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Found 4 results

  1. The New York Times July 15, 2008 Country, the City Version: By BINA VENKATARAMAN What if “eating local” in Shanghai or New York meant getting your fresh produce from five blocks away? And what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food? Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, hopes to make these zucchini-in-the-sky visions a reality. Dr. Despommier’s pet project is the “vertical farm,” a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact. The idea, which has captured the imagination of several architects in the United States and Europe in the past several years, just caught the eye of another big city dreamer: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. When Mr. Stringer heard about the concept in June, he said he immediately pictured a “food farm” addition to the New York City skyline. “Obviously we don’t have vast amounts of vacant land,” he said in a phone interview. “But the sky is the limit in Manhattan.” Mr. Stringer’s office is “sketching out what it would take to pilot a vertical farm,” and plans to pitch a feasibility study to the mayor’s office within the next couple of months, he said. “I think we can really do this,” he added. “We could get the funding.” Dr. Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people. “I’m viewed as kind of an outlier because it’s kind of a crazy idea,” Dr. Despommier, 68, said with a chuckle. “You’d think these are mythological creatures.” Dr. Despommier, whose name in French means “of the apple trees,” has been spreading the seeds of his radical idea in lectures and through his Web site. He says his ideas are supported by hydroponic vegetable research done by NASA and are made more feasible by the potential to use sun, wind and wastewater as energy sources. Several observers have said Dr. Despommier’s sky-high dreams need to be brought down to earth. “Why does it have to be 30 stories?” said Jerry Kaufman, professor emeritus of urban and regional planning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Why can’t it be six stories? There’s some exciting potential in the concept, but I think he overstates what can be done.” Armando Carbonell, chairman of the department of planning and urban form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., called the idea “very provocative.” But it requires a rigorous economic analysis, he added. “Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise? My bet is that the investment banker will pay more.” Mr. Carbonell questions if a vertical farm could deliver the energy savings its supporters promise. “There’s embodied energy in the concrete and steel and in construction,” he said, adding that the price of land in the city would still outweigh any savings from not having to transport food from afar. “I believe that this general relationship is going to hold, even as transportation costs go up and carbon costs get incorporated into the economic system.” Some criticism is quite helpful. Stephen Colbert jokingly asserted that vertical farming was elitist when Dr. Despommier appeared in June on “The Colbert Report,” a visit that led to a jump in hits to the project’s Web site from an average of 400 daily to 400,000 the day after the show. Dr. Despommier agrees that more research is needed, and calls the energy calculations his students made for the farms, which would rely solely on alternative energy, “a little bit too optimistic.” He added, “I’m a biologist swimming in very deep water right now.” “If I were to set myself as a certifier of vertical farms, I would begin with security,” he said. “How do you keep insects and bacteria from invading your crops?” He says growing food in climate-controlled skyscrapers would also protect against hail and other weather-related hazards, ensuring a higher quality food supply for a city, without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Architects’ renderings of vertical farms — hybrids of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Biosphere 2 with SimCity appeal — seem to be stirring interest. “It also has to be stunning in terms of the architecture, because it needs to work in terms of social marketing,” Dr. Despommier said. “You want people to say, ‘I want that in my backyard.’ ” Augustin Rosenstiehl, a French architect who worked with Dr. Despommier to design a template “living tower,” said he thought that any vertical farm proposal needed to be adapted to a specific place. Mr. Rosenstiehl, principal architect for Atelier SOA in Paris, said: “We cannot do a project without knowing where and why and what we are going to cultivate. For example, in Paris, if you grow some wheat, it’s stupid because we have big fields all around the city and lots of wheat and it’s good wheat. There’s no reason to build towers that are very expensive.” Despite its potential problems, the idea of bringing food closer to the city is gaining traction among pragmatists and dreamers alike. A smaller-scale design of a vertical farm for downtown Seattle won a regional green building contest in 2007 and has piqued the interest of officials in Portland, Ore. The building, a Center for Urban Agriculture designed by architects at Mithun, would supply about a third of the food needed for the 400 people who would live there. In June at P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center in Queens, a husband-wife architect team built a solar-powered outdoor farm out of stacked rows of cardboard tube planters — one that would not meet Dr. Despommier’s security requirements — with chicken coops for egg collection and an array of fruits and vegetables. For Dr. Despommier, the high-rise version is on the horizon. “It’s very idealistic and ivory tower and all of that,” he said. “But there’s a real desire to make this happen.” ---------------- Peut-être pour Dubai en premier? Et le silo no.5, un de ses jours?
