School Project
Location: Knoxville, TN, US


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