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High-rise farms?

 
pollinator
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I trust my gut to digest my food. It's less imaginative and less reasonable than my brain.

Most of your points essentially highlight parts of a system that produce a byproduct. Taken as a whole as part of a properly designed system, they needn't be an issue, only a variable that might be nice to tweak towards greater individual efficiency to increase system efficiency or output overall.

That's the other thing. What if we could produce healthier greenhouse crops through tuning the light spectrum? A faster turnover of crops is another way to produce more in a smaller physical footprint. I would want the accelerated crops lab tested to make sure they were healthy and healthful, but we could grow the most sensitive greenhouse crops locally to the point of consumption, reducing shipping cost and waste.

Pointing out the weaknesses of current technology and practices can be useful in determining suitability for application in specific scenarios, on a case by case basis. I don't think it prudent to dismiss innovation with such clear advantages in so many widely applicable scenarios.

-CK
 
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I suspect the bulk of future energy production will be modular molten metal cooled thorium reactors, and the energy question becomes almost irrelevant if that is true. A large part of the conversation up to this point is an energy based numbers game and it could tip either way easily.

I think these structures will be part of our future, so the question we might need to be asking is "How do we build a better trap hive?" The obstacle is probably people's reluctance to change more than energy .
 
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The gut contains 10 million neurons . . . it can't be a complete moron . . . just saying! :)

I agree that technology can improve.

Do you think it is a reasonable position that current technology does not make LED powered high rise farming an energetically competitive option as opposed to direct solar powered farming in most cases? Or do you think it is viable now?

Also, the point about lower hanging fruit seems valid; all those urban parks and roofs are low hanging fruit, waiting for food production. South facing glass in buildings is a little "higher" but not by much. Passive solar heated greenhouses with LED lights in the evening are a bit higher, but still within a stretch. High tech LED lit skyscraper farms are near the top.

I guess LEDs could make for healthier crops. My gut feeling kicks in again to warn against reductionism. Maybe even those "harmful" parts of the spectrum help plant to develop antioxidant compounds that are of benefit to us. Similarly, most high rise farms propose to do way with soil; I can't help wondering what we're loosing. Lots of unknowns.

I read a book a few years back, The Vertical Farm, which was interesting, though it did not convince me. In it he posited that such farms would have to be sealed, entered through airlocks, and the workers would have to wear protective gear to avoid contamination of the interior. Now, that might not be necessary in fact, but such talk does not endear the concept to me.

And also, it is good to keep in mind that efficiency and resiliency are in many ways opposites. The more efficient these systems get, the less resilient they will be. If a high rise farm with thousands or millions of plants under LED lights got knocked off the grid, what would happen? Having just lost power a few weeks ago, dependance of the food supply on electricity does not attract me. Of course, there could be backups, and would be; but such backups would lower the overall efficiency.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I suspect the bulk of future energy production will be modular molten metal cooled thorium reactors, and the energy question becomes almost irrelevant if that is true. A large part of the conversation up to this point is an energy based numbers game and it could tip either way easily.



Hi Paul,

I agree, if there is endless energy available, food could be grown anywhere and shipped anywhere, at high speeds and no cost. And yes, people are the most intractable part of any design problem.
 
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Roberto, ask yourself where 7 billion people would decentralise to. The answer is farmland, and then wilderness.

 Well we are into another can of worms: the centralization verses decentralization one this time.  The answer, in my humble opinion,  is that there are small towns, villages, hamlets, and even smaller cities, which are much, much easier to retrofit and transition to permaculture than large overpopulated cities.  It is from these places which the populations migrated from to the cities in the first place.  Many of these places are virtual ghost towns, or are economically depressed.  They need people; particularly long term thinking permaculture people.  Urbanization is a demographic shift that was caused by people seeking education and employment; things that could easily be provided for in more rural settings with a little more imagination.  The ongoing centralization of our populations has been the cause of farmland loss (in almost all urban areas, which are often built in prime agricultural flood plains), petroleum dependence (to bring most of the food to them), and the focus on large mega farms to provide bulk products (destroying ecological farming prospects as well as wilderness).  Decentralization does the opposite.    
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Chris,

Put that way, it does make more sense.

But I wonder; does the efficiency gained overcome the inefficiency of the panels, transmission, storage, and conversion back into light? As somebody pointed out, LEDs produce at least some heat, which is a loss; panels are only 10 percent efficient. Plants are only 5 percent efficient, but now we have combined both those relatively inefficient processes, photosynthesis and photovoltaics. Add in the lifecycle energy costs for both LEDs and panels, and they'd have to be even more efficient to break even.



One of the great, undiscussed inefficiencies regarding photovoltaics is the necessity to 'time shift' between production (which we cannot control) and demand (for which we have limited control) via energy storage, usually batteries.  One way to limit that problem is to over build the solar arrays, and build systems that can take advantage of the extra power produced when supply greatly exceeds demand.  We can do this by pumping water up to municipal water towers only during the peak power times, freezing large blocks of ice for  commercial refrigeration when the opportunity exists (some marine refrigerators do this).  Large, enclosed greenhouses (basicly what we are discussing) can also take advantage of excess renewable power within a range of light that various crops can take; basicly ranging from twilight to full sun.
 
Creighton Samuels
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Paul Lutz wrote:I suspect the bulk of future energy production will be modular molten metal cooled thorium reactors, and the energy question becomes almost irrelevant if that is true. A large part of the conversation up to this point is an energy based numbers game and it could tip either way easily.



Perhaps, but probably not, because it is (at present) difficult & inefficient for us to transform electrical energy into a form that is useful for cargo transportation.  We can charge electric cars, yes, but that is a completely different problem than replacing a modern diesel-electric locomotive (which is already pretty efficient compared to most any other combustion engine) with a straight electric locomotive.  Building one isn't difficult, getting the power from the thorium reactor to the locomotive is the issue.  If, in the future, an efficient way to produce a diesel fuel alternative from either electricity, or directly from the heat of a reactor, then this becomes a non-issue.
 
Creighton Samuels
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:Wow, lots of discussion here. I'm trying to understand this; and I hope I'm not being snarky. I still can't understand it.

A couple of quick points; human urine is half as salty as seawater.



Yes, half.  For some desalination processes, this translates into half the energy required, but not all of them  More to the point is that diluted human urine is plant food, and once the plants have had a pass at the urine water, the water vapor that exits the leaves is clean and salt free.  The you just have to get it back out of the air.




I think Denver has a largely gravity fed water supply; it comes down from higher elevations in the mountains as snowmelt.



Denver has mostly gravity fed water supply.  Not enough for it's current population, however, as it's above-Denver water shed is limited.  Fortunately, Dillian reservoir is huge, so it would take a while before there were water issues.  But wars have been fought for water access, particularly in the western United States.




