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An Engineer’s Path To Building The Rooftop Farm

In 2014, due to the success of the pilot project RUF began the conversion of the entire green roof into a small-scale farm/market garden. The farm utilizes a five-year crop rotation based on plant families that include: Fabaceae and Asteraceae; Allium, Umbelliferae and Chenopodiaceae; Cucurbitaceae; Solanaceae; and Brassicaceae. The advantage to crop rotation is that soil borne pests and diseases that are shared among plant families are given five years to dissipate and it reduces depletion of nutrients within the soil. That year, RUF produced 5180 pounds of food with a revenue of $9971.00. In 2015, RUF completed the conversion of the 10,000 square foot rooftop, producing 7910 pounds with a revenue of $18,634.00.

An Engineer’s Path to Building the Rooftop Farm


The advantage for consumers is that, through building a relationship with the grower, they are more intimately connected with how and where their food is produced and are able to contribute to a healthier food system. CSA members pay $25/week for 20 weeks of vegetables at the beginning of the growing season. Additionally, RUF offers a working share through the Member Farmer CSA Program. Member Farmers contribute 3 hours a week to working on the farm in exchange for a discounted weekly basket of food. This allows members to learn firsthand about urban farming and engage in the growing of their own food.

With the help of students, staff and faculty, Ryerson Urban Farm has created an urban farm with more than 30 crops and over 100 varieties. RUF aims to build capacity for urban agriculture through production, education and demonstration. They draw upon principles of ecological garden design to create gardens that are beautiful, productive and resilient. This involves incorporating local resources into the design, focusing on soil building strategies and using low-impact techniques. The results are gardens that are abundant, nourishing and lasting.

Agricultural engineers work in farming, including aquaculture (farming of seafood), forestry, and food processing. They work on a wide variety of projects. For example, some agricultural engineers work to develop climate control systems that increase the comfort and productivity of livestock whereas others work to increase the storage capacity and efficiency of refrigeration. Many agricultural engineers attempt to develop better solutions for animal waste disposal. Those with computer programming skills work to integrate artificial intelligence and geospatial systems into agriculture. For example, they work to improve efficiency in fertilizer application or to automate harvesting systems.

Agricultural engineers are expected to continue working on projects such as alternative energies and biofuels; precision and automated farming technologies for irrigation, spraying, and harvesting; and worker safety systems.

"Urban agriculture includes the cultivation, processing and distribution of agricultural products in urban and suburban areas. Community gardens, rooftop farms, hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic facilities, and vertical production are all examples of urban agriculture. Tribal communities and small towns may also be included." [USDA [] website (9/23/2022)]

Yes. Urban agriculture is loosely defined as the production, distribution, and marketing of food and other products within the geographical limits of a metropolitan area. This includes community and school gardens, backyard and rooftop plots, and non-traditional methods of caring for plants and animals within a constrained area. Some definitions also include farms that supply to urban farmers markets, community supported agriculture, or farms located within metropolitan green belts.

A roof garden is a garden on the roof of a building. Besides the decorative benefit, roof plantings may provide food, temperature control, hydrological benefits, architectural enhancement, habitats or corridors[1] for wildlife, recreational opportunities, and in large scale it may even have ecological benefits. The practice of cultivating food on the rooftop of buildings is sometimes referred to as rooftop farming.[2] Rooftop farming is usually done using green roof, hydroponics, aeroponics or air-dynaponics systems or container gardens.[3]

These hills are part of the roof of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, US. The undulating green roof is one of a series of engineering and design features that make the academy one of the largest passively ventilated spaces in the US. This means that even in the peak of summer, the bulk of this building relies on clever manipulation of the elements to stay cool, with next to no air conditioning.

Roofs like these are one way that architects, engineers and designers are rethinking buildings to find ways to keep them cool without air conditioning. The challenge is becoming increasingly urgent; it has been yet another scorching year, with heatwaves steamrolling Australia, southern Asia, North America and Europe. To deal with heatwaves, made more frequent by climate change, the number of AC units is expected to more than triple worldwide by 2050. As well as guzzling huge amounts of electricity, AC units contain refrigerants that are potent greenhouse gases. These refrigerants are in fact the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in every country on Earth.

The project was constructed using modular building technology. The entirety of the units were produced in an off-site factory that allowed for numerous efficiencies like waste reduction, quality control, and shorter schedules. This development was accomplished using only two large size modules: Type A, a living/dining/kitchen module, and Type B, two bedrooms/bathroom module, joined in two combinations to create only two unit types, four bedroom and two bedroom units. The project has a first of its kind professionally operated rooftop farm that yields up to 16 tons of produce a year. This farm provides fresh produce to top restaurants in the community. The project also has zero parking spaces, a feat accomplished through providing one bicycle parking space per bedroom, discounted transit passes, on-site car sharing, and other amenities.

Creating high density housing within a small scale residential neighborhood poses many challenges to development, and often results in a delayed approvals process or buildings that appear out of scale with their context. With an understanding of this common problem, and a clear directive from the client for innovative, high density student housing that is both ecologically sensitive and modular in construction, the architects looked to the existing neighborhood development patterns for design direction. The essential quality of the Berkeley, California neighborhood is characterized by detached houses embedded in continuous gardens. This village is communal, interactive and open. It is this found texture that the architects aim to continue and expand. This grain of dense, yet open living is the model; the type is a garden village of small buildings as opposed to a single monolithic apartment complex. The project is a richly woven collection of 18 compact buildings immersed in a garden; a student village at the scale and openness of the surrounding fabric. Each building is connected by a ring of exterior walkways, threading the 77 units with a network of gardens, common space, and a professionally operated urban roof farm.

Structural Engineers want to make a contribution. They want to use their talents and creativity to produce items that are useful to society at large. The efforts of structural engineers permit people to travel across great canyons or rivers, make good use of crowded urban land while enjoying beautiful views from tall buildings, and remain safe in blizzards and earthquakes. 350c69d7ab


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