Unbuilt Vancouver: The Growing Machine


In a praiseworthy move by the City of Vancouver, we have committed to becoming the Greenest City by 2020. Although the merits of such a move are self-evident, the challenges to reach this goal are numerous. One such difficulty is the limited space allocated to the Agricultural Land Reserve, a zone of farmland along the Fraser River which is designated to prioritize farming and to discourage development from other industries. As more people move into Vancouver, the availability of locally-grown food may not be able to keep up with the market.

The Growing Machine by Trevor Vilac, propose for the corner of Commercial Drive and Franklin Street
The Growing Machine by Trevor Vilac, propose for the corner of Commercial Drive and Franklin Street

In 2013 Trevor Vilac, a local Building Science Technologist, proposed a new type of building which, through vertical hydroponics, could reintroduce farming into the city. The benefits include reducing transportation distances, increasing availability of produce, exposing younger generations to the agriculture industry, and revolutionizing the farm-to-table movement. Trevor describes the project below:

TV: The Growing Machine is an industrial and educational building focusing on urban agriculture. The Growing Machine combines industry with public amenities by integrating elements such as a vertical hydroponic garden, classrooms integrated to the garden, research labs, and a farmer’s market on the ground floor. The intentions of this project are to define urban agriculture as a new industrial typology, and to combine agriculture, sustainability, and education into a holistic experience.

The technical goal of the Growing Machine is to create a farm within an urban context with minimal environmental impact. From a technical systems framework, the building systems focus on keeping a closed-loop energy cycle and a closed-loop water cycle.

The Growing Machine touches on the notion of closed-loop energy and water cycles by using complementary systems. The Growing Machine combines elements such as aquaponics (the introduction of fish into the water supply system used for gardening), composting, and rainwater harvesting.

The industrial component of the Growing Machine is the vertical garden. The educational component is the high degree of transparency in the interior and on the exterior of the building. Taken together, the Growing Machine aims to show just how local our local food can be.

-Trevor Vilac

If you are interested in Trevor and his work he can be reached via email at trevorevilac@gmail.com

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James is an architect and writer from Vancouver, British Columbia with a passion for affordable housing, public space, design, and the Pacific Northwest. James has worked on architecture projects across the lower mainland and has written for Canadian Architect, Objekt International, and Price Tags. He holds a Masters in Architecture from the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design and a Bachelors of Applied Science in Civil-Structural Engineering from the University of Waterloo. James has been an AIBC architectural awards jury member, has served on UBC SALA Thesis Committee, and was awarded a special mention in the Urbanarium's Missing Middle competition. He lives in Gastown with his wife Errin, a cool optometrist responsible for his maple glasses.