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Video of project as of January 2013

The Green Phoenix currently under construction at the Truly Living Well Wheat Street Garden in downtown Atlanta, GA.






May 11, 2013

Liam's Day of Service

Thanks so much to all the friends who came out for all the good work and good times.




The Green Phoenix after the professional grading job for water management




The boys unloading mulch




Randy showing us the way




Sheet mulching the graded landscape




Finer grading over cardboard








The Green Phoenix after the sheet mulching job, and the beautiful, freshly built tire wall.



Shaman's Closing Thanks

*Photos courtesy of Julian Buckmaster

Dropped the top grow bed and made it shallower.


Chris and Corwin managed to finish the grow beds and the fish tank so we are right on track!


Upcoming schedule (as of 1-22-13):


1.  Got the retaining wall up for the cistern.  Just need to put blocks of concrete to make the sump pump shaft.  Then, we can set the cistern.  

2.  Finish framing in the fish tank.  

3.  Put in the pond liners 

4.  Put in the solar water heaters.  

5.  Plumb the whole thing.  

6.  Put in the airlift pumps.  

7.  Stock it!  


Note, these pictures are in the order of most recent at the top and the oldest at the bottom.



The southside of the greenhouse and half of the aquaponic system (almost) in place.    Compost pins (pallets) to the right.  That mound of dirt (covered by the blue tarp) will be the loctions of our mushroom facility which needs to be about twenty degrees cooler than the aquaponics system in the greenhouse.  THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT!


Looking down Old Wheat St. towards downtown.  Look at those tires!

Almost done with the setting in the cistern (see below).  We got to get this drainage taken care of before it floods again!  The cistern will go in the hole (where the pond is) once we set up the rammed earth tire retaining wall and the sump pump shaft.


Chris and Corwin observing their handywork (and the camera).


3 1/2" of insulation on all sides and the floor of the fish tank to keep the fish warm in the winter.  We got the insulation and most of the wood second hand. 


Framing in the bottom grow bed and fish tank below.


View of existing greenhouse and the Wheat St. Farm with part of Atlanta's skyline in the back.


View Wheat St. Farm and part of Atlanta's skyline from ArkFab.


Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was ordained as the church's minister in 1948.


Martin Luther King's center across Jackson Street from ArkFab.  That fence is up because Georgia Power is running electrical lines to power the new trolley over on Auburn Ave - going to downtown.

Lots of history.  For our cistern hole, ArkFab is the first to dig down this deep (~6') in about a half a century.  We are finding a lot of artifacts.


Top grow bed and fish tank below.  Wheat St. church in the background.


Another church within view of ArkFab.


Below one of the rows of a cylindrical rammed earth tire wall which serves as the retaining wall around the cistern (5'3" diameter) so dirt does not collapse the cistern walls in.


ArkFab Update - Monday, December 4th, 2012

We'll be building the first aquaponic system (fish tank and overlying grow beds) tomorrow at 9 am (see below).  Each fish tank will have twelve 4"X4"X12' and two 4"X4"X8' posts to hold up the growbeds and for fish tank access.  Below is an earlier design which we will follow for the most part.  The green designates the lower grow bed, blue designates the fish tank, and the maroon designates lumber (almost to scale). 





Georgia Tech Sustainable Conference tomorrow









Friday's Meeting, November 9

We are making progress with Steve Carr's generous donations to the project, and have made new allies with a farmer from Gaia Gardens.

We are now gathering supplies to line the tanks, and wood to build the grow bed posts.




Thursday, November 8, 2012

Liam's Legacy Sustainability Summit

Just got back from the Liam's legacy sustainability conference on campus and the Atlanta local food initiative conference.  Given that more people may access this website after these conferences, I (Steve) thought I'd state why I think Liam was spot on with ArkFab.  Not only is ArkFab super efficient and super high intensity food production all by itself, and in an urban setting where there are a lot of people nearby to consume the food and to be employed to operate the system, ArkFab is sustainable for the following reasons - water, energy, nutrients, CO2, and materials.

