ARCH 5470: Energy in the National Food System
Energy Sources, Stages, and End uses in the National Food System
4 week project.
In our efforts to improve the national food system, we often discuss the implications of food miles – the distance the majority of our food must travel from farm to plate. Although the energy used and pollution emitted in this process demand attention, a deeper look into all sources of energy used in food reveals a far more complicated and troubling system.
The energy used in transportation is in fact negligible (4%) compared to the energy needed in other stages of the food production system: household kitchens (28%), processing facilities (26%), farms (15%), and grocery/convenience stores (13%). Overall, when each of the stages of food production are broken down, 35% is used in building envelopes, 27% in machining processes, and 25% in direct food preparation and storage. As a result, improving energy use in the food system demands the reimagination of these high-energy users, potentially questioning the role of personal kitchens or the dry goods section of supermarkets, which use the majority of retail square footage. These new designs must also be balanced with nutrient cycles, supporting local economies, and other issues, in efforts to rethink the way in which we grow, produce, and purchase our food.
This project was completed in collaboration with Eric Field for Information Space, a course that challenges students to analyze an issue in qualitative and quantitative depth – and to present such diverse information in a single, legible information graphic. This information also contributed to research on food systems conducted in collaboration with Doug Dickerson and adviser William Sherman, in preparation for thesis work in the spring of 2012.