Knafo Klimor Architects of Israel - Winners of the 2nd International Architecture Competition for Sustainable Housing. China 2007
According to a UN report, in 2010 about 50% of the Chinese population will reside in cities. This huge migration from rural regions to new urban megalopolises will create a dramatic cultural and social crisis, a loss of existing traditions and considerable unemployment. Massive urbanization will form random communities, severely deplete natural resources, exhaust urban infrastructures and transportation systems, and will increase air and soil pollution.
The concept of Agro-Housing is a new urban and social vision that will address problems of chaotic urbanization by creating a new order in the city and more specifically, in the housing environment.
Agro-Housing is a program that combines a high-rise apartment complex with a vertical greenhouse within the same building.
The idea behind Agro-Housing is to create a close to home space where families can produce their own food supply according to their abilities and choices. This will allow the citizens more independence, freedom, and additional income.
Advantages of this innovative building typology:
- Produces food for tenants and the surrounding community.
- Produces organic and healthy food that is disease and fertilizer free
- Creates an abundance of crops for self-consumption and sale for the neighbors.
- Requires no special skill set for greenhouse operation
- Allows for flexibility and independence for the greenhouse working hours.
- Creates extra income and new jobs for the inhabitants in the building.
- Creates a sense of community and softens the crisis of migration to cities.
- Preserves rural traditions and social order.
- Creates sustainable housing conditions and reduces air and soil pollution.
- Improves the building’s microclimate and reduction of its energy usage (cooling and heating)
- Uses water from the existing high water table and recycles grey water for gardening.
The concept of Agro-Housing is to have housing programs that will allow the formation of a new social and urban order that can be replicated as it represents basic human values lost in the process of modernization and progress. Additional expected benefits from Agro-Housing include the decline in commuting, the decline in further transportation system development, and the replacement of the zoning strategy by more sustainable urban conception.
Advantages for cities that adopt Agro-Housing:
- Allows urban growth with fewer investments in infrastructures and transportation systems.
- Creates new jobs within neighborhoods and independence of citizens.
- Forms public awareness about sustainable concepts and benefits.
- Contributes to environment preservation.
- Reduces water and energy consumption.
- Improves the quality of urban life and economic independence for cities.
- Lessens traffic and commercial spaces caused by the moving and selling agriculture.
Agro-Housing is a place for living that will create a new urbanity, contributing to the preservation of traditional and communal values.
Agro-Housing will promote the idea of sustainability and will dramatically reduce environmental problems in an era of globalization and urban migration.
Agro-Housing and Sustainability
The Agro-Housing is a combination of housing and urban agriculture. The building is composed of two parts: the apartment tower and the vertical greenhouse.
The greenhouse is a multi-level structure for cultivating crops such as vegetables, fruits, flowers, and spices. It is equipped with a drip-irrigation system, a heating system, and natural ventilation.
The Agro-Housing project suggests spaces for community activities. The greenhouse may serve as a place of casual or professional meetings. The roof garden offers an open air green space for recreation and informal gathering. The sky club on the roof is designed to host social gatherings and celebrations, and the ground floor kindergarten welcomes young children close to home and their parents. The Agro-Housing project provides diverse spaces for the benefit of its inhabitants.
The Agro-Housing project has a minimal footprint in order to free maximum ground surface for gardening and rainwater harvesting. The materials used for paving are recycled and cover limited surfaces. The parking area offers a large number of spaces for bicycles in the shade. The garden vegetation uses the natural cycles of the local environment to harmonize the landscape.
Sustainable Qualities of Agro-Housing:
Community & Quality of Life
Since sustainability is a holistic approach, our concern is to embrace social and economical conditions for the well-being of the inhabitants individually and as community.
Communal Spaces – The agro-housing project provides a diversity of spaces for the benefit of its inhabitants such as kindergarten on ground floor and sky club surround with green roof on top.
The Greenhouse - The vertical agro-space permits production of fresh food for families and the community reducing commuting and creating a harmonic and holistic environment of sustainable life in urban space.
Natural Ventilation - The inner vertical space in the building is functioning as a ventilation shaft for the apartments as well as for the greenhouse. The apartments benefit from cross natural ventilation and the balconies and shades reduces cooling loads. In summer the opening of the top level of the atrium space will create a thermal chimney and enable air circulation pumping the hot air out and allowing fresh cold air to flow indoor.
Shading - In summer the greenhouse floors will serve as vertical screens and shades along with the greenery for cooling the inner part of the building. South facing apartments have shaded balcony blocking the summer sun.
Energy & Lighting - Day lighting will minimize the building’s need of artificial lighting. Responsible use of lighting, occupancy sensors, and timing devices, dimmers controls will be integrated in the building.
Passive Solar Energy - In winter, the low angle winter sun will penetrate the building and heat the high mass elements which will absorb the energy during the day and discharge it at night. The greenhouse glazed wall will trap hot air that will circulate in the building.
Active Solar Energy - Solar heating system delivers heat energy from the collectors on the roof to each apartment by forced circulation system.
