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David Hamilton

TEDCRED 50+

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The worlds largest, and tallest building, should be a vertical farm, in a major city, with natural and LED lighting.

Get to work billionaires... What the heck do we even have you people for?

You know... I remember, back in "the good old days" before I was born, and human beings had rights, we just had millionaires... but still, every few years one of them would build the tallest building the world has ever seen. Giant monuments of pure ego, with office space, that barely paid for itself over the course of a generation.

We're in the internet age. We don't need as much office space as we used to... You know what we do need? Food... In cities, sustainably grown. Prove to society why it's awesome to let you be rich... Otherwise, we're not going to let you stay this rich that much longer.

What's the point of having monumental record breaking wealth, if you're not going to build giant monuments people want to see anymore?

PS As oil prices rise, there is profit to be made here. Restaurant at the top of the world, grocery store at the bottom.

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  • Aug 22 2012: I am basically a city boy who had to move to the country. Forgive me, for addressing just the smallest part of your big idea, but I am just fascinated by the idea of a restaurant using ingredients grown in the same building and harvested the same day. That would be tasty! And nutritious. In a big city you could charge outrageous prices, and it would be worth every penny. My mouth is watering.

    Addition: The best chefs would be begging to get hired. I sure hope one those billionaires does this, the world deserves this restaurant. This is like the Apollo program of good food.
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      Aug 22 2012: Hey Barry and everyone else you might like to look at a U.K. chef called Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Has books and t.v. series based around his farm (plus restaurant) in the country. Has done a great deal to reintroduce the idea of eating fresh and seasonal. Literally out harvesting it that morning and on the plate by lunchtime or that evening. Also keen suppporter of the 'Fish Fight' campaign. This is to stop huge wastage of fish at sea when fish are outside 'quotas' or the 'wrong species' to land. Trouble is the fish are caught and too many fish species are seriously overfished now and struggling to survive.
      • Aug 22 2012: Thank you Wade,

        It does work and I might be able to visit one of those restaurants.
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    Aug 21 2012: I hate to get all sciency on ya but here we go. The total possible crop output from a given area of land is directly proportional to the radiant energy from the sun on that land. Most crops require the full intensity of the sun to grow efficiently so the area in a vertical garden that you could efficiently farm is the same as the area covered by that building's shadow. If you cover the building with solar and use LED lights you actually lose capacity because natural photosynthesis is more efficient than PV or LED's. Without external power from the grid you can really only farm the rooftops.
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      Aug 22 2012: Very true, which is why I would reccomend a solar concetration plant to feed the LED's built right outside. Yes, this is still slightly less efficient than the sun, but LED's are about as close as you'll get... It will be an increbibly ambitious, overly expensive, and hugely monstrous loss to the individual investor, for at least a decade or two... Then, he'll look like a genius, in my humble opinion. Remember that everything grown with sun energy out of town, currently usese fossil fuel as transport, far less efficient than leds, i think... but that would be interesting science actually.
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        Aug 22 2012: You already look like a genius to me on this, David. One of the things with a project like this is that it attracts like minded geniuses who work to deal with the problems by adding cutting edge input when they see that one is deeply invested. Others will flock to such light.
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    Aug 21 2012: Hey David - see if you can get Derek Youngs thread about feeding people by growing food in urban spaces. Still a live conversation as far as I know. Based on the Pam Warhurst talk too. Told him in real time I am secretary for local allotment society here in London. Gave him a link to the Permaculture Institute of New Zealand. I grew up in N.Z. and have dual citizenship. The Maori name is 'Koanga'. They talk about the importance of correct diet for health by analysing the nutrient content of so-called 'traditional' diets around the world. They also talk about transforming derelict urban spaces into food growing areas including an old municipal rubbish dump. You are right about the frankly phallic office buildings. We now have one called the 'Shard', tallest building in Europe, right here in London. Not as much fun as the 'Gherkin'. Best story was when they found an urban fox many, many floors up during construction. Wish I could post the story here, a real triumph of nature over man-made edifices.
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    Aug 21 2012: Great Idea David. And great link from Debra Smith...very inspiring. I think Pam Warhurst's talk covered growing through hydroponics and other indoor adaptations. I beleive that would be ideal for high rises. I would design or retool the outside for solar and wind power to drive most of the energy requirements. I would also propose a permanant catwalk shell around the entire structure for maintenance and upgrades. Perhaps we can round up an architect or two and submit some designs and some retrofits. If I were a city official, I'd rather have buildings like this as opposed to a delapidated parking lot. I could easily see residents funding and volunterring to assist with these types of projects all over the world.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Aug 21 2012: Isn't it curious that the more wealth you have, the more afraid you are of losing it. Do you remember Ross Perot. He spent something like 350,000,000 (350 mil) on a youth center in Texas. His charity was all over the news. I was almost taken in by it until I compared his net worth with my own and realized that his much publicized "gift" was the equivalent of my eight cents. Why is my name not all over the news when I make my charitable contributions?

