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Stepped flats with hanging gardens

A new concept in high rise accommodation.

We include nudge features to improve the lives of the residents.



The problem to be solved

By the middle of this century 66% of the world population will be living in cities. [http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html]

Unfortunately modern city lifestyles are making us sick and unhappy.

We tend to eat unhealthy foods and do the minimum of exercise.
We are also becoming more lonely and self centred because superficial friendships on social media such as Facebook are replacing traditional face to face friendships.

But it does not need to be this way.
Planners could re-design housing accommodation so that people are gently nudged back into healthier, happier community lives.

This article concentrates specifically on high rise flat living because it is tragically of current interest to city planners.

1    Our core idea: combine high density dwellings with vertical farms

[Information about vertical farms can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_farming ]


Figure 1. Growing tubs of plants on the patios will create a hanging gardens effect.
Adding the farm help to to create a self sufficient community spirit.

The new 'Hanging Garden' designs will be more expensive to build and run compared with conventional tower blocks. But the development of Latent Power Turbines could slash these costs.

  • In general, the cost of building materials will fall because the cost of the energy required for manufacturing glass, steel, concrete, bricks etc., will fall.

  • The energy cost of artificially creating summer intensity lighting and temperatures indoors, in cool northern winters will fall.

  • Likewise, the cost of cooling buildings in hot climates will fall.

The diagram below illustrates the basic feature of a combined high rise dwelling and vertical farm.

Figure 2.The long street design allows all the 'Hanging Garden' residences to have south facing patios.

A key feature of indoor farming is that it can provide a steady output of crops throughout the year. This is less financially stressful and more dignified for farm workers (who will hopefully be residents), compared with seasonal farm work.

'Nudges' are subtle features of the design that help people to live healthier lives without having to make a conscious effort. Here are some of them:


  • The two story residences oblige residents to do informal exercise by walking up and down stairs.

  • 'Streets' of 20+ residences encourage people to do more walking and create more opportunities for social encounters with others.

  • Easy access to fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables encourages healthy eating.

  • Ready washed farm food could be sold by the farm shop in small quantities and without packaging. This would encourage daily shopping routines where residents make frequent encounters.
    [The rinsing water would be recycled on the farm.]

  • South facing patios would encourage exposure to sunlight and and the buildup of vitamin D.

  • Internal air would be filtered and sterilised to reduce the transmission of airborne infections. Pollen from the farm and indoor gardens could also be filtered out.

2    Additional features to improve community life.

Death rates go up during heat waves in warm climates and in winter in cold climates. [https://web.stanford.edu/~moore/HealthBenefitsofWarmer.html]

Hanging garden settlements could reduce death rates at both temperature extremes. We will illustrate the benefits by referring to cool climate living, but equivalent benefits can be gained in hot climates.

Reducing the winter blues
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes on during the darker days of winter. SAD can trigger alcohol, eating disorder and other health problems.

We propose taking advantage of the recently developed daylight quality LED lighting to bring Mediterranean quality outdoor lighting to indoor living in cool northern climates.

Other measures to lift community spirits
The diagram below shows some of the nudge features that help to create community bonds.


Figure 3. Mediterranean quality indoor light will lift the spirits in winter, but genuine outdoor light is even better. Low cost clean energy will allow very large south facing windows to be installed without increasing carbon footprints. In addition to patios, shallow balconies could be added to the upper levels.

Making the streets vibrant
To prevent children from raiding the farm, it would be separated from the street by a robust but attractively shaped fence that doubled up as a street long climbing frame. Smart drop-down mesh screens could protect cherished indoor gardens when energetic kids start playing ball games. The streets would be slightly winding with seated alcoves extending into the farm.

Each 'street level' would develop its own character. To enhance these differences, the farm would grow different crops  at different street levels.

Variety would encourage residents to take strolls around their residential building. This would reinforce the community identity.

The farm repair shop could double-up as a ‘makerspace’ for use by hobbyists and micro-businesses. Equipment could include sewing machines, lathes, work benches, potter's wheels, kilns etc.
[Makerspaces are discussed at https://spaces.makerspace.com/]


Encouraging local enterprise
Residents may chose to use their indoor 'garden' space to develop their own low risk micro-businesses, for example altering clothes or selling their own baking, artworks, plants and pottery. Some would go on to develop larger businesses in external premises. These local businesses would counter the anonymity of the big name businesses.

  • In order to prevent such micro-businesses being exploited as tax free havens, they would need to be VAT registered and provide all customers with a receipt.

  • In order to promote business honesty, each settlement should be entitled to claim a 50% rebate from the VAT authorities for reinvestment in the settlement. The community would decide on how the rebate was spent.

Enriching the diversity of homes
The micro-businesses could enhance their community in many ways. For example by
¨ converting first floor balconies into small conservatories, ¨ adding pet proof fencing to patios, ¨ constructing compact and safe kids play furniture, ¨ making bespoke plant containers ¨ installing air purifiers for micro food takeaway businesses.

Pets are vital for the mental health of many people, but barking, publicly fouling dogs can be a nuisance. Residents could be obliged to attend dog training classes whenever they acquire a new dog. Expert advice on suitable dog breeds should also be available.

Developing creativity in children (and keeping them out of mischief!)
Children would be encouraged to use the makerspace area, or better still, have their own makerspace. This would include the resources needed to develop adult living skills such as food preparation. The purchase of working materials could be subsidised using the community VAT rebate.

Caring for the elderly & infirm within the community
This could create jobs for younger people while allowing elderly residents to remain within the community.
Features such as the indoor corridor gardens will make monitoring of the elderly and infirm easier.
In order to minimise adaption costs, the marionettes should be designed with the transition into old age in mind. For example anchor points for stair rails and chair lifts should be interchangeable and downstairs storerooms positioned for easy conversion into toilets.

The capital cost of these community buildings will be higher than for traditional high rise flats. But over their lifetimes the health and social benefits of creating genuine communities will outweigh this.

Disabled, traumatised and armed forces veterans in general may adapt better to civilian life if they are housed in hanging garden settlements with their strong sense of community bonding.


Fire safety standards will be higher than for conventional high rise flats because fire fighting crews and their hoses will be able to gain external access to the highest stories. The installation of multiple escape routes will also be easier. For example residents could escape via the vertical farm unit. The installation of sprinklers will be more cost effective because they will be needed for everyday use at each level, for horticultural irrigation. The north facing vertical farm also provides cladding free insulation for the coldest face of the building.


Variations on the 'Hanging Gardens' theme. Residents will enjoy breathing the fresh air and experiencing the elements on their patios and balconies. But during working hours, outdoor quality lighting is sufficient to meet their psychological needs. This means that a whole range of alternatives could replace the vertical farms. These could include light manufacturing industries, university campuses and science research laboratories. 'Living on the job' will cut commuting times and reduce the density of traffic on city roads.

Open prisons that incorporate hanging garden features could help to shift prisoners nearing the end of their sentences from an institutionalised to a mutually supporting community mindset.



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