GSHP - Ground source heat pump using high water table constant ground temperature all year round to provide heating and cooling system without combustion of fossil fuels, carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
Water Efficiency & Conservation
Grey-water Irrigation - The grey water from the greenhouse and the bathrooms will be used for gardening.
Drip Irrigation - Reducing water consumption by delivering irrigation directly to the plants and by collecting water that realized though evaporation. Stop leaching of nitrogen to under ground water table by using a smaller volume of water. Recycling drainage water and reusing them for production of crops by using advanced structures and soil less media containers.
Indoor Efficiency Water Use - Using high efficiency fixtures and dual water supply systems for potable water and reclaimed water.
Rainwater Harvesting - Capturing the rainwater from roofs and balconies for the use of irrigation of greenhouse and garden water preservation. Planting drought tolerant plants to increase the efficiency and the conservation of water.
Protection of the environment
Waste Management - reduction of waste generated by tenants by providing an easy accessible storage for waste recycling.
Vegetation – The intensive use of vegetation mainly in the greenhouse and on the balconies will contribute significantly to the reduction of carbon dioxide and the creation of a cooling effect and shading in the building.
Flexibility & Adaptability
The design of the apartments allows maximum flexibility to arrange interior spaces according to the requests of the future tenants. Beside the position of the plumbing fixtures, all the interior space can be divided easily with minimum energy by the definition of the owners and their financial capacities. There is a possibility to integrate working spaces within the apartments if needed.
Agro-Housing – Construction Information
The proposed structure of the building will be composed of metal columns and beams on a grid of 10x9. On top a deck flex sheets a concrete topping of five centimeters thick will be applied. This light steel structure will be prefabricated and installed on site. The concrete staircase will consolidate the building structure. This prefab steel system will create flexible spaces in the building and will contribute to the sustainability of the project. In the end of life of the building it will be easy to recycle.
The exterior panels will be prefabricated under a modular facade grid. The glazed panels will have sliding shading in the same dimension. The other panels on the façade will be covered with terracotta tiles.
The choice of materials in the building will take under consideration their thermal qualities and abilities to be recycled at the end of life of the building.
Using structurally insulated panels to determine the energy efficiency of the building and reduce future expenses on energy loss.
The bathrooms units will be prefabricated including the duct work and piping. These units will be installed in the apartment and will create the core unit in the apartment.
The partition of the interior space of the apartments will be subject to the individual choice. The design will allow the tenants to decide about the preferred distribution of spaces in their own place to create their personal home. All the partitions will be made of light plaster panels that can be moved and recycled very easily.
The estimated cost of construction per square meter is about 200 euros,
Divided approximately as follow:
Structure and facades: 110 €/m²
Electricity, plumbing and air-condition: 45 €/m²
Bathrooms and kitchen: 30 €/m²
Interior partitions and finishes: 15 €/m²
Greenhouse: 30 €/m²
Agro-Housing – Economic Assessment
The idea of Agro-Housing - carries a great economic potential as it will reduce the intensive use of natural resources for food production and enable the people to produce their food and to take responsibility for it. It will expose the young generation to the possibility to be responsible for their own health and well being by growing their own food.
Agro-Housing will reduce the air and soil pollution by cutting the need for transportation and freeing a large quantity of agriculture fields for forestation.
Agro-housing will create jobs within the neighborhood and will permit more independence to people.
Irrigation -The use of water for irrigation of the greenhouse and gardening will be from the exiting high water table on the site saving water from city system.
Rainwater Harvesting - From the roofs and balcony rainwater will be collected for gardening saving potable water from the city system.
Recycling -The metal structure as well as materials such as aluminum and glass will be recycled and will reduce the cost of the end of life of the building.
Flexibility -The planned flexibility of the interior space of the apartments will make possible to change partitions position and redesign of apartments with minimum energy and cost.
Building Envelope -The simple rectangular box represents a building with an economic envelope that can achieve an efficient energy saving and excellent thermal factors.
High-rise Building - The gathering of four apartments around each core of staircase and elevator will free land for rain harvesting and extra gardening and will contribute to the sustainability of the building.
End of life – Most materials suggested for the construction of the building such as steel, aluminum, glass and terracotta tiles will be moved from the site and recycled at a reasonable cost.
Local Resources –The local industry and expertise will be integrated in the detailed design of the building to maximize the identification of the people in the area with ideas of sustainability and preservation.
Tagit Klimor, David Knafo
Uri Halel, Efrat Tennebaum , Arie Hayun,
Yossi Shitrit, Omer Goldstien, Matan Poran.
Green house & irrigation technology consultants:
Chief agronomist Asia & Pacific: Dubi Raz
China branch: Sagi Shlomi, director
PhD Tian Dunhua, Brain Li, China agronomist
Netafim Ltd. 
Eng. Itzhak Rokach
Rokach-Ashkenazi - Engineer, Consultant Ltd 
Energy, ventilation & air conditioning:
Eng. Shafi Aharoni
Assa Aharoni Consulting Engineering Ltd 
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