Zero-Waste / Zero-Energy / Zero-Carbon Food Distribution center, Bronx NY

GrowNYC contracted ORE to make their Bronx-based farm food distribution hub a net-zero facility in order to offset the carbon from their fleet of food distribution trucks.

The resulting study became a white paper on how to maximize sustainability through “Integrative” or “Whole Building” design.  Below are excerpts from this white paper. We initiated our study by looking at potential inputs and outputs through the lens of existing site condition and technical feasibility (what systems are readily available).

Our study included capturing atmospheric carbon, minimizing municipal water usage, creating pollinator habitats, using photovoltaics to generate on-site power, employing the most efficient warehouse operational systems (lighting, heating, cooling), and designing a façade that will reflect the special nature of GrowNYC’s Foodhub program and the building that houses it.


The framework for evaluating the building systems contained in this report is a balance between three areas: goals expressed by GrowNYC, applicability based on site conditions, and ultimately if the system is using an existing technology that has been applied in existing, analogous projects.

We performed a cost-benefit-analysis of existing sustainable technologies and generated a value stream map showing a potential for GrowNYC facility’s to be a closed cycle of power and waste.

Leveraging feasibility with cost of install and maintenance, ORE recommended the following systems: Onsite power generation using an off-the shelf biodigester, augmented (for maximum power output) by an off-the-shelf algae lobby feature and a supplemental power source from solar panels integrated into a vegetated roof.

Off-the-shelf algae bioreactors. ORE identified sustainable technologies currently on the market that can provide a sense of applicability, life-cycle cost and return on investment.  Algae bioreactors integrated into the building facade to absorb CO2 and generate biomass to fuel building.






As the food waste from improved food distribution practices approaches zero, Algae becomes the primary power source for the entire facility.  The algae from photobioreactors is digested into biogas and converted to heat and power in onsite microturbine.

The added-value of expanding space between building skin + rainscreen to create employee/visitor amenity spaces while increasing building’s performance. And expanding space between building skin + rainscreen to house/display performative infrastructure (algae bioreactors):

The building’s design integrates the energy system as its main architectural feature: 


Client: GrowNYC
Location: Hunts Point, Bronx, New York
Program: Non-Profit Farm to Community Food Distribution Hub
Area: 75,000 sf
Status: Under construction