If LEDs are producing significant amounts of waste heat, they'd be significantly less efficient then they might be. Turning sun into electricity and then turning that back into heat is a huge waste.



If your primary goal is heating a living space, then yes that would be a huge waste.  I'm just saying that the energy conversion loss can be ignored; both because LED's are very light efficient, but also because all of that energy will, ultimately, become either heat or a plant.  And in the immediate sense, it's also safety lighting.



Pollution or climate change might force particular populations in various regions to proactively create healthy air for humans to breath, and integration of enclosed gardens might be part of such a strategy, wherein the very fresh garden salads would be a side benefit.



One person needs ten thousand leaves to provide themselves enough oxygen; similarly for any cleaning functions they might provide. Poor slum dwellers in the third world, where pollution is the biggest problem, will not be able to afford this.



No arguments there.  I wasn't talking about the poor.




We might do it in small bits, such as edible potted plants tucked into rarely used corners of a high-rise condo, for the emotional & psychological benefits of greenery, as well as the contribution to the winter heat load of the building.  I can grow quite the garden salad for a family in 16 square feet, no matter how it's orientated.



But that is rather different then a high rise farm.



Is it?  Do you not live on your permaculture farm?  Why wouldn't people live in a high rise farm?  The idea of a tower built as a downtown version of agri-business seems ridiculous to me.  Not because of the energy that such a building would require, we do such things already.  But because of the cost and value of the space.



Perhaps more rational for Denver, but some cities can't exist without fossil fuel energy anyway, at least not at their current populations, and Denver is likely one of them.  Denver Water uses an incredible amount of energy to pump water, both up towards the mile high city, and around it.  Los Vegas can't support it's population without pumping water horizontally across many miles, & half the people would be hard pressed to survive a single summer without air conditioning.  Half of Toronto would freeze without fossil fuel energy, but only after about 5 years of cutting down all the combustible forests within a few days walk.  There simply isn't enough wood growth to heat the buildings that northern cities have now in any sustainable manner.  If there is such a short-term energy crunch, a lot of these existing towers won't be "livable" anything similar to how they are currently used anyway.  And if you read my post about the ideal building, the grow LED's would only be used half of the time anyway.



So, because these cities already use lots of energy they should use more? I'm not sure what your point is here.



No, not more energy.  Different energy.  That solar array is not going to be charging an electric lorry to move your refrigerated vegetables from the countryside into the center of a large city.




But I still don't understand the draw for growing under LED lights. It is really just shuffling sunlight around. Land is not really necessary to grow crops in one sense; what is necessary is solar access. Every area of ground on earth gets a certain amount of sunlight per year, no more and no less. Stacking up the plants on one area under banks of LED lights and spreading the solar panels to grow them out on other pieces of land seems like an unnecessary energetic cost.

In short, so long as I see unused lawns, rooftops, balconies, parks, greenbelts, and parking lots all around me, I think vertical farms are a technology looking for a problem.



I think you are too focused on the concept of LEDs, I was just using that as an example.  I also used sunpipes, and fiber optics could do it too.
 
Creighton Samuels
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Also, I could imagine a major space power (probably China) building such a structure simply as practice, potentially figuring out how to do such a thing for a future moonbase or some such.  Maybe they already have, and we just don't know about it.  There certainly are more technically superior methods of "scrubbing" a closed atmosphere; but even if 10,000 leaves per astronaut is unrealistic,  such a moonbase garden would reduce the practical demand upon such a technical solution, add redundancy and a safety margin (both good things in the vacuum of space) and create the equivalent of a park, permitting astronauts a place to go to see greenery, which has a positive psychological effect.  If this were a core reason for the construction of such a structure, the economics of the structure would be irrelevant; and China (in particular) is known for building large towers just for the sake of building them.

So is NASA, and the US military.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I'm just saying that the energy conversion loss can be ignored; both because LED's are very light efficient, but also because all of that energy will, ultimately, become either heat or a plant.  And in the immediate sense, it's also safety lighting.



The best LEDs right now are about 50 percent efficient.

No, not more energy.  Different energy.  That solar array is not going to be charging an electric lorry to move your refrigerated vegetables from the countryside into the center of a large city.



Most American cities have enough vacant land to grow all their vegetables right now, right in the city; without a single highrise farm, and without a single lorry, electric or otherwise.

I think you are too focused on the concept of LEDs, I was just using that as an example.  I also used sunpipes, and fiber optics could do it too.



I'm focused on them because that is what all the proposed designs I've seen are using. Sunpipes and fiber optics are really just an exercise in light shuffling; they have to have an intake somewhere, at point A, and an outlet at point B. If anything, there will be less light available at point B. One might as well have a greenhouse full of plants at point A.

Also, I could imagine a major space power (probably China) building such a structure simply as practice, potentially figuring out how to do such a thing for a future moonbase or some such.  Maybe they already have, and we just don't know about it.  There certainly are more technically superior methods of "scrubbing" a closed atmosphere; but even if 10,000 leaves per astronaut is unrealistic,  such a moonbase garden would reduce the practical demand upon such a technical solution, add redundancy and a safety margin (both good things in the vacuum of space) and create the equivalent of a park, permitting astronauts a place to go to see greenery, which has a positive psychological effect.  If this were a core reason for the construction of such a structure, the economics of the structure would be irrelevant; and China (in particular) is known for building large towers just for the sake of building them.



It might be a good practice exercise for a moonbase. I don't think that makes for it being the future of farming.

I don't think China is alone in the building of things simply for the sake of building them; that would describe every indoor farm I've ever seen, so long as there are empty rooftops and grass filled parks and concrete detention ponds and useless lawns.

Denver has mostly gravity fed water supply.  Not enough for it's current population, however, as it's above-Denver water shed is limited.  Fortunately, Dillian reservoir is huge, so it would take a while before there were water issues.  But wars have been fought for water access, particularly in the western United States.



True; but since all the water currently used to flush toilets, as well as all the greywater, could be reused, and all the water used on pointless lawns could be used to grow vegetables instead, I'd guess we could slash our water use in half and still grow all our vegetables. And as Roberto has wisely pointed out, if there are too many people in Denver, they could go someplace else. Maybe they could move back into the empty cities of the rust belt, where there is plenty of water; this could happen automatically as water prices rise.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Well we are into another can of worms: the centralization verses decentralization one this time.  the answer, in my humble opinion,  is that there are small towns, villages, hamlets, and even smaller cities, which are much, much easier to retrofit and transition to permaculture than large overpopulated cities.  It is from these places which the populations migrated from to the cities in the first place.  Many of these places are virtual ghost towns, or are economically depressed.  They need people; particularly long term thinking permaculture people.  Urbanization is a demographic shift that was caused by people seeking education and employment; things that could easily be provided for in more rural settings with a little more imagination.  The ongoing centralization of our populations has been the cause of farmland loss (in almost all urban areas, which are often built in prime agricultural flood plains), petroleum dependence (to bring most of the food to them), and the focus on large mega farms to provide bulk products (destroying ecological farming prospects as well as wilderness).  Decentralization does the opposite.



