Inauguration of MAEBB 21’ Thesis Prototype : Solar Greenhouse

This September, the 2020-21 Masters in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities completed their final thesis project, the Solar Greenhouse. Attempting to tackle issues at both the local and global scale, students designed two levels with unique functions; the lower level incubates new seedlings and fosters a productive local agroecology, while the upper contains a hydroponic growing station that could theoretically be placed on the rooftop of any building in the city. This full-scale prototype aids in the intensive agricultural efforts taking place at Valldaura Labs, and imagines an urban-scale intervention that could bring locally grown fresh produce to urban dwellers. The Solar Greenhouse was constructed from Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) that was harvested, milled, processed and pressed into laminated wooden elements on site at Valldaura Labs. Structural elements like walls and floors were made into Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), made in an industrial press operated by students. This lightweight structure allowed the whole building to be assembled quickly and without the use of heavy machinery. Taking advantage of the digital techniques they learned throughout the previous semesters, the students used advanced tools like the CNC Mill to ensure a precise and coordinated construction process.

The glass roof, carefully arranged in a ‘heliomorphic’ diamond shape, allows for full solar capture both by the plants inside and the semi-transparent solar panels integrated within the glass. The glass facade was designed to give full ventilation to the plants but also absorb as much sunlight as possible. The Solar Greenhouse also features a fully functional nutrient delivery system consisting of storage tanks, nutrient inflows, tubing to feed the plants directly and a matrix of LED strip lights to facilitate longer growth cycles installed with help from Luz Negra. All planting beds use a sawdust substrate, a waste product generated from the wood processing tools in the Green Fab Lab at Valldaura put to imaginative reuse. The plants grown in that former waste material will be planted in the garden and produce food, creating a great example of biodynamic and circular function/reuse.

As modern day living requires the reinterpretation of our collective societal needs, food production and its processing have become a main focus for self-sufficiency. For years, Valldaura Labs has been involved in revitalizing the agricultural potential of the historic mountain valley it is located within, combining tacit knowledge of water management and farming with advanced tools and agrology techniques. The Solar Greenhouse represents the next bold step towards transforming the lessons of this local condition into a more ecologically focused agricultural solution for the wider urban context. This prototype will inform the next generation of urban food production located on the roofs and terraces of the city, combining efficient cultivation with solar generation using renewable materials. With the completion of this project, the 2020-2021 MAEBB Class held their graduation ceremony on Friday, September 3rd with a sense of immense accomplishment, standing meters away from their new green machine.