CTBUH Chapter Event

CTBUH Philadelphia Chapter Presents: Living Off the Land

Wednesday, 13 October 2021 | Online Event

Public Commons has become a term used for shared, equitable access to resources such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as to social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and even food. After decades of decline, global hunger is increasing In 2019, UN agencies estimate that more than 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, and more than 820 million - one out of every nine people - face chronic food deprivation. Food insecurity, coupled with insufficient access to affordable housing, is particularly acute in distressed urban areas where the majority of the population are minorities.

Farming is not an instinctual human activity; it was invented over 11,000 years ago. In the US, agriculture is by far the largest consumer of natural resources, requiring 70% of available fresh water and accounts for 20% of the consumption of fossil fuels. To feed our current world population requires a land area approximately the size of South America, not including land areas and resources used for animal grazing. The expected population rise to 9.3 billion over the next 50 years will require an additional 109 hectares (an area roughly the size of Brazil) to feed humanity using current technologies. The increased demand for arable land could result in further deforestation, reducing the amount of potential hard wood carbon sequestration.

New typologies are needed to answer questions of ecology and food security and access to affordable housing. The larger vision for architecture, however, is to nurture - to allow a community to live, grow and prosper in ways that address the greater needs of society. We have the opportunity to solve some of our greatest problems - lack of affordable housing, food insecurity and an underlying unstable employment economy - by creating a new type of architecture. One that is self sufficient, provides employment opportunities and that allows us to reduce our physical and ecological footprint by living off the land. An architecture that lives off the land grows its own food, provides housing and employment, and ultimately allows for a rewilding of an exhausted landscape now freed from the necessity of food production.


2:00 - Janine La Marca, Moderator 

2:10 - Dickson Despommier, The Vertical Farm 

2:20 - Alex Turkewitsch, P. Eng, Greenhouse 101 
Greenhouse Engineering

2:30 - Walter Mehl, PE, Repurposing Existing Assets 
Managing Partner, JB&B

2:40 - Scott Erdy, FAIA, Living Off the Land 
Erdy McHenry Architecture

2:50 - Nyasha Felder, North Philly Peace Park 
Erdy McHenry Architecture

3:00 - Mitch Tuinstra, Ph.D., Food Futures
Scientific Director - Institute for Plant Sciences, Purdue University

3:10 - Panel Discussion, Janine La Marca, Moderator 

This event has been approved for 1.0 HSW / LU credits.

Sponsored By:


Dickson Despommier

Biology/Public Health, Columbia GSAPP
New York City, United States
Principal, Erdy McHenry Architecture
Philadelphia, United States
Philadelphia Peace Park, Erdy McHenry Architecture
Director of Client Relations, JB&B
Philadelphia, United States
Managing Partner, JB&B
New York City

Mitch Tuinstra

Scientific Director - Inst of Plant Sciences, Purdue University

Alex Turkewitsch

President, Greenhouse Engineering