Ten teams made it to the finals of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, where students from all over the world attempt to design an urban greenhouse in Dongguan, China. Jury members were impressed by what the teams presented, but they still see room for improvement.
Teams USP, Northwest A&F University Team, KAS, TeAMSpirit, Argos, CoExist, Team Bagua, AIGreen, Green Rhapsody, Animo and InnerCity may now call themselves finalists of the second edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. They convinced the jury of their innovative urban greenhouse. Their designs do not solely focus on food production, but also take other factors into account such as circularity, architecture, landscape and social impact.
‘I cannot believe that some of these buildings are not built yet’, says jury member Stephan Petermann. The students managed to come up with great architectural designs. Some are very pragmatic, others a bit more futuristic. Some of them could be iconic buildings, that everyone will want to visit.
But the competition is not just about looks. Jury members are also looking for innovations and integration of ideas. To Jury member Chris Monaghan ideas that brought proven, technological solutions together, such as algae production and advanced energy storage, are most appealing. ‘I like that teams looked at their urban greenhouse as a site of innovation and technological development’, Monaghan says.
Poop to close the cycle
Jury members noticed some variation between the teams regarding their attention towards circularity: some focused on the use of water, energy and materials. However, those aspects are still the basis of circularity, according to Monaghan. ‘I think human poop should be in the picture as well’, he says. Residues from the public toilet could for example be used as fertilizer for vegetables. The live poll during the event indicated that this indeed might be a good way to close the cycle, since 71 per cent of the responders was open to this idea.
Some teams looked beyond their own site and included the entire neighborhood into their plans. They tried to find ways for their urban greenhouse to be of meaning on a larger scale. ‘I think that is the right approach’, says Monaghan. Jury member Wenqing Jin agrees. He also points out that for a circular economy a certain scale is required. ‘Greenhouses are efficient in water and resource use, so the teams should keep this challenge in mind’, Wenqing Jin says.
The plans, designed by the students, also give a peak into the mindset of the new generation, according to jury member Sigrid Wertheim-Heck. ‘They are raised in a world full of technology and that reflects in their plans’, she says. ‘For example, all teams have included social media.’ She does warn the teams not to expect too much of the public and visitors. ‘The students should be aware that not everyone is as invested in circularity and sustainability as they are’, she warns. ‘But with the mindset of the next generation, I hope this will change in the future.’
In the finale, the ten finalists will have to squeeze their elaborate urban greenhouse design into short pitches to convince the jury. Therefore, the teams will receive intensive pitch training in the coming weeks. Whether the finale can take place live or as an online event, will be announced soon. The Grand Finale will take place on 27 June, more information will be published soon.