160,000sf north philadelphia rooftop farm

Philadelphia is blessed with a burgeoning urban agricultural scene, which provides residents with access to fresh, locally produced, often organic food.  While most of these farms and gardens are concentrated around the city’s central and western regions,  North Philadelphia contains a remarkable dearth of fresh food outlets.

SHARE Food Program is a nationwide food distribution entity that founded a local distribution center and urban farm in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia.  The facility occupies a 180,000sf manufacturing building, and utilizes the surrounding site for at-grade food production and parking.  In an effort to increase both production levels and the availability of fresh food for the surrounding community, SHARE is working with the Philadelphia based Community Design Collaborative  to develop a design for a rooftop farm.

The 160,000sf rooftop will accommodate several types of production, and will also contain green roof areas (for stormwater management) and a photovoltaic array (to generate energy for the building).  At this point in the design process the rooftop farm will likely facilitate row farm, raised bed, and greenhouse production, as well as bee hives, which already occupy the roof.  Additional programmatic elements may include demonstration areas, composting bins, rainwater harvesting, and even an outdoor classroom.

Stay tuned for design updates, photographs of rooftop honey collection, and SHARE’s journey towards securing project funding.

6 Comments on “160,000sf north philadelphia rooftop farm

  1. Great post Lauren:
    Question – how to property owners contain the liability associated with rooftop farms. It would seem that the simple placement of the farm on the roof would raise all sorts of issues associated with using the roof for something it was not designed for. Add to that the issues associated with rooftops being potentially dangerous locations during wind events, thunderstorms, and the fact that people can fall off roofs. How big a deal is this? What about farms that rely on volunteers who may not be considered employees?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Sam. Liability is a hot topic, particularly when buildings are retrofit with unintended elements.

    When considering a rooftop farm retrofit, a structural analysis is absolutely essential in order to determine load capacity. Once the licensed structural engineer gives the go-ahead, then local building codes should be examined to see what safety requirements exist for public rooftop access. Building codes generally require either a railing or parapet of a specified height, or the installation of fall safety protection (which requires the use of a harness). Wind uplift should also be considered during the design process, as all rooftop elements must be adequately secured in high wind locations. Certain insurers (such as FM Global) actually require that rooftop elements like green roofs satisfy specific wind uplift requirements.

    I would also like to point out that while rooftop farming is an “unintended use” for most existing buildings, it will slowly become incorporated into the design of new buildings as interest and awareness increases. This means that design elements such as load capacity, parapet height, wind breaks, water sources, and solar orientation will be considered during the conception of the building, rather than as an afterthought.

  3. They should contact G-Space Design (www.gspacedesign.com) who already has a successful roof top garden, edible walls that provide 3 times the yields. In addition they are licensed architects who can provide design build services as a one stop shop utilizing patented technologies!!

  4. Really interesting, Lauren….I have a question as to whether there are grants available to low income housing projects to assist residents with rooftop gardens? it would seem like a great resource in these economic times, to assist those who may be struggling to feed their families with healthy, nutritious food. .

  5. Is there less of a threat from animals and insects and plant diseases on rooftop farms?

    • Animals are generally less of a threat on rooftop farms, unless there is an easy way for them to access the roof. Tall trees that are adjacent to the farm can provide easy access points for squirrels and other animals.

      Insect pests are slightly less of a problem on rooftop farms than they are on ground level farms, mostly because urban rooftop farms exist in relative isolation. When pests are brought in by birds or on the bottoms of shoes, they should be treated like pests on the ground. Many organic farms practice integrated pest management (IPM) to lessen the threat of harmful insects.

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