An ongoing cooperative research project, ROOF WATER-FARM (RWF) features the combined installation of water recycling technology and building-integrated farming. The focus of this blue-green infrastructure approach is on the reuse of daily water resource flows combined with lightweight water farming such as aquaponics (combined fish and plant farming) and hydroponics (soil-less plant farming such as using nutrient film techniques or NFT).
The project’s test site sits in the historic neighbourhood of the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in 1987 in Kreuzberg, near the former Berlin Wall and today’s Potsdamer Platz. This site has been also a model project of the Experimental Housing and Urban Development (EXWOST) research programme until 2000. Since then, this Berlin inner-city neighbourhood has become an ongoing laboratory.
One of the main challenges in the initial phase (2013–2016) was the proof of principle. First of all, to show the practicability of local (waste) water upcycling combined with high-quality aquaponics and hydroponic food production, while meeting all the standards required (hygiene, water and food safety). One of the key success factors was the robust system design that comprises an already well-functioning local water treatment facility. The circular RWF greenhouse was added and contributed to the project’s achievements by its modular farm design, which allowed for flexible adaptations throughout the testing period.
The current and ongoing challenge is to establish applied follow-up projects within real estate developments. This process of upscaling and transferring the positive research results requires a broad and transdisciplinary support of the public authorities involved—from food and water safety departments to the planning and approval stages. Furthermore, it needs additional and direct funding for blue-green project entrepreneurs who could catalyse this kind of climate- and resource-friendly urban development.
Real laboratory within an inner-city neighbourhood
1,500 square metres
Gross Floor Area
50 square metres of experimental greenhouse; 150 square metres of water recycling plant located within the courtyard; 1,000 square metres of constructed wetland
Number of Apartments (linked to the local water recycling system)
Approx. 100 apartments (250 people)
Collaboration between the city of Berlin and ROOF WATER-FARM
Research cooperation under the lead of the Chair of Urban Design and Urban Development c/o Technische Universität Berlin
Dr Grit Bürgow; Dr Anja Steglich