“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce substance for man”
With the world’s population growing exponentially, 2 billion people greater in 20 years and another 2 billion expected by 2050, the world is facing a problem of needing to produce more food with less space. The pending crisis of food production is leading to significant research in such areas as yield optimization and localized production. This, in turn, is driving a building boom for large scale grow facilities utilizing the latest in building technologies to ensure highly regulated and consistent growing conditions for high-value crops. Leading hydroponics and aeroponics technologies are being complemented by building envelope and construction technologies to build high-performance facilities.
Vertical greenhouses and new high capacity grow facilities are buildings with constant water, humidity, temperature and air quality requirements. Due to the tricky nature of growing inside and up the buildings also require strict control and monitoring of entire systems, including airflow and wastewater to be successful in these complex environments with conventional building materials is difficult if not impossible.
Traditional building systems are vulnerable to mold, rot and fire which makes building a vertical greenhouse with them risky. Add the challenges with off-gassing which can contaminate the product and the lack of airflow control, and you have an unstable growing environment.
High levels of humidity and constant requirements for water in agriculture facilities can dramatically increase the susceptibility of crops to molds like Aspergillus, Penicillium and Stachybotrys which can cause significant medical issues for humans. The truth is these facilities need to be constructed to laboratory standards and integrate building solutions that are impervious to mold, humidity, inorganic, and highly fire resistant.
Magnesium cement board has nothing the mold can use as a food source meaning it cannot grow, unlike traditional building materials. Further, the magnesium cement board is water resistant and does not off-gas like traditional building materials. Integrated into a structurally insulated panel, a magnesium cement board also provides an integrated and structural building system which is thermally superior to traditional building methods and reduces construction time.
As recent unfortunate fire events highlight, agriculture and greenhouse facilities face a higher risk of fire and resulting smoke and other damage. The significant use of UV lamps and heat sources can be problematic, especially in buildings constructed with wood and other traditional materials. Addressing these challenges is easy with magnesium oxide panels that are non-flammable and do not off-gas under extreme heat.
Vertical greenhouses also need a highly controlled system because each crop has “a growing plan tailored to its needs, determining its nutrient uptake and light, for instance,”. Pre-fabricated systems work better for building controlled systems because they create a complete seal allowing control of heat and airflow throughout the building due to being pre-measured and created in a controlled environment. Furthermore, Magnesium-Oxide systems do not produce off-gassing which can contaminate the plants as well as the people working inside the greenhouses. MGO C3 wall system’s near airtightness, offers the opportunity to tailor the atmosphere the plants are growing in to maximize yield. One such strategy is to enrich the atmosphere with CO2 which encourages plant growth by increasing photosynthetic conversion of CO2 to O2. This approach could offer a path forward to reduce our carbon footprint in large agricultural production. MgO boards synergistically carbonate over their life span and are effectively a near carbon neutral building material.
In climates that have a short growing season the ability to produce high-quality produce and grow high-quality crops year-round exists. New building technologies such as the C3 Engineered Wall System™ are tailor-made for these industries and can help us meet the needs of a growing world, all while reducing our carbon footprint and reducing construction costs. The truth is you can have your tomatoes and peppers and eat them too!