    Research shows that there is an inverse relationship between gifting and wealth. The poor, having so little to lose, are willing to lose it all. The wealthy? The loss is too great.
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    Aug 21 2012: Fascinating idea. I wonder though, as buildings are built within exact specs if we can assume that their shells can support such a weight of dirt or other medium and water to maintain the plants. Do we have to consider this because a bag falling from a great height can kill people?. In Toronto Canada a major building lost its sheething last winter due to ice accumulation and put many people at risk.
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      Aug 21 2012: Such buildings already exist, though not in the scale that is necessary to support a large city. Given the loss of topsoil and destruction of aquifers not to mention global warmng and overpopulation along with a corrupt economic system that can have crops rotting in the field because no one can afford to buy them or transport them, it is the obvioius wave of the future - solar powered, wind powered - even also powered by its own waste.
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        Aug 21 2012: Dear TEDlover (Love the name)
        This is good news in its important part. So can we require every planning department to code these buildings in a green colour or something so that they stand out for quick conversion?. I think there is no excuse but greed for crops to rot in a field. If they are a loss to that farmer who is likely close to starving He should have compassion on other hungry people and invite all and sundry to come and feast rather than plow it back into the soil. While we are changing farming methods we might as well jetison the signs of greed that are the halmarks of the current system. Let people starve for profit?
        My worry remains, that if we do not designate which buildings are safe, many will take this information and our movement will be stopped in its tracks by one accident no matter how well intended the participants. So we need to know WHICH buildings can support these actions on a major scale. The time is coming.
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          Gail . 50+

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          Aug 21 2012: There is the problem of not having enough money to buy the fuel or fix the trucks to ship the products to market. That was the problem in the Great Depression. The problem today would be greed because most farms are mega corporations, and corporations, not being people, do not have the ability to experience compassion.

          There is recent evidence that big corporate CEOs are less able to experience empathy than others (thus they are socially admired sociopaths). The more socipathetic one is, the better the chances of making hundreds or millions or even billions of dollars a year by violating the rights and needs of others. When a company needs a CEO, those with empathy are passed over.
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        Aug 21 2012: Be careful, TED lover, I AM aTED lover too and I proposed that Robert Hare be considered as a speaker some months ago and the response was the dreadful talk that showed him such disrespect to mollify TED audiences in conference which are mostly CEOs like TED's CEO. But that does NOT stop you from being right.
        Only in American, I think are corporations granted the rights of citizens and that travesty occurred through civil rights legislation! SHOCKING!
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      Aug 21 2012: We probably could not support the weight of a full soil and plant structure at the top. Each floor, would weigh quite a bit... but a good architect, engineer, and farm designer could probably set it up so that the hydroponic plants grown in rock wool live at the top, and recieve nutrients the newfangled way. Thus the lightest part of the farm is growing ultra high end grapes for wine, or rare tropical fruits, that are light and require a little extra tlc to grow indoors anyway.

