February 22, 2024

In 2000, Dickson D. Despommier, a public health and microbiology professor at Columbia University at the time, was teaching a class on medical ecology where he asked his students about the world in 2050. The students decided that by 2050, the world would be crowded with eight or nine billion people, and they wanted New York City to be able to feed its population entirely on crops grown within its own geographic limit. Despommier suggested “What’s wrong with putting the farmer inside the building?”This idea evolved into vertical farms and was presented in the 2010 “The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century.” The concept gained popularity, and there are now more than two thousand vertical farms in the U.S. with a market value estimated at $5.6 billion.

Despommier’s latest book, “The New City: How to Build Our Sustainable Urban Future,” is a manifesto for the future of cities on a warming planet.The cities make up two per cent of the Earth’s surface but produce sixty per cent of the planet’s greenhouse emissions. By 2050, sixty-eight per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live in urban areas. Despommier’s latest book is a call to revamp cities to sustain a population.

Despommier’s vision includes urban farming and the idea that cities should be made of wood. The idea is to mimic resilient forests, creating cities that can sequester carbon, harvest water, produce food, and convert sunlight into energy. Out of this vision, the cross-laminated timber was developed. cross-laminated timber (C.L.T.) imitates the remnant of a forest fire and can be used to build tall, strong, and environmentally positive buildings.