Roberto, I think you are quite correct. I don't think that cramming everyone into increasingly dense cities is a good solution, and I think it could be solved, if anyone wanted to, be exercising a little creativity. Many people would actually prefer to live in the countryside, if they were able to do so. But it certainly is a can of worms. Right now in the environmental movement this position is in the minority, it seems.
 
Chris Kott
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So I posted this in the Skyscrapers thread that I linked to earlier, but it also belongs here:

http://www.businessinsider.com/swedens-world-food-building-farm-offices-plantscraper-2017-11

Again, it does deal with a purpose-designed mixed-use structure, not what you'd consider a structure singularly devoted to the production of food crops, but I have previously expressed my feeling that single-use structures, with necessary exceptions (I see no need for a multipurpose outhouse, for instance) have no place in permaculture, as it deliberately refuses the idea of the stacking of functions, except in a literal, technical way to look at its only function.

It mentions the use of LEDs to supplement seasonally anemic natural light levels, as well as tuning LEDs to parts of the spectrum specifically beneficial to plant growth, and coming out of northern climates, speaks specifically to the aforementioned seasonal solar anemia. Just to head it all off, yes, especially in an era of pilot projects with Living Wages, I would ditch the robot idea and source and train local unemployed people that might happen to have an inclination, or can develop one.

-CK
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I posted a reply over there; in short, interesting idea, but I think at this point it mostly serves to line somebody's pockets. The context is important; in the context of Linköping, Sweden, this does not seem to make much sense.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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I've just figured out what really bothers me about this concept.

I think food ought to be democratic. And these projects, particularly the ones above, are non-democratic in two ways.

First, scale. The tower under construction in the article above will provide vegetables for 5500 people. Do we need to have 5500 people's vegetables grown by one entity? If they are using hydroponics and LED lights, why didn't they find thousands of urban dwellers who would like a unit in their apartment or house? Why not build a hundred small projects that would each feed 550 people? Why not decentralize these things? Of course, in that case their robots wouldn't work well, and nobody would subsidize them or give them huge loans for fat paychecks.

Second, technology. Even if they had decentralized it, the technology would still have been anti-democratic. None of us can manufacture LED lights, solar panels, steel girders, plate glass, farm robots, etc. But with a heavy hoe, a broadfork, a wheelbarrow, some fencing, and a bag of open pollenated seeds, I've raised thousands of pounds of produce on the good earth. I've fooled around a bit with a charcoal forge; I'm sure that with a few years of practice I could form functional tools out of scrap metal. Seeds can be saved ( I currently have several pounds of squash seed drying downstairs, enough to plant acres of squash.)

These high rise farms are taking food production out of the hands of the people. It is no accident that they are using robots instead of workers, even though those workers wouldn't have control of the system. It is no accident that they want to convince others that food growing is an expensive and highly technical process.

We permies don't need to go with the flow! Let's imagine a democratic and decentralized future, where high technology may be welcomed, but in service of a human scale and human control. And then let's plant it, one squash seed at a time.
 
Chris Kott
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There's nothing democratic about farming on land as you describe. You still need access to the land. That usually requires money. There's nothing saying you couldn't have a giant co-op owning and operating a mixed use high-rise farm, where the naturally lightless part of the building would be living space and anything from office spaces to crafting and manufacturing spaces. There's nothing saying you need to use robots instead of employing members of the co-op. And when you increase the size of the community, it's illogical to make decisions and work on the scale of the individual. So if you're working on the scale of millions, how does it make sense to find solutions only on the scale of the individual human?

There's nothing inherently wrong about massive projects. I still remember, vividly, a video Geoff Lawton posted a couple of years ago documenting a contour swale build during the great depression, just to make jobs for people to work. It opened with Geoff strolling across what looked to be very dry, gravelly terrain devoid of much other than scrub. Then the camera followed him as he traversed the swale, and it was all lush greenness, a good 80 years after its construction. That certainly wasn't a project conceived of and executed on the human scale.

And yes, there are many examples of the negative effects of this kind of work, like the Hoover Dam that essentially dried up the wetlands and ecosystems downstream of it relying on the water and sediment it trapped. It is possible for any project to go awry, or to have negative consequences, so it is even more important in those scenarios to make sure that the projects adhere to permacultural principles.

And yes, one of those principles is for the individual to observe and make changes on the individual level. While I agree that, because impact is easier to gauge and unintended consequences easier to mitigate on the smaller scale, that is the preferred direction, I maintain, as with the case of the giant depression-era swale, that there must be exceptions.

Cataclysm is the only thing that will make many leave the cities. No amount of really wanting it will make devoted city-dwellers want to stop living in huge overcrowded metropoli. Nor would we want hundreds of millions of people exploding all over everything. That would be ruinous to ecology the world over. If it happened suddenly, the probable outcome has been fictionalised in at least one place I can think of, where there would be dead zones a hundred miles radius from any city centre where everything was eaten bare. Where those radii of starvation overlapped, you'd likely see cannibalism.

This could arise from something as simple as a solar storm like the one that produced the Carrington event more than a century ago. It could knock out transportation relied upon for critical food and medicine transport, and if it happened everywhere, for as little as a week, people would start starving in their homes on day three. That's the best case civilised scenario. The real world cases would be... worse.

So high-rise farms, along with every other urban permaculture tool that can be thought up, could be critical in emergencies, and could be a very useful pressure-relief valve for sensitive goods.

I would keep the conversation on constructive terms. Politicising everything and establishing polarities of opinion is what has broken many of the systems of governance and management in place in the states. Lets keep this thread available outside the cider press.

-CK
 
Gilbert Fritz
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This could arise from something as simple as a solar storm like the one that produced the Carrington event more than a century ago. It could knock out transportation relied upon for critical food and medicine transport, and if it happened everywhere, for as little as a week, people would start starving in their homes on day three. That's the best case civilised scenario. The real world cases would be... worse.

So high-rise farms, along with every other urban permaculture tool that can be thought up, could be critical in emergencies, and could be a very useful pressure-relief valve for sensitive goods.



Would these farms really help after a Carrington event? If the event damaged anything, it would damage electrical infrastructure. And again, I've never seen a high rise farm growing staples; I'd guess it is not possible. Vegetables take up only 2 percent of American farmland. Vegetables make up few of the calories needed to feed people in a disaster.

And, cities are full of lawns . . .


