Prof. Brian Cody, Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Daniel Podmirseg, Dipl.-Ing. Sebastian Sautter, Dipl.-Ing. Aleksandar Tepavcevic

Determination of the requirements for the development of a vertical farm prototype for crop production.


The focus is on research into the foundations of a new building typology, the vertical farm. Urban vertical food production can contribute to increasing the energy efficiency of and reducing land consumption by cities. Essential factors influencing the achievement of these goals are to be revealed by this basic research.

Initial situation/motivation

Increasing urbanization and the strong growth of the population with rising demands for sufficiently fresh and high-quality food, produced in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner, requires new solutions in crop cultivation and an increase in programmatic densification of urban areas. One of these innovative solutions is a resilient and liveable design of cities through intensive urban agriculture, which, among other things, should lead to a strong reduction of land consumption for urban food production and an increase in the overall energy efficiency of cities.

The Institute of Building and Energy of the Graz University of Technology together with the vertical farm institute in Vienna has established a multidisciplinary consortium partnership with the Department of Crop Sciences - Horticulture Department at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna and SIEMENS as industrial partner.

Contents and objectives

The exploratory project is intended as preparation for the development of a prototype vertical farm for Vienna. The main focus of the exploratory project is to explore the basic principles necessary to develop a Vertical Farm for the urban environment within the framework of a cooperative R&D project. Essential plant-physiological and architectural-typological considerations, potential analyses of climatic conditions, conceptualisation of necessary building services engineering as well as communication and control technology comprise the content-related examination.

Methodical approach

Based on a specially created crop catalogue, cultivation conditions are determined, which are added to the building simulation software as target value directories to evaluate the energy performance of the vertical farm. Based on plant-physiological investigations, typological principles are developed to derive a building typology. This model will be examined for its energy demand.

The building concept includes conceptual considerations regarding construction, fire protection, building physics, energy performance and building services engineering. A building services engineering concept is developed which takes into account heat and, if necessary, cooling supply, ventilation, lighting, power supply, elevator technology, sanitary engineering, communication and control technology.

The data and figures obtained from this will enable potentials to be revealed in order to quantify the contribution of food production using vertical farming. Resource efficiency and sustainability under ecological, economic and social aspects are examined.

Expected results

The concentration on vertical farming in the exploration is justified by the fact that the consortium has set itself the goal of aiming for a realization beyond a subsequent cooperative R&D project. Vertical Farming will therefore be expanded with housing and offices. The main idea is to reveal the synergetic interaction of vertical farming, residential and office use.

Potentials for increasing the overall energy efficiency of urban decentralized food production will be investigated by means of a hybrid building to be developed, the hyperbuilding has been identified. In particular, the question is examined to what extent the energy flows of the three functions can complement each other and how high the resulting synergies are.

Through plant physiological research activities to determine ideal cultivation conditions on the one hand and architectural and energetic investigations on the other hand, the present research project offers a significant contribution to the investigation of the potential for improving energy efficiency in food production by integrating vertical farming into the city.

Project Management

Dipl.-Ing. Sebastian Sautter, Mag.arch. Dr.techn. Daniel Podmirseg, Institute for Buildings and Energy, Graz University of Technology

Project or cooperation partners

vertical farm institute, Wien

Department für Nutzpflanzenwissenschaften (DNW), Abteilung Gartenbau, BOKU, Wien



Podmirseg., D.: „Contribution of Vertical Farms to increase the overall Energy Efficiency of Cities“ Internationales Symposium „High Density and Living Comfort, TU Graz, Graz, Österreich, 2013, Best PhD-paper.

Baustädter, B.: "Vertical Farming: Mein Salat vom Hochhaus nebenan", in: Planet Research,

Laufer, N.: „Wie vertikale Beete Versorgungsprobleme in Städten lösen sollen“, in: Der Standard, Zeitung, online unter

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