We are at a painfully slow process of coming to terms with the need to live a life that is not at odds with our living breathing environment. The sooner we realise that our existence depends on this, the better.
Reduce, Re-use, Recycle is an excellent mantra to live by, but we need to do more than that. Encouragingly more minds are being applied to finding innovative solutions at trying to balancing out the unsustainable resource deficit we are living.
As global populations continue to expand at an unabated pace, it will be interesting to see how solutions adapt and evolve to compensate and adjust to changing needs. One of the most pressing will be infrastructure and housing, and a balance to creating communities that are to a certain extent self sufficient will be one of the most interesting challenges to a future greener building.
Family values of old are being rapidly eroded and even eliminated in certain societies, and the challenge of bringing the market closer to home, and having the home in an ever evolving and nurturing place of work, play, live is perhaps a dream unattainable. It is worth trying though.
Denmark was host to the Nordic Exceptional Trendshop 2010, where one presentation showcased urban agriculture at its most innovative. In conjunction with NASA inspired experiments, they presenting farm, restaurant and supermarket all in one building. Still just an idea, it shows a new wave of thinking about urban food systems, and bringing the market into the urban mix again.
In the latest issue of the South African eJournal of Green Building we get a glimpse of this world that is surely to come, the following from the eJournal:
The team behind the Agropolis concept proposes that this new generation of store would be an ecosystem unto itself, a finely tuned orchestra of parts in balance, that would not only be totally envrionmentally sustainably and friendly, but also just plain producing the freshest food around. But what would all these innovative, NASA-inspired state of the art hydroponics and other high-tech solutions look like in practice? According to the vision of Agropolis, a customer would walk into a store that is covered in green. Vegetables growing on the walls as far as the eye can see. And below the floors one would see tilapia swimming, working in tandem with vegetables in an aquaponic system. You would buy a tomato that was literally just picked, from a plant that you can see in front of you. The store would bring a whole new meaning to local, and one-up the notion of hyper local, since all the food available to eat or buy would have traveled zero miles from the farm to the store. At most, just a few steps.
It all sounds grand, and more than a little space-age. But the challenge given to the team that came up with Agropolis wasn’t entirely outside reality: Create a farm without relying on arable lad. As the Earth’s healthy soil and other resources dwindle, it may not be out of the realm of possibility that a system like Agropolis be needed, particularly in urban areas. And while urban agriculture has come a long way, incorporating all kinds of creative and innovative ideas and technologies, in order to make it work on a large and global scale it may be time for something as futuristic and high-tech as Agropolis.
But imagine if, in fifty years, or some other future point, our grocery stores did include built in farms, how our relationship to food would change. For one thing, the variety of food we eat might change–are there some vegetables and fruits that can’t be grown using these artificial systems? Would we only eat tilapia, and no other meat? Other vertical and urban farm project proposals include a variety of “staple” crops and animals that all work seamlessly together. But is biting into a fresh, hydroponic, LED light feeding tomato really as good as getting one from your local organic farmer who’s tomatoes ripen in the sun? What will the foodies of this imagined future look like? In this brave new world of urban agriculture, one this is certain: While Agropolis insists that the store/restaurant/farm will be a sort of ultimate consumer experience, it’ll be a much different experience than what we have access to now.