Vertical Farming and Architecture Projects Highlighted at Campus as Lab Spring Open House

campus as lab logo
Posted on April 6, 2017

The Office of Sustainability held a Campus as Lab Spring Open House for students to learn about new sustainability research projects, and internship opportunities on Princeton’s campus.

One of the new sustainability projects highlighted was the Princeton Vertical Farming Project (PVFP), which is conducting multi-disciplinary research on an innovative indoor hydroponic growing system in Forbes College. Led by Dr. Paul Gauthier, an associate research scholar in the Department of Geosciences, the team of undergraduate researchers will conduct carbon sequestration, energy/water consumption, and economic analyses of the system. The data collected will be used in a comparative analysis of growing crops in the greenhouse at Terrace Eating Club.

vertical farming Hydroponically grown cilantro in Sky Vegetable Greenhouse in Bronx, NY

In addition to growing traditional hydroponic crops, such as leafy vegetables and herbs in the “Production” section, the “Research” section of the system will investigate the possibility of growing higher-demand crops like wheat and soy using innovative LED lighting. The goal of the project is to expand industry knowledge of hydroponic systems so that they can be expanded to provide affordable food to populations where food would otherwise not be accessible.

Additional research opportunities are available for any students interested in getting involved.

Also featured was the Embodied Computation Laboratory, a sustainably-designed laboratory in the School of Architecture, which will support several research projects being conducted by the C.H.A.O.S. Lab, led by Assistant Professor Forrest Meggers. A calibrated energy model will study and optimize the lab’s innovative HVAC design, which uses waste condensate from the adjacent Frick Chemistry Lab as an energy source. This model will also support ideal conditions for a project investigating a geothermal well system to tap underground heat while simultaneously sequestrating CO2. The lab will also be used to test a novel drying agent and membrane system to cool and dehumidify buildings.

architecture lab Architectural rendering of the Embodied Computation Laboratory

In addition to highlighting campus-based academic research projects, the session also previewed a sustainability internship opportunity with the Facilities department. Building Services will be hiring a recycling intern to work on a diverse array of projects, ranging from database management, research and waste audit efforts to general outreach and communications on recycling and composting. 

The open house concluded with an interactive research question workshop in which students discussed how they might study and reduce food waste at Princeton. Several recommendations included expanding compost bins in dormitories and at larger events, and minimizing leftover food in the dining halls.