There's nothing democratic about farming on land as you describe. You still need access to the land. That usually requires money. There's nothing saying you couldn't have a giant co-op owning and operating a mixed use high-rise farm, where the naturally lightless part of the building would be living space and anything from office spaces to crafting and manufacturing spaces. There's nothing saying you need to use robots instead of employing members of the co-op. And when you increase the size of the community, it's illogical to make decisions and work on the scale of the individual. So if you're working on the scale of millions, how does it make sense to find solutions only on the scale of the individual human?

There's nothing inherently wrong about massive projects. I still remember, vividly, a video geoff lawton posted a couple of years ago documenting a contour swale build during the great depression, just to make jobs for people to work. It opened with Geoff strolling across what looked to be very dry, gravelly terrain devoid of much other than scrub. Then the camera followed him as he traversed the swale, and it was all lush greenness, a good 80 years after its construction. That certainly wasn't a project conceived of and executed on the human scale.



I've always had access to more land then I could use, for free. I guess the same would be true for many others. I've never had access to a solar panel plant. And I agree, we need community. How many people do you suppose worked on that swale? A few thousand? How large of a community would be needed to manufacture panels, LEDs, etc.? Whenever local communities become dependent on far-off entities, they are exploited.

Human scale does not always mean small. The old Cathedrals of Europe were built on a human scale, and as a community project. Their builders were anonymous and partially autonomous. Now, large buildings are designed by architects distant from the community and the land.

Cataclysm is the only thing that will make many leave the cities. No amount of really wanting it will make devoted city-dwellers want to stop living in huge overcrowded metropoli. Nor would we want hundreds of millions of people exploding all over everything. That would be ruinous to ecology the world over. If it happened suddenly, the probable outcome has been fictionalised in at least one place I can think of, where there would be dead zones a hundred miles radius from any city centre where everything was eaten bare. Where those radii of starvation overlapped, you'd likely see cannibalism.



Are these farms part of an abundant, high energy future powered by mini-nukes? Or are they a response to cataclysm? I could see them as part of the first, though they would seem rather pointless in that case. I really can't see how they'd work in the second case. Some of the necessary supply chains would probably get disrupted.

And I agree, let's keep politics out of it. I didn't mean democratic in a political sense.
 
Chris Kott
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Your numbers are dated, and the whole efficiency argument has been done to death. The efficiency numbers are on an upward trend, even as costs drop. It's not legislation that's responsible for the recent growth of renewables, though that may have helped kickstart them in places they otherwise wouldn't have happened. And the shadecloth argument ignores that the lumens of harmful light that would otherwise be taking up real estate on plants' leaves would be replaced by lumens of the right frequency to increase the efficiency of the photosynthetic process.

Also, panel technology is becoming less and less intrusive, to the point where we are looking at transparent panels that sub easily in normal architectural glass applications. If every non-glazing surface were some ubiquitous form of energy collector, which is what we're talking about with the topic of photovoltaic and thermovoltaic paints, we start gathering energy on scales that make solar farms unnecessary.

That doesn't even mention energy and transportation solution ideas like the Solar Road. If the roads we used were giant solar panels and display screens, which is what this solution is, not only would we have much greater ability to inform drivers about obstacles ahead and make changes to lanes and roadway signage, they could melt snow themselves and generate power enough to supply cities.

We don't live in a static world. We are moving towards more energy usage, not less, mostly because there is demand for it. Renewable technology has responded to the demand, and we are seeing the beginning stages of the result.

-CK
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Your numbers are dated



Which ones?
 
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I have read the thread, and I come up with one question. Why? Why would one go to huge lengths to design and build a building to grow something that can be grown next door practically for free? What's the advantage? You're going to have to plunder soil from somewhere, and as the depth of soil will be what 12inches?  it's going to get depleted very very fast. If you use humanure to refresh it will quickly become very unbalanced, there's no rock below this soil to add minerals, and the very act of intensive production will deplete it in 1-2 seasons. Constant watering will cause a buildup of salts without expensive water treatment before hand (just like in any commercial greenhouse)  So not only is there electric having to be provided by whatever means, but also many thousands of tons of soil taken from somewhere and replaced every few years. Unless we're talking hydroponics and that's well madness in my opinion.
 
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Skandi, the answers to the questions you just asked are in the thread above. I am not going to retype or quote an entire thread.

-CK
 
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
Are these farms part of an abundant, high energy future powered by mini-nukes? Or are they a response to cataclysm? I could see them as part of the first, though they would seem rather pointless in that case. I really can't see how they'd work in the second case. Some of the necessary supply chains would probably get disrupted.



I'm curious why you imagine this is so, referring to the bolded portion.  Some portion of nuke derived electricity could certainly power limited personal transportation, but there is no realistic scenario that they could power bulk transportation such as trans-continental cargo trains.  The technology that drives light rail on the electric grid simply doesn't scale.  There has to be some form of liquid transport fuel, such as bio-diesel, in order for a high energy future to work regardless.  Transportation nukes are possible, but extremely unwise; so if mini-nukes are used to replace diesel-electric locomotives in such a future; it's already a cataclysm.
 
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I'm curious why you imagine this is so, referring to the bolded portion.  Some portion of nuke derived electricity could certainly power limited personal transportation, but there is no realistic scenario that they could power bulk transportation such as trans-continental cargo trains.  The technology that drives light rail on the electric grid simply doesn't scale.  There has to be some form of liquid transport fuel, such as bio-diesel, in order for a high energy future to work regardless.  Transportation nukes are possible, but extremely unwise; so if mini-nukes are used to replace diesel-electric locomotives in such a future; it's already a cataclysm.



I agree the liquid fuels would be rarer in this scenario.

However, they don't have to be shipped across the country. A light electrified train could easily bring produce from peri-urban farms into the core of the city. Remember, we're talking vegetables here, that don't require that much space per person. Light electric trains already exist, and in that scenario more would probably be built.
 
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So the nuclear power I was referring to were the ones now being developed using thorium (much more stable than uranium and not weaponisable) with liquid metal to cool them. While not exactly solid-state, I have heard the idea described, and one of the operational bases is that should the reactor malfunction for any reason, it is kicked into a low-power setting, which allows the liquid metal to cool, completely surrounding the thorium. This is as different a form of nuclear energy as tower-and-mirror thermal solar generation is from, not solar trough generation, but PV. Also, it is worth noting that in an existing CANDU-model reactor, thorium would also work as well as conventional nuclear fuel, but produce only 10% of the waste, which is truly remarkable.

I don't know why we'd want to power a train with an onboard thorium reactor, although it might be worth a thought experiment or two once details are available on what would be required for one to be dangerous. In any case, if Tesla is busy figuring out how to build battery-based solar grids, why is it credible that they wouldn't be able to figure out a PowerWall design that would work on an electric train, perhaps with solar panel roofs? Maybe that's next after his electric semi.

And if we really need a liquid fuel source, why don't we connect the solar arrays to water electrolyzing hydrogen generators and use the soon-to-be defunct pipelines to move it around? We might even be able to use that hydrogen in fuel cells more efficiently that hydrogen-based combustion engines.