Water - we are able to operate the system entirely off of rainwater while land-based plants get only one chance to capture rainwater while it moves through the soil.  I am not knocking traditional urban agriculture, just stating aquaponics is better in terms of water conservation.

Energy - we are incorporating both passive and active solar energy technologies to our system via PV cells, passive solar design, as well as efficient aeration and water pumping technologies.

Nutrients - the nutrients in food waste are the sole nutrient input to the system.  We are converting a negatively valued waste into a resource.  We will do this by growing a combination of growing larvae, duckweed, algae, or other forms of fish fodder off of the nutrients in the food waste. 

Based on the above, once we get past the initial capital expense, our inputs are nearly free.

CO2- we are sequestering CO2 from our mushroom production facility (adjacent to our aquaponics facility) via vegetable production

Materials - we pulled almost 500 tires from Peachtree Creek which will house our mushroom facility and be part of our energy efficient building design which will keep our mushroom facility a bit cooler than the greenhouse for the aquaponics (shown below).

We all hear about sustainability these days.  I'd like to define sustainability as the ability to feed ourselves.  Is not the basis of human sustainability what we put into our bodies each day?

ArkFab does this in a very sustainable way.  We also like to drink water and to be sustainable, we should conserve water.  ArkFab conserves water.  We like energy to do stuff.  Given that modern agriculture is the main consumer of energy (and water), it's good that ArkFab runs off of solar energy and serves food locally which reduces the transportation, packaging, and handling costs of food. 

The moderator at the closing of Liam's Summit said 'Do it', let's build 100 ArkFabs in 5 years!  If not, why not?  Are YOU acting sustainably?


The ArkFab Crew. Come to the Truly Living Well Farm (aka the Wheat Street Garden) downtown during the week, and see how you can be apart this amazing project.


This week and next week's schedule:

Thursday, November 8th - the greenhouse is completely covered so we can start constructing the grow beds!!!!

    First, we need position the post footings (in black below) so that they are below the bottom of the fish tank.  The footings are chunkcs of concrete about 8" by 8" by 8".    Once these are in place and the posts are set, we can set up the grow beds and line the tanks sides with insulation and carpet padding before setting the liner.

Friday, November 9th - continue above and we have our weekly meeting at Wheat Street Farm at 4:30 pm.

  Topics to discuss -

            grow bed and fish tank construction

            worm drawers

            black soldier fly larvae and duckweed production units.

Next week - continue the above and if the rain holds off, sink the north cistern and finish the north end landscaping.  Survey greenhouse for rainwater collection gutters.

Let's get to it!  This is going to be AWESOME!




 Friday meeting in the tanks.



Shaman and the Prickly Pear.


Jeannette Yen - the glue.


Dr. Steve Van Ginkle, our vote for President.


Teamwork, making the dreamwork.



The ridiculously goodlooking stairway at the northend of the greenhouse.



The effort that made the stairway happen. Also, Max fixes the wheelbarrel.



The other fish tank, corner panel, and a concrete foot that the growbeds will rest on.



Corwin, Chris, and Rocky contemplating the next steps.


Steve, taking a break from digging/landscaping the north end.


Corwin putting on the ridge vent.  Thanks to Steve Carr for his gigantic ladder and the Atlanta ToolBank too for their ladders.



Chris - one of the cornerstones of ArkFab.


Corwin doing his thing - constructing the roof of the greenhouse.



Picture of corner panel and one fish tank.  That blue tarp is covering a bunch of dirt which we will use to fill the rammed earth tire wall earthship.



This is one of the side panels of the greenhouse.  There is one at each corner.  That black hose will connect with the roof plastic. 

Both have double layers of plastic and will be inflated via the hoses and a air blower for insulation.


