In 2013, RTM was contracted to provide the MEP design for an indoor vertical farm producing an assortment of lettuce and herbs spanning three 30,000-square-foot demised process grow areas.
The project required a detailed understanding for temperature control with aeroponic and hydroponic systems, as well as implementing the appropriate HVAC and ventilation systems needed to stabilize moderate changes in temperature fluctuation. Doug Brewer, Principal at RTM, explained, “The year-round continuous indoor temperature can be maintained easily within a range of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 88 degrees Fahrenheit, while the humidity level can be driven to a dry, or extremely humid, state.” Due to the flexibility of the environmental systems, each of the grow areas is capable of producing a variety of plants.
Doug continued, “This flexibility also allowed the client to test and perfect their grow strategies and ultimately decrease the plant growth cycle from six weeks to five.” The decrease in grow cycle equates to 20% more product each year.
RTM also designed a variety of light fixture types and densities for the grow systems. Dimmable LED fixtures were chosen and installed and a lighting control system is utilized to simulate daytime and nighttime conditions.
The 100,000-square-foot building was originally an empty warehouse, repurposed into a space with an ideal climate for producing plants. RTM met the client’s needs for the systems to be flexible, efficient and cost effective. To keep things environmentally friendly, all of the humidity extracted from the air is collected and re-used in the hydration and fertilization process.
The client was recognized for their concept and design as a winner among the 2013 Chicago Innovation Awards.