Inflatable origami greenhouses – self sufficient living in Jaipur

Meat consumption globally is ever increasing, especially in countries which are experiencing rapid increases in wealth such as India. Despite its population consisting of 337 million vegetarians, 71% of people living in India have a meat based diet. The amount of land required to produce meat is extremely more than the amount required to produce vegetarian food products. If crops are grown in greenhouses they require even less space, as the growing seasons can be extended and environmental factors controlled. This highlights how switching to a greenhouse-grown plant based diet has massive spatial advantages and is an efficient use of land.

There is also a huge incentive from the Indian government to encourage those who work in agriculture to use greenhouses rather than open land to grow their crops to increase reliability of harvest and income. However, the most popular greenhouse covering material in India is polyethylene sheeting, which needs replacing annually. This adds to the enormous amount of plastic waste which ends up in India’s open environment (85% of all plastic waste).

The site is located on the outskirts on Jaipur, Rajasthan, and is situated in existing agricultural land, adjacent to two poly tunnel greenhouses. The craft and paper manufacturing area of Sanganer sits just East of the site, which houses several paper production facilities using local raw materials like hemp and bamboo.

When researching alternatives to polyethylene sheeting, paper was investigated as a cladding material – it is cheap, lightweight, translucent and can be locally manufactured using raw materials such as bamboo fibers to increase its strength. To make the paper more weather-resistant, I sourced shellac resin flakes (a natural resin found on trees in India) and mixed a coating to apply to the paper.

Shellac coating mix process
Shellac coating on bamboo paper

To test the moisture resistance of the shellac coating, water is poured into a pool on the paper and left to soak. The water is not able to penetrate the surface of the paper and the underside of the paper is completely dry. Water runs off the paper without soaking through the sheet.

The coating also bonds to the fibers in the paper which increases its transparency. This is beneficial in the application of a greenhouse covering.

Inflatable origami air beams

Following from the inflatable origami studies for Brief 1 (see previous post), the paper origami modules are combined to create inflated beams for the greenhouse. The video below shows an initial study of the inflation sequence of the beams.

The air beams are modeled up digitally to test their form variations. The bottom right form allows for an increase in depth, creating more varied spaces beneath the beams and more opportunities for longer beam spans.

To test the air beams at a larger scale, I constructed a 1.8m wide model. I then used this to analyse its structural stability, and identify any weaker points in the beam.

The origami beam will arrive to the site pre-folded where it is then inflated, increasing ease of transportation.

Origami air beam unfolding sequence
Origami air beam not inflated

Infill beams and cladding system

The infill beams sit within the main air beams to provide a structure for the facade. These infill beams are constructed using the same method as the larger beams and provide support for the reactive facade system.

Passive facade

Origami hinge balloons (developed during Brief 1) are treated with a black coating and tightly sealed. The black coating allows the balloons to absorb more heat, rapidly expanding the air within the balloon when they are exposed to intense heat from the sun. This test was carried out using the same temperatures in Jaipur during summer months.

Time lapse of solar balloon replication, the variation of heat determining the rate of expansion

The solar balloon is attached to a fin, and acts as a hinge. This will be used as a passive way to open and close the greenhouse facade to control intense over-heating in summer and ventilation.

Coated paper facade fins which open when the solar balloons are heated by the intense Jaipur sun. This ventilates and cools the greenhouse down in extreme weather conditions.

Facade opening sequence

Community farming

The greenhouses will be shared by multiple families and will provide each family member with enough food to be self-sufficient. Communal farming is becoming more common in India – growing crops using the same resources and centralising power supplies to increase efficiency. In addition to this, many rural villages in India are forced to be self-sufficient due to a lack of connection to resources. My project will aim to combine these characteristics to create a communal self-sufficient greenhouse village in South Jaipur.

Each greenhouse will have a series of connected homes which open into the greenhouse. These will be constructed from rammed earth – the thermal mass of this material will help to prevent overheating during the summer in Jaipur’s arid climate, whilst retaining heat during winter months. The geometries of these homes relate to the form of the greenhouse, and are constructed from single curvature faces.

Each individual requires 40m2 of greenhouse space to grow enough food to maintain a self -sufficient diet. The above matrix displays the possible greenhouse typologies based on 2 person, 3 person and 4 person homes.

2 person home example

Home typologies
Existing agriculture land on site

Radiation study, Jaipur

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