Listen to the Multidisciplinary Panel
Beyond Urban Agriculture / Series 1
When we examine the role of plants in the built environment from multiple perspectives, from both research and industry, we start to see how many possible applications there are, and how each instance of growing plants in and on buildings provides multiple simultaneous opportunities.
For an innovative commercial vertical farm, reducing stresses on water and land use with a vertical farm is coupled with opportunities for underserved communities and coincident with improved nutrition for the health and well-being of the local community. For indoor environments, plants are employed for their potential to simultaneously improve indoor air quality while reducing building energy consumption profiles. Green facade and green roof applications promise to reduce building energy needs, cool hot urban temperatures, and reclaim biodiversity for urban environments.
There are ways that each of these solutions come into being - economic models that support a vertical farm, or stakeholders that are interested in indoor air quality or biodiversity. And while each instance is multi-performative in and of themselves, how far can we go to integrate across each of these models?
Can we combine vertical farming with indoor air quality? First glance suggests that while vertical farms use high amounts of carbon dioxide to increase plant productivity this might be incompatible with desires for indoor air quality where plants are used to reduce CO2 levels. Can we eat plants that have been used to metabolize toxins in the air? Our panelists suggests that indoor plants may be exposed to less harmful compounds than outdoor plants which may be exposed to heavy metals. Further testing is required to couple these functions.
How can we move building integrated vegetation from more niche markets to widespread adoption? Maintenance and costs are an issue. While economic models for vertical urban farms may be making headway, they may serve as an economic model for servicing plants in buildings where plants need to be maintained. Still others on our panel suggest that, at least in outdoor applications, maintenance and technology are not the answer, and that we should have the patience to allow natural ecosystemic processes to establish themselves to create a self-sustaining urban vegetation system.
There is much to be done, but the first steps are being taken to bring together the many diverse voices of those working to integrate plants and vegetation into our urban landscape. In conversation we hope to find the potential for overlaps and co-creation.