The Hydroponic High-Rise aims to combine vertical farming with passivhaus social-housing. An existing client group within Elephant and Castle, the "Mobile Gardeners," are currently using land within the neighbouring Heygate Estate, but this is soon to be lost to redevelopment. The Hydroponic High-Rise will therefore create a new space for this group to inhabit as well as other members of the community. The design envisions a new lifestyle for those living in social housing; residents will be required to give a proportion of their time to working in the farm, tending to the plants and maintaining the space. In return, they receive subsidised accommodation, and small balcony spaces for growing their own personal food.
One of the challenges with combining farming and passivhaus living is arranging the functions such that they all benefit from solar gain and daylight. The resultant form includes a south facing "growing atrium" with wings of residential floors located either side. Apartments therefore still get either morning or afternoon sun, and also benefit from heat recovered in the atrium.
Rather than using soil as a growing medium, plants move along an undulating hydroponic track suspended in the atrium, meaning all get equal access to sun and light. Water to top up the hydroponic system is collected on the roof, and on the south facing ETFE facade which provides maximum transparency and protects the delicate agriculture from increased wind speeds at height.
The design envisions a dramatic redevelopment of the surrounding urban realm, with adjacent low-rise buildings such as the flat-roofed shopping center converted to roof top farms, creating a neighbourhood centred on sustainable agriculture, providing opportunities for employment and enjoyment.