The transparent double facade will catch people’s eye, no matter from whether they’re in the train or walking around the area. Hunter, who lives in new Bijlmer Bajes neighbourhood, walks past the Green Tower every day. He’s first attracted by the natural look of the building and the landscaped green surroundings which run all the way to the riverbank. Looking more closely, he can see the dynamic activities located on the ground floor; this makes him want to enter the building.

Once inside, he sees open space, a cafeteria, a market, and much more. People in groups are walking around and talking about growing the plants they bought from the greenhouse. He sees that many visitors have picked up an interesting box from the market; a ready-to-eat box for working people. And a group of young people are talking about the new recipes being served at the greenhouse, so he enters the restaurant and orders the new dishes.

He’s curious about the supply systems in the greenhouse, so he decides to further explore the building. He walks through the market and tastes some of the local fresh produce. Moving on, he tours the mini-gallery to see the history of the greenhouse; the transformation from prison to greenhouse, and how it works and serve the surrounding neighbourhood.

From the gallery, he takes the sightseeing elevator to view the complete food production system: from germination, seedling growth, to packaging and process mature plants, and finally to box production. On the way he learns a little about urban agriculture. Finally, he arrives at the research centre and walks around the lab. He downloads the Joy Farm app to his smartphone and signs up for a workshop to learn more about urban agriculture, and how he himself can be an urban farmer.

Main elements Unique Selling Points

The transparent architecture makes the building’s internal elements visible and provides visual access to the riverbank landscape. In addition, the transparency also links those working inside the Green Tower to the neighbourhood. We have created three platforms:

1. Food bank

The greenhouse food bank encourages investments in local businesses, promoting system management and embedding this in the neighbourhood. The greenhouse is the central system which controls and manages the production programmes for:

  • people who want to buy food;
  • a food union management association system with other greenhouses;
  • people to discover the advanced technology being used;
  • a connection with local schools;
  • acting as a city food bank, minimizing the travel distance of food;
  • establishing new ways to grow, manage and sell food in urban centre.

2. Box

To blend urban agriculture into people’s daily lives, the team have created a portable ready-to eat greenhouse, utilizing the flexibility of a box. Five box concepts have been designed for different target groups:

  • Vending Machines: inside schools, offices targeted at students, residents and workers;

  • Living Box: functions as an urban agriculture education showcase for the growing process. Designed for use in schools, restaurants and offices; targeted at students, residents and workers;
  • Structured Street Market: a unique temporary canteen designed for special events. Farmers rent booths to sell their products;
  • Home Greenhouse: a medium-sized green box equipped with LEDs, growing medium, temperature adjust system, and air control. Residents buy seedlings from our market and grow them at home;
  • Ready-to-Eat Box: customers purchase ready to eat products fresh from our market or from the vending machines.

3. Joy farm (app)

  • Version 1 promotes urban agriculture public education through fun games;
  • Version 2 connects new residents to the greenhouse and encourages people to become urban farmers; they can grow, sell, or pick crops.

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Based on the Triple Bottom Line theory (social responsibility, environmental stewardship and economic prosperity), we consider sustainability for Bijlmer Bajes neighbourhood from socio-environmental, socioeconomic, and eco-efficiency perspectives. The greenhouse is supported by advanced technical companies to ensure efficient and environmentally friendly operation.

We bring the idea of intelligent sustainability through the platform we created: food bank, greenhouse box, and joy farm app. By leveraging these new technologies, we promote a healthy enjoyable lifestyle for residents.

We have applied the “cradle to cradle” closed system to the neighbourhood. By leveraging the box concept, we designed a closed system embedding in neighbourhood: the greenhouse is responsible for assembly, distribution, waste collection and recycling.

Lessons learned

  1. Business model: Based on the triple bottom line approach, we considered the business models from people, plant, and profit perspectives. By leveraging different business models, the project will generate revenues through diverse channels. By working with different partners, the project will create different stakeholder relationships and strengthen social interaction.
  2. The learning process of how to build a vertical farm. The techniques have enabled us to make innovations and make design ideas like greenhouse boxes and the app feasible.
  3. Urban farming strategies. Through the presentations and case studies, we reviewed many urban farming and design strategies. We looked at urban farming alternatives from ground to rooftop, from indoor to outdoor. We found that we needed to balance their advantages and disadvantages in order to provide an optimal solution for the Bijlmer Bajes, where by embedding urban farming in the neighbourhood and including cultural facilities, our cradle to cradle concept is both viable and vital.