New facility looks to nature for its design

Orenda Hemp has commissioned a research facility that mimics a living organism, in both design and function.

A geodesic dome structure is the basis of the Research Triangle Park Facility (RTPF). Designed as a modular building with seven hexagonal ‘cells’, it makes the best possible use of space, light, heat and water to cultivate up to a million hemp clones per year in a controlled, indoor environment.

“Nature has been doing this effectively for thousands of years, so we’re applying the same principles,” says the project’s architect, Arnaud Hauss.  

Water-carrying walls, a solar lung and a light-catching roof are among the permaculture and biomimicry principles that underpin the facility.  

“The hexagons are all connected, so no room is wasted,” says Arnaud. “The space inside the walls is used for water treatment, water storage, power storage and waste.”

Despite the water-intensive demands of cultivation, only rainfall is required. The facility harvests, treats, stores and recycles water, all within the walls of its structure.

Power generation is also factored into the design. A transparent roof membrane and a solar lung on the south side of the building are designed to capture solar power for heating and ventilate the facility.

“Cold air is collected in pipes, then warmed by the solar panels and pumped into the greenhouses,” says Bruno Carvalheiro, the engineer on the project. “The solar panels are flexible so the lung can move, and the whole facility can breathe. It’s one of the self-regulating principles underpinning the whole facility.”

The building will be constructed from modules, and intermodular elements will be 3D printed using waste materials from hemp harvesting.

The facility, which disrupts traditional cultivation systems, will be part of the nationally recognized research hub, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.  

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