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Agro-Housing – vertical greenhouse space within high-rise apartments


2007 – Winner of the 2nd International Competition for Sustainable Housing by Knafo Klimor Architects and Town Planners, Israel

Excerpts from Living Steels’ competition design website.

Agro-housing, the winning design for construction in China, blends urban and rural living by creating vertical greenhouse space within high-rise apartments. Designed by Knafo Klimor Architects, the Agro-housing concept allows tenants to produce their own food, reducing commuting needs and providing a green neighbourhood.

Knafo Klimor Architects developed this concept with concern for predictions that 50% of China’s one billion people will live in its cities, a trend mirrored in many developing countries in the world. The architects observe that massive urbanisation displaces communities, dissipating existing traditions and heritage, as well as placing a strain on energy resources and infrastructure.

The Agro-housing concept presents a new urban and social vision that addresses this chaotic urbanisation problem by creating a new order in the city and, more specifically, in the housing environment. The idea behind Agro-housing is to create a space close to home where families can produce their own food supply according to their own abilities, tastes and choices to promote independent living, freedom and potentially provide additional income. In addition, these greenhouse spaces become a natural gathering place for the community to interact. Agro-housing is a place for living, but in essence, it is a model for a new urbanity, contributing to the preservation of traditions and community values and diminishing the trials of rural migration.


Agro-Housing is composed of two parts: the apartment’s tower and the vertical greenhouse. The greenhouse is a multi-floor structure for cultivation of crops such as vegetables, fruits, flowers and spices, equipped with a drip irrigation system that re-uses grey water. The greenhouse climate is controlled through natural ventilation and a heating system. A roof-top terrace garden offers open-air green space for recreation and informal gathering. A sky club on the roof is designed to host social gatherings and celebrations, and a kindergarten on the ground floor keeps young children close to home and family. The individual apartments allow maximum flexibility to arrange interior spaces to accommodate family changes over time, including integration of a work space. The building has a minimal footprint in order to free the ground surface for gardening and rainwater harvesting. Paving is limited and made of recycled materials.


With Agro-housing, Knafo Klimor Architects envisions a community that can provide its own food, jobs and saleable goods right where the people live, gifting residents with the resources for self-reliance within an urban setting.

The roof-top terrace garden provides additional garden area, as well as grassy areas for community activities. The roof-top sky club provides a location for community celebrations and social gatherings. The sky club’s roof houses solar energy panels and a rainwater capture system while providing shade for the spaces beneath.


Agro-housing’s inner vertical space in the building functions as a thermal chimney, ventilating the apartments in summer months and circulating heat during the winter months. In summer, the roof-top windows are opened to allow the apartments to benefit from the natural cross ventilation, and the balconies and shades reduce heat absorption. The greenhouse floors with their vegetation act as vertical screens and shades for cooling the inner part of the building. South facing apartments have shaded balconies to block the summer sun. In winter, the roof-top windows are closed, trapping warm air inside the building. The low-angle winter sun penetrates the building and heats the high mass elements during the day, which in turn warms the apartments at night. A solar heating system delivers heat energy from the collectors on the roof to each apartment through a forced circulation system. The greenhouse’s glazed walls further warm air that can circulate through the thermal chimney.

See the complete Agro-housing concept in this 6MB PDF.

See the architects Agro-housing web page here.

Competition website here.