Incidentally, I like the idea of rail being heavily subsidised, as opposed to car infrastructure getting all the love, and then having that infrastructure destroyed by transport trucks. I would like to see it modernised, not just bullet trains, but train-sized hyperloops. I don't get the pushback to high-speed travel. All electric from renewable sources or non-polluting ones, and subsidised as an incentive for people and industry to use them over private vehicles for people and shipping.

But one point that hasn't come up yet with regards to high-rise multi-use buildings is that there is produce that is too delicate to harvest and ship any distance. The right kind of development could see the proliferation of many less transportation-friendly hierlooms that we otherwise don't see, leading to explosions in local food diversity.

Oh, and as to the earlier comment about hydroponics, I was actually thinking about open aquacultural systems feeding those hydroponic systems. Why wouldn't you? You could include natural pools for tenants to swim in, and they'd be miles healthier than any chlorinated public pool, and you'd boost the amount of protein coming out of the system.

As to field crops, non sequitur. That's not what these would be for. Field crops usually store in bulk pretty well, and they are already grown in the ground in locales where they will naturally do well because that's the most effective way to grow them. There's no advantage to even trying to do that. Better to do that on volunteered lawns. I don't even know if you could do that on rooftops, grains and pulses anyways.

One of the most basic things in life is using the right tool for the right task. It is pointless to try to drive a nail with poultry shears, and dangerous to use a chainsaw to carve a roast. Why would we criticise a hypothetical development idea because it wouldn't be good at doing something it isn't designed to do?

-CK
 
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Oh, and Gilbert?

http://www.pveducation.org/pvcdrom/appendices/solar-cell-efficiency-results2

Those numbers.

-CK
 
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Chris Kott wrote:So the nuclear power I was referring to were the ones now being developed using thorium (much more stable than uranium and not weaponisable) with liquid metal to cool them. While not exactly solid-state, I have heard the idea described, and one of the operational bases is that should the reactor malfunction for any reason, it is kicked into a low-power setting, which allows the liquid metal to cool, completely surrounding the thorium. This is as different a form of nuclear energy as tower-and-mirror thermal solar generation is from, not solar trough generation, but PV. Also, it is worth noting that in an existing CANDU-model reactor, thorium would also work as well as conventional nuclear fuel, but produce only 10% of the waste, which is truly remarkable.



You are speaking to someone who knows more than the average bear regarding the thorium reactors being developed, including the "lifter" (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor).  They are not the magic bullet that their advocates might suppose.  While they are, indeed, inherently safe from a reactor 'meltdown' type accident (which would be meaningless in this case, since the reactor is a hot, liquid alloy anyway), they are not necessarily "safe" from less dramatic accidents, such as a radioactive materials leak.  A better example of a "safe" reactor would be a SlowPoke class or equivalent, which can also use thorium just fine.  They are very safe, indeed, but have the distinct downside that they are terrible for electric power generation.  They are absolutely great for municipal district heating, though.


I don't know why we'd want to power a train with an onboard thorium reactor, although it might be worth a thought experiment or two once details are available on what would be required for one to be dangerous.



We wouldn't.  Even ignoring the necessary shielding mass necessary for public safety, the risks of a catastrophic release due to a derailing or other accident would be too high.  The only transportation that could use nukes would be ocean shipping, and even that has it's risks.



In any case, if Tesla is busy figuring out how to build battery-based solar grids, why is it credible that they wouldn't be able to figure out a PowerWall design that would work on an electric train, perhaps with solar panel roofs? Maybe that's next after his electric semi.



He can't.  It's an impossibility at scale, even if it could be done as a one off.  The battery-based grids is impossible for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is a limited volume of recoverable 'rare earth' materials (including lead, which is way less common in nature than iron ore, as an example) necessary for the construction of high-quality battery technologies.  The electric semi is a one off, just as a proof-of-concept.  It will cost a fortune, and likely be the only one ever built.



And if we really need a liquid fuel source, why don't we connect the solar arrays to water electrolyzing hydrogen generators and use the soon-to-be defunct pipelines to move it around? We might even be able to use that hydrogen in fuel cells more efficiently that hydrogen-based combustion engines.



Mostly because hydrogen, being a gas at anything near room temps, is difficult to store in any useful volume.  Which is why it has to be a (room temp) liquid fuel.



Incidentally, I like the idea of rail being heavily subsidised, as opposed to car infrastructure getting all the love, and then having that infrastructure destroyed by transport trucks. I would like to see it modernised, not just bullet trains, but train-sized hyperloops. I don't get the pushback to high-speed travel. All electric from renewable sources or non-polluting ones, and subsidised as an incentive for people and industry to use them over private vehicles for people and shipping.


The rail network in the US is more subsidized than you know.  Not like airplanes or interstate highways, true, but it's still subsidized.  High speed rail is a difficult issue in the United States, due to political and geographical reasons, but might be something that could be overcome someday.  However, the fuel source is still an issue.  I'd like to see hyperloops more, myself.

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Hi Chris,

So are you saying that in the future transport fuel will or will not be an issue?

 
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Hi Gilbert. I am saying that obsessing over details like this is ultimately futile in the context of projects that, in the form I am thinking about, are just entering the planning stage, and not in a form I would consider permaculture. To dismiss an idea at this point because technology that is currently in use is insufficient to the task of solving future problems is a little short-sighted, in my view. We can look at recent history and current trends and guess, and talk to people with more hard knowledge than we have available, like Creighton, for instance, who can give us a better idea about current capabilities and projected trends.

What people present as inherent flaws I see as design challenges and metrics for success. This applies in some measure to your comments, Creighton, although in much less specific terms.

I don't expect to see thorium reactors the size of watch batteries, and I wouldn't want to if all they are going to do is allow for smart phones with really long battery life. But I expect the push for renewables to drive overall efficiencies up and costs down, and I would expect research into battery technologies that are comprised of more common materials to continue.

And as to their necessity, do we need hugelkultur? Do we need to compost? Perhaps not in every situation, but the permaculture toolbox would be a little sparser without them. I don't understand the drive to condemn innovation in this sphere. It's like the inverse of the kind of panaceic thinking lots of idealists display, where they just know what the best answer is, and no other solution is suitable for every situation, and there's no point in doing anything if it doesn't conform to their view. It's letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and perhaps necessary. Why would we want to give ourselves fewer options?

-CK
 
Creighton Samuels
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Chris Kott wrote:
What people present as inherent flaws I see as design challenges and metrics for success. This applies in some measure to your comments, Creighton, although in much less specific terms.



