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Students build a solar powered greenhouse that produces 50% more energy

When greenhouses became popular in the 19th century, they revolutionized the way plants and produce were grown. Today, greenhouses can maintain constant temperatures all year round, making them ideal for harsher climates. But here’s the rub: They are very energy intensive.

That is, unless they’re solar powered.

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]

In Barcelona’s Sierra de Collserola Natural Park, a group of architecture students recently built a prototype for a solar greenhouse that can grow its own food.and produce their own energy. Constructed of locally sourced pine, the 130-square-meter greenhouse sits on a tiny lot next to Valldura Labs, a self-sufficient habitat research center. And although this greenhouse is found in nature, the concept can be recreated on the rooftops of cities and refugee camps where basic needs like food and energy are harder to meet.

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]

The greenhouse was developed during a master’s program at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. The students lived on campus for a year and built the two-story building in two months under the direction of architects Vicente Guallart and Daniel Ibáñez.

In 2014, Guallart wrote a book entitled The self-sufficient city. Then Barcelona’s chief architect, Guallart, argued that buildings should be more productive and that we should produce food and energy locally. The greenhouse is in many ways an interpretation of Guallard’s philosophy.

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]

The structure extends over two floors: the plants germinate below and continue to grow above. An angled glass roof helps capture sunlight during the day, while LED and UV lights support lettuce, tomato and eggplant growth at night. The roof is adorned with solar panels in a checkerboard pattern, while the front and rear windows open for natural ventilation. A nutrient-enriched irrigation system also helps speed up growth. (As an added bonus, they used sawdust from the cut wood instead of soil.)

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]

Both the LED panels and the irrigation system are powered by the solar panels. The greenhouse uses only about 50% of the energy generated, with the other half going to the nearby Valldura Labs facility. (Guallart says they could have covered the entire roof with solar panels and left 75% of the energy, but budget constraints made that difficult.)

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]

The prototype was completed in September 2021 and has already influenced the design of a rooftop greenhouse for the tallest wooden building in Barcelona that Guallart’s office Guallart Architects is currently designing. At 1,600 square feet and 29 feet tall, the greenhouse will be more than 10 times larger than the prototype. But existing buildings can also be supplemented with solar greenhouses. “If we decide we want to produce food and energy in our cities, we can do that, the only thing we have to do is adapt our buildings or align our buildings to that,” says Guallart. It all depends on how many flat roofs your city has. (In Barcelona he says about 80% are flat.)

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[Photo: ©Adrià Goula/courtesy IAAC/Pati Nunez Agency]

For Guallart, the ultimate goal is to build communities capable of growing their own food and producing their own energy. Outside of Beijing, Guallart Architects is now working on a self-sufficient residential complex with communal greenhouses and solar-powered roofs. “Rather than spending money buying groceries and paying energy companies, we should strengthen communities and buildings by creating new infrastructure that makes them stronger,” he says. “We can invest once and manage forever.”

https://www.fastcompany.com/90736444/students-build-a-solar-powered-greenhouse-that-produces-50-more-energy-than-it-uses?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Students build a solar powered greenhouse that produces 50% more energy

JACLYN DIAZ

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