Building-integrated rooftop greenhouses: An energy and environmental assessment in the mediterranean context

Ana Nadal, Pere Llorach-Massana, Eva Cuerva, Elisa López-Capel, Juan Ignacio Montero, Alejandro Josa, Joan Rieradevall, Mohammad Royapoor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Elsevier Ltd A sustainable and secure food supply within a low-carbon and resilient infrastructure is encapsulated in several of The United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals. The integration of urban agriculture in buildings can offer improved efficiencies; in recognition of this, the first south European example of a fully integrated rooftop greenhouse (iRTG) was designed and incorporated into the ICTA-ICP building by the Autonomous University of Barcelona. This design seeks to interchange heat, CO2and rainwater between the building and its rooftop greenhouse. Average air temperatures for 2015 in the iRTG were 16.5 °C (winter) and 25.79 °C (summer), making the iRTG an ideal growing environment. Using detailed thermophysical fabric properties, 2015 site-specific weather data, exact control strategies and dynamic soil temperatures, the iRTG was modelled in EnergyPlus to assess the performance of an equivalent ‘freestanding’ greenhouse. The validated result shows that the thermal interchange between the iRTG and the ICTA-ICP building has considerable moderating effects on the iRTG's indoor climate; since average hourly temperatures in an equivalent freestanding greenhouse would have been 4.1 °C colder in winter and 4.4 °C warmer in summer under the 2015 climatic conditions. The simulation results demonstrate that the iRTG case study recycled 43.78 MWh of thermal energy (or 341.93 kWh/m2/yr) from the main building in 2015. Assuming 100% energy conversion efficiency, compared to freestanding greenhouses heated with oil, gas or biomass systems, the iRTG delivered an equivalent carbon savings of 113.8, 82.4 or 5.5 kg CO2(eq)/m2/yr, respectively, and economic savings of 19.63, 15.88 or 17.33 €/m2/yr, respectively. Under similar climatic conditions, this symbiosis between buildings and urban agriculture makes an iRTG an efficient resource-management model and supports the promotion of a new typology or concept of buildings with a nexus or symbiosis between energy efficiency and food production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-351
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Building performance simulation
  • Building-rooftop greenhouse symbiosis
  • Energy plus
  • Energy-food nexus
  • Measured energy data
  • Rooftop greenhouse

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