Our series showcasing the university work of our talented student architects and designers looks at our Architectural Assistant Ellie Parsons’ final year project ‘Feeding 10 Billion’ from her BSc in Architecture at the University of Bath.

“My personal interests and passions are centred around the architect’s response to climate change and sustainable design, whether this be technological advancement or restoration and retrofitting of existing derelict buildings.” Ellie Parsons

Feeding 10 Billion is based around the accessibility of affordable, sustainable food with the design of a vertical farm in Camden that is capable of feeding 50 local families.

The scheme includes a vertical farm and a community wing which provides farm tours, workshops and exhibitions on sustainable eating habits and growing your own food. The final building considers the environmental requirements of the farm and the community spaces, and how they interact.

“The best part of the project was researching the impacts of food choices and exploring different solutions, such as the hydroponic farming system. As I learned more, the brief and project evolved to suit the requirements and applications of vertical farms. The resulting project considers cradle to grave materials cycles, efficiency, and the final productivity of the farm in relation to that of a typical farm on the same site.”

The farm’s environmental features include Biogas power using food waste donated from local restaurants, cafés and supermarkets, together with waste from the mushrooms and fish cultivated on the farm. The waste is collected and used in an anaerobic digestion chamber to produce biogas that powers the lights on the farm.

Fertiliser is produced by the fish in the tank as ammonia, which is pumped through to a chamber of bacteria that can convert it into useful nitrates – nature’s best fertiliser. The fertilised water is pumped through the roots of the plants, which purifies the water and pumps it back to the fish to repeat the process.

Waste cardboard and coffee from around the city are used to grow mushrooms which, together with food waste, feed worms that produce compost, natural fertiliser and fish food.

We asked Ellie about her approach to the project and to architecture in general and her work at Chetwoods:

What were they key challenges you faced when developing the design of your Feeding 10 Billion project?

Many of the key challenges I aimed to overcome were related to the vertical farm element. I had to take a realistic approach to the practicalities of designing a vertical farm that is open to the public and consider how to encourage social engagement with the farm without interrupting the controlled environment.

To analyse the viability of the proposal, I had to understand the environmental pros and cons of vertical farming. I also needed to learn about the processes of vertical farming, and the provision of the specific spatial and environmental requirements for the controlled growing system.

Why did you choose to study architecture?

Originally it was to apply my academic and creative abilities to the fullest, but as I studied and developed my personal design approach, I found my individual interests became more specific, particularly with regard to environmentally sustainable and community-focused architecture that aims to better its physical and social context.

What have you been working on at Chetwoods and what have you learnt?

I have mainly been working on residential projects which have a particular historical, social and community context to respond to. My involvement has ranged from site plans and elevation designs to daylight calculations. I’ve participated in several internal and external meetings regarding the planning and design processes of these projects. From these I’ve developed a greater understanding of architectural practice and further refined my design process and skills.

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