  2. By Jay Bryan, Special to Gazette February 15, 2013 8:04 PM Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/homes/Bryan+housing+numbers+point+soft+landing/7973381/story.html#ixzz2L1fXbpfN MONTREAL — For more than a year, there have been two competing narratives about the future path of Canada’s high-flying housing market: total collapse and moderate decline. The moderates, if we can call them that, still seem to me to have the better argument, especially when you consider the unexpectedly upbeat housing resale figures last month. Friday’s report from the Canadian Real Estate Association demonstrates that national home sales continue to be significantly lower than those of a year ago, but that virtually all of this decline happened abruptly last August, reflecting a tough squeeze on mortgage-lending conditions in July by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Since then, however, there’s been no further month-to-month downtrend, notes CREA chief economist Gregory Klump. Prices, which don’t necessarily track sales right away, have also weakened, but less. While sales are down five per cent from one year ago, average national prices are actually up by three per cent, as measured by the CREA Home Price Index. However, this year-over-year price gain has slid gradually from the 4.5 per cent recorded in July. What’s the bottom line? In my opinion, it’s that the catastrophist scenario detailed not just by eccentric bloggers but also in national newspapers and magazines, looks increasingly unlikely. That’s not to say this outcome is utterly impossible. At least one highly regarded consulting firm, Capital Economics, has been predicting for two years that this country faces a 25-per-cent plunge in average home prices. This is the kind of drop — almost comparable to the 30-per-cent-plus crash in the U.S. — that would probably trigger a bad recession, especially in today’s environment of subdued economic growth. David Madani, the economist responsible for this frightening prediction, understands the housing numbers very well, but he simply doesn’t share most other analysts’ relative equanimity about what they mean. Yes, Canada’s banks are financially stronger and more prudent in their lending than their U.S. counterparts, he acknowledges, and yes, there’s little evidence of the fraud and regulatory irresponsibility that worsened the U.S. catastrophe, but he sees the psychology of overoptimistic buyers as uncomfortably similar. What looks like enormous overbuilding of condos in the hot Toronto market help to make his point, as does the still-stratospheric price of Vancouver housing. Madani certainly has a point, but the countervailing evidence seems even stronger. A key example is the behaviour of Canada’s housing market over the past six months. The latest squeeze on mortgage lending, the fourth in five years, is also the toughest, points out economist Robert Kavcic of BMO Capital Markets. It drove up the cost of carrying a typical loan by nearly one percentage point, or about $150 a month on a $300,000 mortgage. And as this shock was hitting the housing market, Canada’s employment growth was slowing. In a market held aloft by speculative psychology, it seems very likely that such a hammer blow would bring about the very crash that pessimists have been predicting. Instead, though, the market reacted pretty much as it had during previous rounds of Flaherty’s campaign to rein in the housing market, notes Derek Burleton, deputy chief economist at the TD Bank. Sales dropped moderately, but the decline didn’t feed on itself as it would in an environment of collapsing speculative hopes. Instead, the market proved to be rather resilient, with sales plateauing and then actually rising a bit in January. Burleton, along with Kavcic and Robert Hogue, an economist at the Royal Bank who follows housing, believe that we’ve already seen most of the market downside that will result from Flaherty’s move. Jay Bryan: New housing numbers point to soft landing This doesn’t mean that the market is out of the woods. It’s still overvalued, not hugely, but by something like 10 per cent, Burleton estimates. But moderate overvaluation can persist for years unless the market is hit by some shock to incomes or interest rates. While there’s no agreement on the path prices take from here, some of these analysts think they’ll drift down slowly, maybe three to eight per cent over a few years. At the same time, rising take-home pay will be shrinking the amount of overvaluation, creating a more sustainable market. Let’s hope they’re right. [email protected] © Copyright © The Montreal Gazette Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/homes/Bryan+housing+numbers+point+soft+landing/7973381/story.html#ixzz2L1ew0d8Y
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