Perhaps, but my largest complaint with a techno-renewable view of the future is that there are limits on those recoverable resources as well, and many of them are also energy intensive as well, such as aluminum refining.  Perhaps every household can actually have a couple hundred watts of solar panels, but the average American household would have to cut their daily household electric consumption by 80%+ just to make that fit.  There is no practical scenario wherein the Happy Motoring culture continues for more than another generation.  James Howard Kunstler has a true talent with explaining this kind of issue, far better than I do.



I don't expect to see thorium reactors the size of watch batteries, and I wouldn't want to if all they are going to do is allow for smart phones with really long battery life.



The spike in the incidence of wrist cancer would be a downer as well.




But I expect the push for renewables to drive overall efficiencies up and costs down, and I would expect research into battery technologies that are comprised of more common materials to continue.



Sure, but it will become a rich man's solution.  Transportation batteries are a power density to weight issue, the stationary battery technology is a problem solved a century ago.  Lead acid has it's issues, but lead is recyclable indefinitely; and there is also the Edison battery.  Newer technologies for transportation batteries focus on tricky reactions involving lithium and zinc precisely because these metals are much lighter than lead, nickel or iron; but lithium is fairly rare compared to the other choices, and zinc has an enormous number of other uses competing for it.  And even if it were possible to replace just the US private vehicle fleet with a combination of these battery technologies, these all electric cars would effectively be coal powered for at least the next generation; because next generation nuke reactors are a long way from widespread commercial construction & there isn't enough of the rare-earth minerals to build enough photovoltic panels to get the job done in the meantime.

Said another way, the future will look a lot like a steampunk novel, with a lot of older technologies being revived and applied to modern problems.  How that future might look like in detail is anyone's guess; but I would guess that it would look closer to Retrotopia than Snow Crash.
 
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Yeah, raw materials are an issue. I thought the guys that are talking robotic asteroid capture and mining were a little out there, but I think it's more that they're just far-sighted. And yes, that's a whole other can of worms, with its own problems and potential calamities, but that is the eventual direction of things, along with colonisation of every body we can make inhabitable, and every orbital and trans-planetary structure we can devise. Now THAT will be high-rise. And just to head off the naysayers, unless you like a factory planet where you have to buy clean air to breathe and there is no room, or you like the idea of an enforced one-child policy, our only other hope is sudden, dramatic sea level rise. Expanding our living space will be easier than changing human nature; it will be working with it, and with, in particular, the frontiering spirit that was, if you can accept the associated colonial atrocities as cultural artefacts of a less progressed era, the best part of the settlement of the West. But that is probably another thread entirely. I would be happy to discuss it, but not here, as it is probably a cider press issue.

As to forecasting the future and what we can expect, the Paris Accords of 2015, based on the best scientific understanding of the day, estimated that the maximum likely (I don't remember the actual wording) amount of global sea level rise by 2100 would be a matter of 3.2 feet. I recently read an article that put the amount of global sea level rise in the event of a catastrophic collapse of the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers at 11ft. I will link the article.

http://flip.it/7HSTg5

Not super pertinent to the issue of high-rise farms, unless they're located within 11 feet of sea level, but that change in understanding, which was probably in the pipes already at the time of the Paris Accords, but look at the difference to our understanding two years makes, even if we're just talking about that information being accredited enough for release to media outlets and the public at large. This is a much more current example of the more common look at the rapid changes of the past hundred years as a metric of how things can change, but it's not just human development.

So realistically, I see these, in the form I mentioned (permaculturally oriented mixed use buildings in excess of 10 storeys), as coping strategies for overburdened urban areas, where urbanisation is being taken as an answer to unemployment, as is the historical trend. I see them also, perhaps, in thriving, densely packed cities with geographic impediments, like Vancouver, for instance, sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains. Yeah, the cheapest things to produce, foodwise, will definitely be microgreens in most environments, but what of buildings designed for, say, humid continental climates with wide temperature swings between summer and winter, where the grow spaces might be designed as food-producing greenspaces that open to the exterior when conditions permit? I don't like the skyscraper petri dish idea, which is one reason why designers from a factory food perspective would advocate for sealed environments (control of disease and contaminants), if not single-use food factories, an idea a wholeheartedly oppose as it is in contradiction of several key permaculture tenets.

And to revisit the whole arcology idea, what if we were able to turn these groups of living buildings into soil and biomass factories, and use them to, say, regreen deserts or introduce rainforests for purposes of natural geoengineering? That's what I'm talking about: communities of high-rise structures that are self-sustaining to the point of being able to treat them as monolithic beings, designed to house us healthily, and acting beneficially to repair that which has been damaged, like using grazing properly to enhance soil creation, or mucking out a stable onto pasture (I haven't got to the point of figuring out how to move these things, a la paddock shifting, unless they're floating islands with integrated vertical mariculture...)

-CK
 
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High-rise buildings = a cluster of problems ... I don't even know where to start.

And before even tackling on the technological issues of farming on high-rises, you have to deal with a couple of elementary problems:

They are unfit as housing.

Here's what Bill Mollison had to say about tall buildings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxV4KVCHnB0

And they are unfit to be used as 'farms', simply because the people who are forced by their circumstances to accept being housed in high-rises are unlikely to have time for gardening / agriculture.  Their urban jobs + commuting to/from jobs probably ties up too much of their time.  For office buildings, the question still remains: who farms the high-rise farms?


 
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It is a complex issue. I understand your position, but as made clear in above posts, it is very easy to tear down creative solutions. It is much harder to attempt to shape the conversation in the direction of permaculture.

We aren't discussing an abstract idea here, as also demonstrated in the posts above. I think having a thread discussing the possible permutations of a permacultural design on a high-rise building, or a neighbourhood of them, or including them, perhaps even as permacultural catalysts in existing residential neighbourhoods.

When your growing season is only four to six months, a self-sustaining mixed-use off-season greenhouse environment ceases to be such a silly idea. I would prefer the design philosophy used for these be permaculture. Otherwise, we are left with wasteful, profit-motivated non-holistic design that leaves us with negative impressions of the whole idea.

Also, I respect Bill Mollison greatly, but I don't think all people are the same in terms of their ability to adapt to almost hivelike aspects of urban life. But I think our hives should look more like a tree habitat, or a mineral habitat covered in lush canyon and mountain biomes.

There is even the potential to use, providing permaculturally aligned digester and bioreactor processing, all the non-food grade treated sewage of urban areas to grow shelter belt forests or enhance existing ones, possibly using urban heat island phenomena to advantage, even designing and planting analog rain forest tree systems, to moderate climactic fluctuations. Sounds like a safer and more human-scale approach to geoengineering than many others I have heard, and a much better solution to sewage than flushing it into rivers, lakes, and oceans.

High-rise mixed use structures including food production will exist in the future. I think it better to focus on what can be improved through permaculturally aligned design.

-CK
 
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Levente Andras wrote:
They are unfit as housing.