      Obviously in Los Angeles and most of Canada their could be a floor or two dedicated to a particularly profitable, and light cash crop which is already traditionally grown in rock wool... In Canada, you could even grow Hemp hearts at the top, the most digestable form of vegan protein, from what I've heard.
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        Aug 21 2012: This is amazing and wonderful thinking. I wish I had the power to say "Make it so!"
        Hemp hearts? YUM
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      Aug 21 2012: One other interesting engineering and cost effectiveness aspect of this, would be, could you make floors that are 3 feet tall? For growing grapes, strawberries, and other short plants.
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        Aug 21 2012: I was only thinking of retro fitting but this is real too except for harvesting, maybe?
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        Aug 21 2012: I would dare to dream that the buildings would be multifunctional i.e Living space, local business, entertainment, farming, education, and professional services. Possibly a micro economic capsule within one building structure.
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    Sep 3 2012: Awesome idea! I have thought of the same thing, harvesting was the only hiccup but with today's technology there's probably already the perfect robot to do the job.
  • Sep 2 2012: What the billionaires have done is they got to work and started spraying our planet with aluminum which will stop this assault on their corporate food control programs. Check your local water and ground for PH and aluminum contenet. This is SEROUS and I do not even know if it can be reversed. Please help aprehend these culprits sue them to recover the costs associated with cleaning up this environmental disaster and make all reseach available to the public to the aluminum resistand plants that have been created.
    Thank You
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      Sep 2 2012: Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the Earth's crust. (about 8-9%).It would be highly unlikely for you to find water or dirt that didn't contain aluminium. Luckily if you add some lime to the soil or water the Aluminium precipitates out as aluminium hydroxide.
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    Aug 28 2012: Great idea David! I support it. Green building is "point n. 3" of the requirements of our project Greencommerce: http://www.greencommerce.it/en/requirements.html. We will discuss this issues on May 23/24th. 2013 in Turin, Italy during the IMAGE Workshop (http://www.workshop-image.it/), a national meeting to collect best practices and ideas for a sustainable development. We will also anticipate your idea to our readers in an article on Pam Warhurst's Incredible Edible, that should be published in the next days on our web magazine Greenews.info. Let's keep in touch. Cheers!
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    Aug 21 2012: I just got this, did you see it?

    http://youtu.be/JdS2DpmNwT4
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      Aug 22 2012: That must look like magic through north American eyes. Here we have whole towns that work like that. They're only small though because you need to be somewhere tropical for it to work. Mostly in the hills back from the east coast.
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    Aug 21 2012: TED's CEO (Curator) is hardly comparable to the CEO of Goldman Sachs or GE don't you think? Or am I wrong?. Please give me a link to the dreadful talk that showed Robert Hare so much disrepect. I am not aware of such a thing.
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      Aug 21 2012: No idea if Ted's Curator is a billionaire, or secretly evil... but, I'm pretty sure he has Larry, and Sergei's phone number, and they could do this. I don't think they're evil either... but they are billionaires, who live relatively close to San Francisco, which could use some local food.

      I wish people who made it big, by playing the game well, be they CEO's of Google, or CEO's of the much more obviously evil Goldman Sachs... Were proud of all the wealth they accumulated. I wish they were building things that human beings were impressed by. I wish they were building things of beauty, and also utility. I wish they were more worthy of all the power, and adoration that rains down on them.

      I don't know if any of these people are evil... All I know, is that I make very little money, and most modern CEO's, have done absolutely nothing, that I find impressive. I am not a hard man to impress.
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      Aug 21 2012: Just to mention... I am impressed by the business Google, and the website TED... The businesses that some billionaires have created, are amazing. When they win though, what they actually spend their money on, doesn't impress me anymore. I can't remember the last time I saw some amazing new beautiful construction project, and then found out it was a billionaire building an art center, or a training center for the poor, or a vertical farm. It's so rare nowadays.
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    Aug 21 2012: Well written!!!
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    Aug 21 2012: Alright, alright I'll see what I can do... But it got to have my name on it! ;o)