Are Office Farms The Next Big Thing?

Imagine going to work in an office, except instead of a cubical, your space is partitioned by lemon trees. The hallway to the conference room is lined with rice paddies, and orange trees sway from the executive balcony. For the workers in Tokyo’s Pasona building, this is the reality. The urban space, which was designed to also function as a farm, might just kick start a new trend in environmental sustainability.

Created by Kono Designs, the office building is a lush working space that uses both soil and hydroponic methods to grow everything from squash to tomatoes. Automatic water and temperature systems means that caring for the food takes up little time. However, under the supervision of an agricultural specialist, all employees help out when the food is harvested. The fresh fruits, vegetables and grains are then brought to the cafeteria where they are used to create healthy, organic meals for the office employees.

The Pasona building is marked by nature, covered with vines and trees in the middle of one of the most bustling cities on our planet. However, could this ultra-modern design work in the rest of the world?

Rooftop and terrace gardens began to take off in 1990s Havana during a massive foot shortage. Every bit of unused land was utilized for food creation. Seeing the good it was doing, the government soon got involved, helping fund and facilitate the use of these urban farms. According to Vanessa Quirk, “By 1998 there were over 8,000 officially recognized gardens in Havana – from individually run plots to large State-run estates – all organic (by necessity, no pesticides were being imported) and producing about 50% of the country’s vegetables.”It’s an interesting question to ask. Especially because it comes at a time when those living within cities around the world are finding new and innovative ways to create sustainable food in their unique environment. Rooftop gardens, for instance, are becoming increasingly popular in large cities such as Toronto, New York and Chicago.

It’s an impressive number, and leads many to wonder what impacts urban farming could have on North America. For instance, in Chicago alone there are 5.5 million square feet available just on the city’s rooftops.

That impact could be doubled if the insides of our buildings went green as well. Although plenty of websites and design companies are dedicated to turning your office into a natural oasis, adding trees, ivy and flowing water, offices in the U.S. have yet to catch onto the idea of growing actual farmed food inside the corporate enclave.

Rather, what has caught on is vertical farms, which utilize large warehouses or unoccupied buildings to create a source of locally grown food. Using specialized lights and potting techniques they increase not only the yields of their plants, but do so with considerably less energy. For instance, in Chicago Green Sense Farms uses LED lighting making them 85 percent more energy efficient. In addition, these farms being located right inside the city substantially reduces the environmental cost of shipping food, lowering its carbon footprint.

And while these vertical farms are a great addition to any city environment, there’s no reason it has to stop there. The next step might just be implementing office produce, where employees can take their salad straight from the boardroom to the plates.

Source: www.care2.com, Lizabeth Paulat