Here's what Bill Mollison had to say about tall buildings:


The Bruce Effect is something that modern building code has been dealing with for decades now.  This is one of several reasons that modern building code requires a minimum of air exchanges, with the outside air, not other enclosed air spaces, of four times an hour.  More depending upon the intended use of the space.  There are no more towers that use the end to end air supply method anymore.

And more complaints about high rise living?



And they are unfit to be used as 'farms', simply because the people who are forced by their circumstances to accept being housed in high-rises are unlikely to have time for gardening / agriculture.  Their urban jobs + commuting to/from jobs probably ties up too much of their time.  For office buildings, the question still remains: who farms the high-rise farms?



What a very Dickens viewpoint on urban living.  The fact of the matter is that cities do exist as a natural consequence of the human drive towards trade, and there will always be a significant portion of the population that prefers an urban lifestyle.  Granted, any city larger than about half a million people is likely too large to sustain itself in any long term energy crunch, but cities have existed for as long as civilization has existed, and they will continue to exist.
 
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What a very Dickens viewpoint on urban living.  The fact of the matter is that cities do exist as a natural consequence of the human drive towards trade, and there will always be a significant portion of the population that prefers an urban lifestyle.  Granted, any city larger than about half a million people is likely too large to sustain itself in any long term energy crunch, but cities have existed for as long as civilization has existed, and they will continue to exist.



I'd agree. I'd also think that any city of less then half a million people wouldn't really need that tall of buildings . . . (Rome may have had a million inhabitants 1900 years ago, and they couldn't build much over 10 stories, if that. And it was a fairly compact city.)
 
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:

And more complaints about high rise living?



Not complaints as such - because I don't live in a high rise (I did, in an earlier life)

But plenty of objections !

When the elevator is broken or there is a power outage, how do you carry your groceries to the 7th floor?  

When the city suffers from water shortages (+/- power outage), will there be enough pressure in the water mains to supply your 7th floor apartment ?  

Does your set-up / lifestyle have enough resilience in terms of energy use / fuel use - e.g., will you have an alternative fuel / alternative cooking & heating facilities in case your apartment's gas supply is cut off for days ?

Again in case of lasting water shortage, how do you deal with human waste, when the current set-up consists of a flushing toilet ?

Of course, design could try and tackle these problems, but it practice it's unlikely that it will.  The VAST majority of developers and real estate buyers are either unable to or not interested in thinking beyond the current urban paradigm.

 
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:
What a very Dickens viewpoint on urban living.  The fact of the matter is that cities do exist as a natural consequence of the human drive towards trade, and there will always be a significant portion of the population that prefers an urban lifestyle.  Granted, any city larger than about half a million people is likely too large to sustain itself in any long term energy crunch, but cities have existed for as long as civilization has existed, and they will continue to exist.



But we ARE talking about very large cities - with very tall high-rises (it's in the title of the thread, right?), where urban existence can indeed be Dickensian.  

So I'm not objecting to cities in general, but to a certain 'flavour' of cities - the ones where people live and work in high-rises.

 
Creighton Samuels
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Levente Andras wrote:

Creighton Samuiels wrote:

And more complaints about high rise living?



Not complaints as such - because I don't live in a high rise (I did, in an earlier life)

But plenty of objections !

When the elevator is broken or there is a power outage, how do you carry your groceries to the 7th floor?  



With your feet, which is why, before the age of powered elevators, the upper floors were cheaper to live in.  Only after the invention of elevators did the penthouse view become so valuable.  In the future, however, your urban groceries could be delivered by an Amazon drone; which are unlikely to be affected by an outage of a few hours, and certainly not affected by an elevator repairman strike.



When the city suffers from water shortages (+/- power outage), will there be enough pressure in the water mains to supply your 7th floor apartment ?  


This is actually a problem that NYC solved a century ago.  Every tower over 5 stories is requiered by building code to have it's own tanks above the highest occupied floor, with the minimum volume defined by a formula that depends upon how large the building is and how many people 'occupy' it.  There is a certain volume for normal water usage during a power outage, with a certain volume reserved for firefighting needs.  The code also requires that all the building (above the 4th floor, I think) take it's water from the water tanks inside the building, and that an automatic refill system is in place to keep the tanks topped off.  Most modern buildings don't put these on the roof, but instead hide them in the interior of the top floor, but they all must have them.


Does your set-up / lifestyle have enough resilience in terms of energy use / fuel use - e.g., will you have an alternative fuel / alternative cooking & heating facilities in case your apartment's gas supply is cut off for days ?



I don't have a set-up, but most urban cooking and heating facilites can run off of natural gas just fine, which isn't subject to a power outage for many, many days.  In fact, I can't even think of a case wherein a gas pressure outage occurred as a direct result of a lengthy power outage.



Again in case of lasting water shortage, how do you deal with human waste, when the current set-up consists of a flushing toilet ?



See above.  A long solved problem.  Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one.



Of course, design could try and tackle these problems, but it practice it's unlikely that it will.  The VAST majority of developers and real estate buyers are either unable to or not interested in thinking beyond the current urban paradigm.



I just pointed out how your objections have already been solved.  And once upon a time, before the electric personnel elevator, towers typically had 'dumbwaiter' elevators, powered by counterweights but not large enough (or safe enough) for people to ride inside.  Cargo could travel in these dumbwaiters for many, many floors at a time.  But even if these never made a comeback, this problem is solved well enough by the labor market, by giving unskilled manual labor some work carrying large sacks of groceries up those steps.  Who would need a gym membership anymore?
 
Levente Andras
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Creighton Samuiels wrote:
I just pointed out how your objections have already been solved.  And once upon a time, before the electric personnel elevator, towers typically had 'dumbwaiter' elevators, powered by counterweights but not large enough (or safe enough) for people to ride inside.  Cargo could travel in these dumbwaiters for many, many floors at a time.  But even if these never made a comeback, this problem is solved well enough by the labor market, by giving unskilled manual labor some work carrying large sacks of groceries up those steps.  Who would need a gym membership anymore?



Well, my objections don't seem to have been solved.

Groceries delivered by Amazon drone? That's perfectly imaginable.  Is it desirable though, if you look at things with a permaculture, appropriate technology mindset? Is a world where groceries are delivered by Amazon drone compatible with healthy local communities, local shopping from family grocery stores and farmers' markets?

Outage of a few hours? Okay, I see.  Some of us imagine the future as 'business as usual' / 'more of the same'.  Fossil fuel shortage not anywhere in sight. Or at any rate, plenty of electric power for everyone, residential and commercial users alike, for the same (wasteful) applications as we know today.  ... Personally, I'm more pessimistic.

As for water shortage - sorry, I should have been more precise and should have used the words 'long-lasting water rationing caused by drought' - you can google the 3-year drought suffered by Brazilian cities Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Can imagine what it feels like living in a high-rise with water cut off for 5 days a week.

