Rooftop greenhouses: Advantages of high-rise urban agriculture

Today we will see some examples of rooftop greenhouses. There are already other blog posts about a very similar type of high-rise urban agriculture: rooftop gardens. We even visited some in the city of Shanghai, such as Anken Green Skyfarm which we talked about in SKYFARM: A new model of urban gardening in Shanghai. Whatever is up there (orchards, greenhouses, gardens…) there are many advantages of urban agriculture on top of buildings, on their rooftops or rooftops. In this post we will see what are the benefits of rooftop greenhouses and why they are increasingly important in the cities of the 21st century.

Rooftop greenhouses: Advantages of high-rise urban agriculture

There are very common technologies, such as wind or solar energy, that can be applied without any problem to high-rise orchards and greenhouses. All this, together with other techniques such as water recycling (rain and cloud water), can contribute greatly to the development of cleaner and more sustainable cities.

Why will rooftop greenhouses become a necessity in cities?

In the not too distant future, growing crops on rooftops will be a matter of necessity, something beyond aesthetic aspects or mere presumption. Perhaps that is why it is so important to know now, in the present, why and how to build rooftop greenhouses.

The problem and the reason why rooftop greenhouses and rooftop gardens are so important is basically this:

The world’s population continues to grow, and it is predicted that by 2050 there will be 2 billion more people on the planet, 9 billion in total. Of all these people, as seen in the graph above, most live in cities, so we have:

Cities that are overpopulated and therefore heavily polluted.
Cities that demand more and more food because the population is constantly growing.

This affects the environment and people’s health in a very negative way, especially in growing cities like many in China, where the need to build greenhouses on rooftops and rooftop gardens is even greater.

Rooftop greenhouses: Advantages of high-rise urban agriculture
Sustainable building proposal for Beijing

In Beijing (Beijing), there is an estimated 9,000 hectares of potential area for rooftop cultivation.

This solution would therefore be a good option to help alleviate the problem of lack of food (or the prevailing need to bring it from far away). In addition, it would be good for other benefits of rooftop vegetation, such as pollution reduction.

Advantages of rooftop greenhouses

  • Utilization of disused or underutilized spaces: building roofs.
  • No need for natural soil: can be grown using hydroponics or other substrate-free cultivation techniques.
  • Less pollution: the carbon footprint is reduced due to “km 0” production (food is eaten close to where it is produced, avoiding the pollution derived from transporting this food if it had been grown in rural areas), and also because the vegetation acts as a “carbon sink” that traps CO2 and other harmful greenhouse gases.
  • Availability of natural lighting
  • Sustainability: good location for recycling rainwater and cloud water through fog catchers. 
  • Self-sufficiency: renewable energies (solar, wind…) can be installed to operate irrigation, automatic greenhouse systems, lighting… One of the latest technologies that has been developed in this regard is transparent solar panels: they generate energy and, at the same time, serve as a greenhouse canopy.
Rooftop greenhouses: Advantages of high-rise urban agriculture
Rooftop greenhouses at Gotham Greens in Brooklyn

For these and other reasons, rooftop greenhouses have great potential. Although in countries such as the USA or Canada progress has already been made in the installation of rooftop greenhouses, in countries such as China or Spain everything is still to be done. One of the main limitations for the expansion of rooftop greenhouses is the lack of social awareness, so with this post we wanted to do our bit to help spread information about this type of sustainable urban agriculture.

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