End view of aquaponics


One black soldier fly larvae (BSL) production version - the sole nutrient input to the system!  The BSL will eat food waste obtained from the community.


Old file regarding the water lines.  The cistern is shifted to the left as in the site plan below.  We may have an internal clarifier than the external clarifer shown here.


Side view of grow beds.  The heights may be a bit off.  We may want the top grow bed at 5' and pots hanging from the greenhouse instead of a third level grow bed.


Here is the current site plan for ArkFab.  The aquaponics portions (in green) was narrowed to allow for the whole image to be placed here.  Length numbers are correct though.


North wall post


Ridge vent

Curtain rod


Handle to open the ridge vent

Corner wall wiggle wire plastic clamps


North Wall


Where the gutter should be.  The top plastic will go in the top groove.


Chris and Corwin



Nathaniel thought we should connect the two fish tanks.


Max and Krista


Jimmy, Chris, and Max.


Ridge vent.



North wall west point 2



  North wall, west post.


Bottom of the fish tank.


Max and Corwin working the ladder.

The neckless Bird ('Dork') is at peace with concrete saw.  Thanks Q!



Concrete footing we had to 'V' into to set the north wall posts.


Latest fish tank design (end view)



More concrete cutting tomorrow!

The Arkfab Feed

Progress on the greenhouse! We are finishing supports, adding the cover material, then starting the carpentry work for the fish tanks.




The tire drive is over.   Wow!  487 tires!  That was a lot of work!  Here is about 100 -

Thanks to all who participated!

Could not have done it without you!

Special thanks to the Krissman's for letting us borrow their mower to haul the tires up the creek bank of their yard, and their truck and trailer for hauling tires to Wheat St.

Special thanks to Harry (below) at Westover Plantation getting that ~150lb tire on top of my car and letting us in Westover.

Thanks Harry!

Greenhouse construction is next!


Rammed Earth Tire Wall — We need your help!​

Come out this Sat. 7/28 from 8am to 5pm

Please RSVP Here
ArkFab at Peachtree Creek

Liam Rattray Memorial Service Project

On May 12, 2012, the Liam Rattray Memorial Service Project at Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture was a big success. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to help.

Outdoor Activity Center, Liam Remembrance Photo

Georgia Tech, Ford Motor Company Fund, & Truly Living Well

will partner to build an energy independent bio-integrated food system in one of Atlanta’s premier urban farms. Increasing economic and environmental food cost and consumer demand for local foods are increasing demand for fresh organic produce grown in cities across the United States. Urban agriculture offers a unique opportunity to improve community health by making available nutritious food, create new greenspace, provide skilled urban employment, and supply ecosystem services. Integrating agriculture into the built environment can also improve the value of urban developments and generate new business.

The Green Phoenix Initiative

is led by a team of Georgia Tech Students and Faculty and Truly Living Well with support from The Ford Motor Company Fund at The Wheat Street Garden in the Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta, GA. The Green Phoenix initiative will help realize The City of Atlanta’s ambitious “Power to Change” sustainability plan and its commitment to bring local food within 10 minutes of 75 percent of all residents by 2020.

Aim: To implement an energy and water independent system for the creation of mushrooms, fish and vegetables as instrument for making GT and Truly Living Well part of a sustainable urban community.

  • Objective 1: to design and construct SPORE and SOL, a prototype off-grid energy and water vertical farming facility composed bio-integrated mushroom cultivation, and aquaponics greenhouse.
  • Objective 2: to cultivate fish, greens, mushrooms and compost for distribution at the Wheat Street garden market.
  • Objective 3: to operate in cooperation with Georgia Organics and Truly Living Well to grow the market for fresh local foods and to train skilled urban farmers.
  • Objective 4: to conduct research to characterize the flow of material, energy, water, and information within this living system and to validate the financial feasibility of the technology.
  • Objective 5: to disseminate findings and best practices through the workforce development program, published manual and designs.