Via inhabitat.com, 25-09-2011

The Whittier Organic Food Center is a state-of-the-art food production testing and learning facility that recently took top honors in the Cavin Family Travel Fellowship. The project creates opportunities for social sustainability in Los Angeles, leasing areas of the garden and tower green walls to locals for micro-agro business. Crops are stored for disaster relief, and distribution and sales to local restaurants and school cafeterias, germinating like a seed in the community. The on-site food bank reaches out to those in need and provides on-site housing for students and trade laborers wishing to pursue work in urban agriculture.

Context

The lack of density and infrastructure within the city of Los Angeles metropolitan are presents a myriad of severe urban design problems. Little rain and high solar exposure create further environmental issues for development. Whittier will become a catalyst for a new form of Southwestern urbanism, utilizing the land, a small footprint, the sun, and the scarce water supply.
Besides being a state-of-the-art food production testing and learning facility, the Whittier Organic Food Center creates opportunity for social sustainability, leasing areas of the garden and tower green walls to locals for micro-agro business. Crops are stored for disaster relief, and distribution and sales to local restaurants and school cafeterias, germinating like a seed in the community. The on-site food bank reaches out to those in need and provides on-site housing for students and trade laborers whishing to pursue work in urban agriculture.

Program

Organic food centers and community gardens have gathered momentum across the country, with people planting on their fire escapes in Manhattan and year long wait lists for community p-patch space. The required large 400,000 ft3 hydroponic ware¬house warrants a large amount of site cov¬erage for conventional greenhouse layout. By flipping the largest program vertically, we utilize the higher altitude for on-site energy generation through increased wind and so¬lar exposure, while the essential function of hydroponics is allowed to happen with natural gravity. A bar scheme is hard to maximize passive solar and wind also diminish permeable green space and the openness of the site to the community. Towers are the way!

Materiality

Ultra light weight thin film photovoltaic integrated ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) pillows provide excellent housing for greenhouses as they expand and contract by pumping air through them, controlling high to low insulation values. They are made of high-recycled content, self clean, and blow away like flakes in fire, making them highly efficient. They are tensile and work perfect for rainwater and condensation harvesting with their smooth surface and variable temperature. Reclaimed wood screens, recycled steel, and high fly ash concrete are all made and fabricated locally minimizing carbon emissions.

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