Natural gas for cooking? Yeah, sure.  Again, assuming that the future will be 'more of the same' - no issues with natural gas supply.  Can you make a fire from scrap wood or other woody material in your high-rise apartment?  And if you can, how do you haul the fuel up there?
 
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Levente, you are presenting simple design challenges as dealbreakers. The problems you are bringing up have centuries-old solutions. All that is necessary is to design to account for your concerns.

It was already pointed out that at least a century ago, the water shortage in high-rise issue was seen as such, and addressed.

Even if electric transportation overtakes fossil fuel, which I hope happens soon, and most grid electricity is solar, wind, or hydro-derived, natural gas will likely still prevail as the most effective way to heat large communities that require heating in the winter. Two exceptions I see to this are where geothermal power is convenient for this purpose, and the potential use of the aforementioned thorium-powered slowpoke class or equivalent reactors, that could provide centralised neighbourhood heating and electricity. In these places, a four-season hothouse is the only means of growing anything all season long. As the light levels would need to be supplemented anyhow for a significant portion of the year, stacking greenhouses isn't an impediment to lighting, and if anything, the ability to tune the light spectra, as mentioned earlier, could have advantages in efficiency and growth rate (though caution should be taken, in my opinion, to only eliminate the greens, that are reflected by leaves, and harmful parts of the light spectrum, as we don't want to unintentionally undernourish the plants).

Creighton might disagree with me, but if the stationary battery storage issue has, indeed, been solved ages ago, it should be a simple matter of policy and economic incentive to help cities develop decentralised energy storage for off-peak generation times for solar and wind. It could be neighbourhood-scale, up to city scale, or it could be, in a move toward greater resiliency, a network of installations for individual high-rises, whereby excess power is stored throughout the system, to be released to the network when demand is higher. We seem to have no issue building parking accommodations and utility spaces deep underground; why wouldn't this work for giant batteries?

Besides, as this is a permaculture forum, I think it reasonable to assume permacultural intent of all people here. If this were a thought experiment, and we ended up with a design for a high-rise multi-use urban project that included a large food-producing element that was anything other than permaculture, I would say that the experiment itself failed, that the imaginations and technical skill of the permies involved weren't up to the task of imagining a truly resilient permacultural high-rise. I don't think there's anything wrong with the premise.

I think that the posts in this thread have clearly established that there's more than enough meat on this bone. There's no real credible argument to convince me that these hypothetical structures won't be built. There's no permacultural argument based in reason that will convince me that this isn't an idea worth working on. And if purely commercial interests are the only ones to run with the idea, I don't think it will look like anything I would want, so I think it crucial that, instead of naysaying, creative minds come together to hash out ideas like this.

We all get it. Some of us are in the purist boat, on some issues if not all. But insisting on absolute deurbanisation is useless oversimplification at best, and an environmentally catastrophic idea, more realistically. I think it much more important to stress the idea that cities must include many more natural elements.

I like the idea of a Singapore high-rise that I saw in an article recently that was designed to include large soil basins all over the outside of the structure for the purpose of growing trees. It is described in the literature as a sort of vertical forest. These kinds of shifts are already underway.

People are not all of one kind. Some prefer urban life. Let's let them. Let's help them by thinking about novel ways to ameliorate the urban experience with permacultural design philosophy. I think it simply a lack of imagination to say that the two cannot coexist, even thrive together.

-CK
 
Creighton Samuels
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Levente Andras wrote:

Creighton Samuiels wrote:
I just pointed out how your objections have already been solved.  And once upon a time, before the electric personnel elevator, towers typically had 'dumbwaiter' elevators, powered by counterweights but not large enough (or safe enough) for people to ride inside.  Cargo could travel in these dumbwaiters for many, many floors at a time.  But even if these never made a comeback, this problem is solved well enough by the labor market, by giving unskilled manual labor some work carrying large sacks of groceries up those steps.  Who would need a gym membership anymore?



Well, my objections don't seem to have been solved.

Groceries delivered by Amazon drone? That's perfectly imaginable.  Is it desirable though, if you look at things with a permaculture, appropriate technology mindset? Is a world where groceries are delivered by Amazon drone compatible with healthy local communities, local shopping from family grocery stores and farmers' markets?


Honestly, I don't know the answer to this question.  But I do know that wheeled drones designed to drive on public roads are being tested right now, whether or not there are human passengers in the vehicle.  A 200 pound wheeled drone that saves you a trip to that farmers' market in person, if you were to drive a 2000 pound car to get there (electric or not), is a net win energy wise.  In any future energy crunch, technological solutions that save energy overall will likely persist.  The quad-copter drones that could deliver directly to the 5th floor is questionable.



Outage of a few hours? Okay, I see.  Some of us imagine the future as 'business as usual' / 'more of the same'.  Fossil fuel shortage not anywhere in sight. Or at any rate, plenty of electric power for everyone, residential and commercial users alike, for the same (wasteful) applications as we know today.  ... Personally, I'm more pessimistic.



I wouldn't say "plenty" of power for everyone.  I don't think that "plenty" applies well today.  But not every city is in the same situation.  I live near a city that has a 10 megawatt hydroelectric plant immediately west of the downtown district, that most people aren't even aware is there, although it's not a secret.



As for water shortage - sorry, I should have been more precise and should have used the words 'long-lasting water rationing caused by drought' - you can google the 3-year drought suffered by Brazilian cities Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Can imagine what it feels like living in a high-rise with water cut off for 5 days a week.


No, because I would have moved by the third day.  Also, I'm not the kind of person to depend upon an infrastructure company to supply my needs.  Anyone who can leave such a vulnerable city should move.  Los Vegas shouldn't even exist.



Natural gas for cooking? Yeah, sure.  Again, assuming that the future will be 'more of the same' - no issues with natural gas supply.  Can you make a fire from scrap wood or other woody material in your high-rise apartment?  And if you can, how do you haul the fuel up there?



Before natural gas was the dominate form of heating fuel in modern cities, those same gas networks existed but moved wood gas (once called "city gas") instead.  Fed by huge gasifier plants near the edge of the city, that took daily deliveries of cordwood.  Paris was known as the "City of Lights" because of it's network of public gas-lit street lamps, which was entirely wood powered for decades before the ready availability of natural gas became a cheaper method of powering those same lamps.  I've said it once already; that I fully expect that a near future & long lasting energy crunch will result in a world that looks like a steampunk novel, with a mix of old technology solving modern problems alongside modern advanced technology solving other problems.

Of course, entire cities of the populations & needs that exist today switching back to wood gas after natural gas stops flowing can't be sustainable either.  But then, nor do I consider the current population density of the Eastern seaboard to be sustainable; so either way, that which cannot continue will eventually cease; and an energy crunch or water shortage are exactly the right kind of crisis that would force the issue.
 
I am going down to the lab. Do NOT let anyone in. Not even this tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
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