Global Observer

Urine-powered restaurant pops up in Melbourne

Urine-powered restaurant pops up in Melbourne

Posting in Architecture

MELBOURNE -- At the Greenhouse restaurant, urine is harvested to create power. Is this the future of dining?

MELBOURNE -- Designed by Dutch-born Joost Bakker, the Greenhouse project proves that a waste free restaurant is achievable.

As part of this year's Melbourne Food and Wine Festival program, the Greenhouse uses the by-products of agriculture for insulation and energy and is made from materials that are completely and easily recycled, natural and non-toxic.

All electricity in the building is generated and fueled by pure, unrefined canola oil, and in a world first, urine will be collected from purpose-built lavatories to be used as soybean and canola crop fertilizer.

Urine may seem an unorthodox energy source, but it is actually a great source of fertilizer when diluted. According to Bakker, “Urine is incredible for nitrogen, it’s so valuable -- you only need the urine of 25 people to provide fertilizer for a hectare of crop.”

The Greenhouse employs the unique Productive Building System, devised by Baker himself (patent pending); the restaurant utilizes light gauge steel for its frame, making an incredibly strong and naturally termite resistant building that is 100% recyclable.

Wall cladding and structural bracing is fitted in ECO-ply plywood, and the glue is made entirely from soybeans -- a first in the building world. At the end of its life, the plywood can be recycled into chipboard or wafer board.

Transported in and made from five 12-meter reclaimed shipping containers, the Greenhouse building can quickly be assembled or dismantled when and where required.

The building is insulated with locally sourced straw bales (one of the world's largest waste products) which is wedged into the walls, floor and ceiling.

Bakker has created the MgO board (magnesium oxide board) impregnated with biochar which allows the Greenhouse to store carbon within its walls. The MgO is a strong, environmentally friendly building material that is one tenth the carbon footprint of fiber cement sheet.

As with the past three Geenhouse restaurants, Joost utilizes sustainable ideas in all aspects of the building, from food sourcing and production, through to architecture, building materials and furniture design.

“I have designed the restaurant in reverse. I’ve started at the end; assessing the waste production, and worked back from there," Joost Bakker said. "My dream has always been to build a restaurant that creates no waste and now I think I have achieved it!”

The restaurant's menu is based on seasonal and locally available food. Wheat used in bread, dough, pasta and pastries is freshly milled onsite (a healthier alternative to store-bought wheat products), and butter and yoghurt are made fresh from organic milk and cream delivered from a local dairy farm.

All kitchen waste is organic and composted onsite using a JoraForm in-vessel composter; the compost is used to maintain the rooftop garden.

Even the restaurant's unbleached baking paper and plantation-timber cutlery can be processed through the composter.

Photo: Earl Carter.

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Lieu Thi Pham

Correspondent (Melbourne)

Lieu Thi Pham is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She has contributed to The Age, Associated Newspapers, Melbourne University Magazine, the Big Issue, Dazed and Confused, Indesign Group, Time Out, SOMA and Niche Media. She holds degrees from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure