Insights – How We Built Glens Falls Vertical Farm (VF): Building Considerations


Urban renewal vertical farm
Source

By Josh Fabian

Many considerations were taken into account to determine if the Glens Falls space was appropriate for a vertical farm. Here is a quick list of the pros/cons of our project site that I will expand upon underneath.

 Pros:

  • Motivated building owner
  • Ceiling height/room for expansion
  • Latent heat source
  • Location
  • Ability to add electrical

 Cons:

  • 3rd floor
  • No existing electrical/plumbing
  • Entry points for animals/pests as well as climate
  • Heavy cleaning required

For pros, the first one that stands out, but which is often under-looked, is a motivated building owner. Since we’re renters, we needed a landlord that was both understanding as well as willing to work with us to make this project a success.

We visited multiple sites at the onset of this project prior to choosing our current space. The first was a first-floor blacksmith shop, but we realized that it was quite small and was fitted for the needs of the existing business, thus rent was higher. The second was a garage next to a doctor’s office with no utilities or insulation. This small space and lack of utilities made that a hard sell. We finally decided on our current space, which ticked many of our boxes. But there was still work to be done. With formerly distressed or abandoned spaces, this will always be the case. However, there are of course benefits to picking these types of spaces, such as lower rent.

Due to it being on the 3rd floor many (literal) steps were involved in the setting up of the space. Everything from equipment to building supplies had to be carried up to the space one by one. For some items we had to use the fire escape on the exterior of the building, as shown in the image below.

 Urban renewal vertical farm

                            Lifting an IBC tote into the space via the fire escape

For electrical requirements, we needed power - and lots of it. Due to our location in the heart of downtown Glens Falls, we were able to source the power we needed from the street. However, we still needed to get it from the street to our space. An additional National Grid (for those who aren’t from the US, this is the national utilities provider) grant was required to pay for this work. So, although we needed to run the power up to the third floor, having it present was a huge advantage. For the doctor’s office garage for example, we would not have had the access to that large of a power source.

Another aspect that we assessed and found advantageous with our current location was access to labor resources as well as proximity to consumers. Getting electricians, plumbers, laborers, etc. to travel to a rural area can be a challenge. Having to transport the end product back to consumers within city limits would also be cumbersome and defeat the main objective of being hyper local.

The building and space itself needed some sweat equity to get it into shape. Lots of dust and debris had accumulated from being vacant. We had to clean the space multiple times, even before construction could begin, ensuring that from a health and safety perspective, it was where it needed to be. The windows were old and needed to be insulated/sealed. We did this with foam panels and sheet plastic.

While no vacant space will be perfect for a vertical farm, these considerations should be thought of in the planning stage as much as possible. The earlier you can capitalize on the pros, and find solutions for the cons the more successful the farm will be.

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