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Should we be growing more vegetables on London’s green belt land?

Growing tomatoes, courgettes and potatoes on green belt land around London? A new bridge to aid distribution of food? More sustainable food production for the UK?

This is a concept I read about recently, as imagined by a Royal College of Art graduate.

Joseph Mercer has suggested we build a series of Netherlands-style greenhouses on London’s green belt. He proposes that as greenhouses would enable us to farm more intensively, the amount of farmed land on the belt could be cut from 59% to 7%. This in turn would enable wildlife to thrive.

Mercer came up with these plans after finding out that more than half of the food we eat in the UK is imported.

With plans to leave Europe potentially affecting our access to imported food, he wanted to look at how we could become self-sufficient.

This project caught my eye as it seems quite topical and I am going to the Netherlands on holiday in September this year, and I think it’s important to share that our focus at Super Structure Associates is not on engineering alone. Our industry – which includes engineers, architects and construction workers among others – needs to stay engaged with the wider world.

There are many elements of our work that are important, including keeping people safe, building sustainable structures, and designing buildings that are visually inspiring as well as functional. But conceptual projects help us explore new possibilities and keep us at the cutting edge.

This concept was inspired by Westland, in the Netherlands, where more than half of the country’s food production happens in greenhouses. The greenhouses have a variety of internal climates to suit each crop.

Mercer’s goal was to propose a food network using technology that could ensure sustainable food production for the UK, now and in the future.

He also proposes a new road-rail bridge to connect the greenhouses to existing distribution centres.

Who knows whether a project of this type will happen in the UK, but looking at ways to reduce the travel miles of our food, as well as expand natural habitats for our wildlife, seems like a good idea.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this so please do reply if this has piqued your interest.

And if you have any projects needing the input of a structural engineer, please do get in touch.

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