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Building-integrated rooftop greenhouses: An energy and environmental assessment in the mediterranean context

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel, Dr Mohammad Royapoor



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


A sustainable and secure food supply within a low-carbon and resilient infrastructure is encapsulated in several of The United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals. The integration of urban agriculture in buildings can offer improved efficiencies; in recognition of this, the first south European example of a fully integrated rooftop greenhouse (iRTG) was designed and incorporated into the ICTA-ICP building by the Autonomous University of Barcelona. This design seeks to interchange heat, CO2 and rainwater between the building and its rooftop greenhouse. Average air temperatures for 2015 in the iRTG were 16.5 °C (winter) and 25.79 °C (summer), making the iRTG an ideal growing environment. Using detailed thermophysical fabric properties, 2015 site-specific weather data, exact control strategies and dynamic soil temperatures, the iRTG was modelled in EnergyPlus to assess the performance of an equivalent ‘freestanding’ greenhouse. The validated result shows that the thermal interchange between the iRTG and the ICTA-ICP building has considerable moderating effects on the iRTG’s indoor climate; since average hourly temperatures in an equivalent freestanding greenhouse would have been 4.1 °C colder in winter and 4.4 °C warmer in summer under the 2015 climatic conditions. The simulation results demonstrate that the iRTG case study recycled 43.78 MWh of thermal energy (or 341.93 kWh/m2/yr) from the main building in 2015. Assuming 100% energy conversion efficiency, compared to freestanding greenhouses heated with oil, gas or biomass systems, the iRTG delivered an equivalent carbon savings of 113.8, 82.4 or 5.5 kg CO2(eq)/m2/yr, respectively, and economic savings of 19.63, 15.88 or 17.33 €/m2/yr, respectively. Under similar climatic conditions, this symbiosis between buildings and urban agriculture makes an iRTG an efficient resource-management model and supports the promotion of a new typology or concept of buildings with a nexus or symbiosis between energy efficiency and food production.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nadal A, Llorach-Massana P, Cuerva E, López-Capel E, Montero JI, Josa A, Rieradevall J, Royapoor M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Energy

Year: 2016

Volume: 187

Pages: 338-351

Print publication date: 01/02/2017

Online publication date: 21/11/2016

Acceptance date: 13/11/2016

Date deposited: 09/01/2017

ISSN (print): 0306-2619

ISSN (electronic): 0306-2619

Publisher: Pergamon Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.11.051


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Funder referenceFunder name
Council for Science, Innovation and Technology, State of Yucatan (CONCIYTEY)
National Council for Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACYT)
CTM2013-47067-C2-1-RSpanish Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad (MINECO)