Structural Engineering of a Vertical Farm Prototype: An Integrated Building Design for Growing Power

Open Access
Holbert, Todd David
Area of Honors:
Architectural Engineering
Bachelor of Architectural Engineering
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • M Kevin Parfitt, Thesis Supervisor
  • Richard George Mistrick, Honors Advisor
  • Structural Engineering
  • Integrated Design
  • BIM
  • Steel Connections
  • Glulam
  • Vertical Farming
The following thesis is the product of Todd David Holbert’s contributions to the 2015 Architectural Engineering Institute Team 4’s submission for the 2015 Architectural Engineering Institute Student Competition. Various design challenges had to be addressed thought the development the Growing Power headquarters and prototype for future expansion. This submittal contains a project overview, project goals, narrative of the design process, discussion of design decisions and justification, summaries of related analyses and modeling. In addition, the submittal includes supporting documentation and drawings presenting references, calculations, plans, elevations, sections, and modeling information. Throughout the design process, the structural discipline utilized BIM technology and interdisciplinary collaboration to develop a structural scheme for Growing Power. Structural concepts were formed by the structural discipline, presented to and discussed with the entire design team, and then fully detailed. Input and support was also provided by the structural discipline to assist the other design disciplines in the progress of the overall building design. The gravity system was designed utilizing composite steel beams and girders in order to minimize member sizes, providing more plenum space for MEP system coordination, and minimize the self-weight of the system, which was critical given the foundation bearing capacity concerns. In order to provide a column-free gathering space, custom transfer girders were developed utilizing W36x361 members with cover plates in order to clear-span the building in the necessary locations. To address the low allowable soil bearing capacity issues in Milwaukee, Geopier® soil reinforcement was selected as a cost-effective solution to improve the effective soil bearing capacity. The greenhouse structures were custom-designed to reduce the conditioned volume and improve systems coordination in the growing spaces. The greenhouses create an architectural accent and feature renewable wood framing, in the form of glulam, for the greenhouse cascading up the façade of the building and steel tree-columns for the top greenhouse. All greenhouses contain a grate system to facilitate MEP flexibility and proper water drainage. The structural discipline coordinated with the other team disciplines to develop a striking, integrated façade system that meets the various discipline design requirements for Milwaukee, while also considering the other requirements for future Growing Power locations. The resulting rainscreen system utilizes clips to attach the customizable façade components to the cold-formed steel backup studs.