Farms for Feasts

Institutional, Social, Urban Design / 1st Quarter 2020

Farms for Feasts

An online-only feature

Farms for Feasts is an urban farm development that blurs the boundaries of science, agriculture, architecture and urban life. This pioneering project, the first of its kind in the Southeast Asian region, is being developed in close collaboration with the Mind Museum, the premiere science museum in the Philippines. It will comprise an urban farm pavilion, an energy plaza and a solar farm—each one is a medium that harvests resources such as produce, water and solar energy—creating a self-sufficient ecosystem. In alignment with the location’s high-rise, hyper-dense and commerce-driven landscape, Farms for Feasts aims to complement this fast-paced lifestyle with a source of high-quality, equitably priced fresh produce.

In response to intensifying issues of climate change and food scarcity, Farms for Feasts is a net-zero development where emergent technologies in urban agriculture and farming are housed in one location. The development has been inspired by the resilience of farmers—the backbone of the country’s agricultural industry. This development envisions to introduce the future of innovative farming. Groundbreaking is set on the first quarter of this year 2020.

The two-storey Farm Pavilion will be enveloped by a bespoke elliptical dome, a curvilinear gesture derived from the silhouette of a farmer. The pavilion will be further articulated by an expressive aluminium tubular frame structure, with an architectural skin composed of triangulated double-glazed glass facets and evaporative cooling pads. Sections of the frame are to be prefabricated and assembled on-site for better time efficiency, while the façade of the pavilion will be engineered by local suppliers in the Philippines. These elements not only provide the structural requirements of the pavilion, but also creates a strong visual identity that signals the future of urban farming. Utilising locally sourced construction materials at global standards of quality and efficiency, Farms for Feasts will have a reinforced concrete pedestal as the base of the pavilion, and concrete for the rooms.

Performance

Housed within the Farm Pavilion, a hydroponics farm will be laid out across nine massive A-frames, each standing at 8 metres tall. In comparison to soil-based farming, this will use 70 to 95 per cent less fresh water, while producing 40 per cent more plants that are viable for harvest. The A-frames will produce a combined output of 1.2 to 2.5 metric tons of vegetation every month, to be distributed to restaurants and supermarkets in the surrounding vicinity.

The pavilion’s high-performance building envelope maintains the farm’s environment through passive technological systems. The double-glazed facets adhered with solar film maximise sunlight transmittance by 87 per cent while blocking excessive heat from entering the façade.

Temperature is further regulated by evaporative pads interspersed within the glass, as well as exhaust fans above the A-frames. This ventilating system will take in air from the building’s exterior and cools it down to the optimal temperature of 27 to 29 degrees Celsius, a 30 to 40 per cent decrease. Throughout the site, rainwater is collected, treated and recirculated for use in the building.

The solar farm is foreseen to produce an average of 20 MWh of energy per month, accumulating to an estimated 275.8 MWh per annum. This harvested energy will not only be used to power the development, but will also be returned to the public through the solar trees at the Energy Plaza, where the public can use electric bikes and charge their mobile devices.

Social agenda

Harvests from Farms for Feasts will be marketed and distributed to surrounding commercial establishments. This thus creates a self-sufficient environmental and economic interdependence, which could be replicated in other cities in the country.

Spaces within and outside of the building has been designed to not only incubate the indoor urban farm, but also to act as venues for interaction and education. At the ground floor of the pavilion, a multipurpose hall can be used for farming exhibits and dialogues. In addition, storage and production facilities will also be provided.

The Energy Plaza will serve as an active space that the public can use. It also creates a fitting entry point to the Farm Pavilion, as it provides a large space for interaction and for the appreciation of the pavilion.

Challenges and constraints

The primary challenge of the project was attaining the optimum performance to cultivate the plants while achieving human comfort. Much research and testing were conducted to determine the materials and utility systems to be used, especially at the Farm Pavilion. From the type and layout of A-frames to glass specifications at the façade, these were meticulously selected.

Another challenge was the deliberate intent of using natural ventilation to cool the building, instead of air-conditioning. In applying a low-impact and lower-cost mechanical system, the indoor farming model in this project can be made feasible in other locations. In addition, the building’s architectural language—climatic responses, scale, materiality and aesthetics—was carefully defined to effectively embody the innovations and ideals at the core of the Farms for Feasts project.

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