Greener cities : Resilient Food Supplies

EatThis Industry News

They say history repeats itself. 

Scotland has a great positive circular story that encompasses history, design, engineering, innovation, agriculture, skills, regeneration, energy, health, wellbeing and net zero. 

This is the story of how a group of visionary students redesigned the iconic Provan Gas Works into a vertical allotment to show off a greener side to Glasgow 

As the dust settles on COP26 some of Glasgow’s student professionals plan to design a greener, healthier city.

For more than a century Glasgow’s iconic gas works have been a significant feature from the north east entry to the city. Despite being redundant for decades, the much loved towers were given category B listing in 2018 by Historic Scotland ensuring the landmarks will continue to form part of the city’s skyline.

There has been much discussion about urban farming within the CEA space taking over derelict office space or setting up in shipping containers in cities. An idea from a group of young students in this green city is unique and could literally replace natural gas with natural greens. 

We heard about this idea from Charlie McGhee who was part of the InterAct team, a group of third year students at Glasgow Caledonian University including quantity surveyors, architects and engineers (see all the talented team at the end of article). They recently presented a unique idea for redesigning these iconic gas tanks into a vertical farm allotment. 

The Glasgow students decided these loved structures needed an upgrade and came up with a doughnut arrangement and proposed filling in the gaps on the structure with glass/perspex. Their vision is one of engineering construction and design that could encompass new ways to produce leafy greens. Their design also examined alternative ways to create circular green biofuels and solar power panels to keep the lights powered. With no roof on the structure they aimed to retain the outward integrity of the structure and designed a vertical farm with a minimalist infill box approach with allotment boxes that would be rented out and filled with plants in a recycled irrigation system. 

Built in 1904 the tanks give an unforgettable welcome to Scotland’s second city and situated on the main road artery through the central belt people have always seen them as a major landmark. The natural gas may be long gone and structure derelict, but it is possible they could serve a greater purpose with a new lease of life. 

Architectural Design History in Glasgow

Glasgow has a long association with architectural design. Charles Rennie Macintosh, the renowned Scottish architect behind the iconic Glasgow School of Art, Willow Tearooms and the Lighthouse was active in the city at the time the gasometers were constructed. 

The Lighthouse built in 1903

Could the Gas Works become the new Lighthouse? 

Ultimate CEA model to have a farm sited beside the country’s largest fruit distribution market.

Can you imagine an era with a new ‘Charlie’ and his friends’ designing these perspex boxes built around the steel gas tanks and all lit up at night with LED lights? The three-tier circular frame is 46 meters in height and has 30 I-section steel lattice frame standards, braced by four tiers of steel lattice girders and four tiers of cross-directional bracing ties. It could be an impressive structure to build a vertical farm on. 

It takes little imagination to realise distribution food miles from the allotment could be reduced to net zero with the gas works just a stone’s throw from Glasgow’s wholesale fruit market in Blochairn. 

Emotive feelings for Glasgow’s Landmarks could provide mental health and environmental messaging 

The gas works have an affectionate following among locals since they are often used to display huge placards showcasing the various promotional slogans for the city, the most memorable being the “Glasgow’s Miles Better” and “Everyone’s Glasgowing On” campaigns.

‘Glasgow Grows 🌿 Green’ 

Green billboards could be a perfect marketing tool. Imagine giant electronic billboard screens projecting a direct message to a passing audience of 90,000 every day. What message would you send them? A message of perseverance and hope perhaps or maybe a message of health and well-being. We developed the idea as a marketing tool to reach people affected not only by the pandemic but also those affected by anxiety of a more dangerous world full of conflict, climate change and limited resources. 

We need everyone onboard and listening.  

Reach for the sky – What are you aiming for in life?

Can you imagine the giant electronic screens on the side of the towers, high in the sky displaying these images and subliminal messaging telling you that everyone is feeling the same and giving an air of optimism and oneness?

Post COP26 the excitement of ‘everyone in it together’ has somewhat dissipated in the media (just as Greta predicted). But the youth of Glasgow, they have different ideas and everything to gain from green projects. They never COP out! 

We have hardly seen any of the architectural designs neatly illustrated in Despommier’s vision of the 21st century come to fruition yet and become integral with our city food supplies.

We need investors and public bodies to recognise the importance of our youth coming up with these ideas and create green jobs for architects, surveyors, engineers, scientists and farmers of the future.

Glasgow Caledonian University InterAct Team

Architect students:

Arin Beaver, Neima Bouzy.

Engineering students:

Bryan Lipton, Abdalhameed Almohamad, Ismail Mohamed.

Quantity Surveyor students:

Charlie McGhee, Harrison Lee.

If you want to learn more about the students project  get in touch with us and we will hook you up with the team in Glasgow. 

Janet Colston PhD is pharmacologist with an interest in growing ‘functional’ foods that have additional phytonutrients and display medicinal qualities that are beneficial to human health. She grows these using a range of techniques including plant tissue micropropagation and controlled environmental agriculture to ensure the highest quality control.

You can follow The Functional Plant Company on Instagram

More from Janet Colston and Functional Food

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