Bryant Yee

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The Looper

The Looper was a RTKL entry for the 2013 snoLEAF greenhouse ideas competition. The competition asked participants to develop new ideas about the future of locally grown produce. Our submission was an attempt to redefine the traditional greenhouse, liberating it from a site and using sustainable design practices to solve a larger problem. The Looper challenges the idea of a greenhouse and leverages one very simple concept: the growing of plants inherently cleans an ecosystem.

The Looper repurposes an existing river barge into a greenhouse which collects, uses, filters, and returns water to the river in a remediated state—a loop.


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The Team


This project liberates the greenhouse from a traditional land bound site. Instead of placing the building on a brownfield site, as dictated by the LBC, we set it in the Snohomish, a polluted river in Seattle, WA. Any river which suffers from pollution may be considered a “brownfield” site and appropriate to house one (or many) Looper barges.

The beauty of the design concept is that it can easily be adapted to regions outside of the Puget Sound. Because the greenhouse structure is built on a repurposed river barge the Looper is not limited to one site as if rooted on the land. Waterways across the country are in a similar condition as the Snohomish, and the idea of a floating remediation and education center could be applied throughout.

How it Works

Performance-driven Form

In order to create an adaptable and accessible building, we based every design decision on performance and optimization. We started with the typical greenhouse and adjusted for specific location and angle of river barge travel.

Mezzanine view overlooking the Living Machine

How the Living Machine works

Water Optimization

Strategy / Result

  • Supply all water needs with 2 streams of influent – river water and collected precipitation.
  • Utilize ebb and flow aquaponic growing system
  • Cycle river water through a living machine, and then either return to the river in a remediated state or use as supply water for the aquaponic loop.
  • Collect, filter and potabilize rain water for human use.

Energy Independence Model

Energy Optimization

Strategy / Result

  • Utilize passive planning strategies to maximize inherent efficiencies
  • Optimize efficiencies by implementing active systems
  • Offsets remaining energy needs with renewable sources

Community Impact

Strategy / Result

  • Produce healthy transplants for local Food Bank Farms and community gardens for the summer growing season
  • Harvest year-round aquaponic leafy greens
  • Grow two supplemental crops of aquaponic grown common vegetables
  • Nurture a year-round container orchard and perennial herb garden