IAAC students design Solar Greenhouse for food and energy production

IAAC students design Solar Greenhouse for food and energy production.
IAAC students design Solar Greenhouse for food and energy production. Credit: IAAC

A team of students and researchers from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) have designed a prototype Solar Greenhouse in Barcelona, Spain, for energy generation and food production with a zero kilometer philosophy.

The students, led by Vicente Guallard and Daniel Ibañez, directors of the Master’s program in Advanced Ecological Buildings and Biocities (MAEBB) at the IAAC, built a two-story greenhouse in two months. The structure, constructed in Barcelona’s Serra de Collserola Natural Park, is intended to demonstrate how our most basic needs could be met in a more ecological way, in accordance with the EU’s net-zero by 2050 goal.

It is intended to be scalable and adaptable to a variety of settings, such as on the rooftops of inner-city buildings. The aim was to design and build a system that could be replicated in both rural areas and on roofs of urban building spaces.

The greenhouse can be installed both in rural areas and on roofs of urban building spaces.
The greenhouse can be installed both in rural areas and on roofs of urban building spaces. Credit: IAAC

The 130-square-foot structure is constructed from Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) that was milled, dried, processed, and pressed into laminated wooden elements on-site at Valldaura. 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 to power the entire structure. The greenhouse only uses about 50% of the energy it produces, leaving the other half for the nearby Valldura Labs facility.

The solar-powered 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. The ground floor will be used for germinating the seedlings that will be planted in the gardens, while the upper level will generate a sizable harvest using advanced hydroponic techniques. All planting beds will use a sawdust substrate, a former waste product of the Green Fab Lab at Valldaura put to imaginative reuse.

The actual Solar Greenhouse will be 1,600 square feet and 29 feet high, over 10 times bigger than the prototype. The ultimate goal is to build communities that are able to grow their own food and produce their own energy.

“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,” said the designers.