A team of students and researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) has designed a prototype Solar Greenhouse in Barcelona, Spain, to generate its own energy and produce food without emitting greenhouse gasses.
The project was developed during a masters program at the IAAC. The students, led by architects Vicente Guallart and Daniel Ibáñez, built the two-story greenhouse in two months.
The structure, constructed in Barcelona's Serra de Collserola Natural Park, is intended to prove how humanity’s most basic needs could be provided in a more ecological way, in accordance with the EU's net-zero by 2050 goal.
The aim is that the system can be replicated and used in both rural and urban areas, explains Architect Magazine.
The 130-square-foot two-story Solar Greenhouse is constructed from "Aleppo Pine that was milled, dried, processed, and pressed into laminated wooden elements on-site at Valldaura," explains the team.
The heliomorphic "diamond" shaped glass roof of the greenhouse allows the plants to directly absorb sunlight and its semi-transparent solar panels generate the energy to power the entire structure. And LED and UV lights help grow vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, and eggplant at night.
Plants in the greenhouse germinate on the first floor and they are grown upstairs. The structure’s roof is decked out with solar panels in a checkered pattern, while its windows at the front and back can be opened for natural ventilation. A fully functional irrigation system consisting of storage tanks, nutrient inflows, and tubing is used to feed the plants directly with nutrients to help speed up the growth, as well.
Both the LED panels used and the irrigation system in the greenhouse are powered by solar panels. The greenhouse only uses about 50 percent of the energy it produces.
The real deal will be 10 times larger
The actual Solar Greenhouse will be 1,600-square-feet and 29-feet high — over 10 times bigger than the prototype — as Guallart’s ultimate goal is to build communities that are able to grow their own food and produce their own energy.
Then again, we don’t really need that much space as solar greenhouses can also be added on top of existing buildings, too. "If we decide we want to produce food and energy in our cities, we can do it, the only thing we need to do is adapt our buildings or make our buildings focused on that," Guallart says.