Resiliency Tunnel

Executive Summary:

As the student population of the university increases, so does the need for food. The UW Farm has supplied the UW Food Pantry with produce each year, but as the climate changes, the increasing discrepancy between demand during the academic year and the summer growing season is resulting in inadequate supply, which we seek to address. Climate impacts to the UW campus are already felt by the Farm, in the form of extremes of moisture, heat, and cold that reduce crop output. This inclement weather leads to the loss of over 1,800 pounds (15%) of UW Farm production each year. The Resiliency Tunnel, a proposed high tunnel and educational space to serve the needs of the UW Farm and the Food Pantry, will address this issue. The proposed location lies between the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Ceramic Metal Arts building on a vacant lot adjacent to the UW Farm. Creating a modified north-wall greenhouse, a highly efficient structure often used in colder climates, will allow us to grow up to an estimated 4,000 pounds of produce throughout the year, feeding our UW community and beyond. The project further incorporates small-scale solar and rainwater catchment systems, creating a sustainable and resilient space for long term benefit.

Our core project team is a highly interdisciplinary group of undergraduate and graduate students, directed by undergraduate lead Emma Maggioncalda. Our team members are pursuing degrees ranging from Landscape Architecture to Electrical Engineering, and have strong supporters across the University, including Perry Acworth of the UW Farm, Christina Owen of the UW Botanic Gardens, Steve Tatge of UW Facilities, Joanna Pang of UW Facilities Engineering Services, Daimon Ecklund of UW Sustainability, Polly Olsen of the Burke Museum, Meredith Kruger of the UW Food Pantry, and more (Project Support Forms attached). Together we share the ambitious goal of creating an agricultural structure and landscape that sustainably and respectfully gives back to the community and surrounding areas. Details for a conceptual design and further information can be found at the following website: The unique nature of this project calls for innovative solutions and detailed planning. At this stage, we have been advised by UW Facilities to conduct a rigorous feasibility study to investigate the exact location of our site as well as perform a detailed cost estimate for total project costs and investigate design feasibility and geotechnical conditions. We request a total of $12,000 to cover costs for 1) surveying the land and investigating geotechnical considerations ($7,000) and 2) any additional potential costs we may incur in completing a feasibility study, including hiring technical experts on an as needed basis ($5,000). It is important to distinguish between our project and the existing UW Farm: this project serves as an independent entity to the farm, yet will provide direct tangible benefits through crop production to the farm once established, and go further to provide both tangible and intangible benefits to the broader UW community and surrounding areas.

Student Involvement:

The development of the Resiliency Tunnel brings together a wide range of disciplines. We utilize many pathways to increase on-campus awareness of and engagement in our project, further outlined in Education and Outreach. Our core team was formed by members of the credited RSO UW Solar, though we greatly expanded team size by conducting outreach. This outreach was performed through classes, professors, advisor mailing lists, Instagram, and LinkedIn to gather students from different areas of study, which has permitted us to engage over 30 UW undergraduate and graduate students from the programs listed below:

  1. Architectural Design
  2. Electrical, Chemical, Industrial, and Computer Engineering
  3. Environmental Science, Atmospheric Science, Chemistry, and Biology
  4. Construction Management
  5. Finance/Economics, Information Systems, and Business Administration
  6. Urban Planning
  7. Landscape Architecture
  8. Evan’s School Environmental Policy

To prepare to analyze the feasibility of a new building on campus, we are organized around our existing disciplines and the expected content of a feasibility study. We, and our work, emerge from smaller, focused teams: design, outreach, funding, and finance. The paragraphs below offer an indication of roles and responsibilities, but also preliminary work that is already being conducted toward a feasibility study for this project.

The design team collaborates on architectural design, energy generation, and hydrology, assisted by students from Construction Management specializing in feasibility. The architectural design team has focused on developing a rough order of magnitude of the design and investigating the site conditions. UW Project Delivery Group (PDG) is in the process of assigning a Project Manager to our project; this individual and additional staff will assist with project delivery primarily after the feasibility study is completed, which students will shadow. Students participate in development of a Request for Proposal (RFP), and will have the opportunity to manage the selection of a contractor by developing a scoring system to evaluate bids. This project will likely be a Job Order Contracting (JOC) project with UW PDG. We will delineate the exact location of the structure within the identified plot of land during the feasibility study process, for which we are in contact with users of the Ceramic + Metal Arts building. Kristine Kenney, the UW Director for University Planning and Architecture, has advised we pursue funding for rigorous land surveying as part of the feasibility study process. Julie Blakeslee has expressed she is willing to connect us with UW Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) to assist with surveying and permitting. We will define the scope and receive feedback from individuals within UW Facilities and later have our design evaluated by the UW Design Review Board. The energy generation design team is putting together estimates for the power needs for each component: Regular lights for daytime, germination lights (used frequently for 1-3 months of the year), the pump for the irrigation system, and ventilation for air circulation and temperature control. The team is also weighing options for getting additional power in the winter months when solar is less efficient. Current options for energy sources include connecting to Seattle City Light’s grid directly, or connecting to an existing UW building. Students in hydrology are focusing on methods for rainwater collection and storage, agricultural water requirements variable by season, and potential uses of excess collection, such as rain gardens. The outreach team has been in contact with far-reaching members of the UW community and beyond to gather sponsors and communicate with stakeholders, as well as to gather insight during the design phase. Once in service, the tunnel will provide opportunities for the UW Farm to increase overall campus awareness of an agroecosystem, with research opportunities and an emphasis on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). 

COVID-19 has not noticeably impeded our work. We were able to meet in person during Fall 2021 in the Urban Infrastructure Lab, though we have been meeting over Zoom during 2022. We have had occasional in-person meetings with faculty, including meeting with Perry Acworth and David Zuckerman at the UW Farm to discuss site conditions. We have meetings scheduled with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), faculty, community partners, and more as needed.  We also enjoy the ease of use of a central email address,, for our communications with outside entities and / or multiple groups.

Education & Outreach:

This project and its development represent a distinct opportunity for students to engage in the design and analysis of a potential new building on campus–albeit a building of limited and purposed functionality. The longer aim is, of course, to fund and construct the building. Yet, at all stages of the design and feasibility process, students will be originating ideas, working with one another, and sourcing the faculty and administration in our learn-by-doing process. The proposed services of the Resiliency Tunnel are fundamental to the operation and well-being of the UW Farm, which is an institution of growing importance to the student body.

The UW Farm currently engages the UW community by removing barriers to participation in the urban food system: no fee is required for participation; sites are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days per year; site access is available to UW students, faculty, staff, and the general public; farm research and facilities provide food for the community; and the farm was declared an essential operation during the pandemic (staff, research allowed to work on-site). Produce is delivered to three sectors: 1) sold to multiple UW dining locations, or “farm to campus;” 2) a weekly paid subscription box, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); and 3) regular donations to UW Food Pantry. In 2017 MOU was signed with the Intellectual House, for space to grow food for First Nations students. Today, there is a Native Garden, where First Nations Students, under the leadership of a Food Sovereignty Liaison co-managed by the Farm Manager and Director of the Intellectual House, can grow culturally important produce. Annually, over 2,000 visitors from at least 24 units, plus the general public, visit the three farm sites either as a volunteer, for a laboratory assignment, field trip, tour, research, or internship. In addition, over 5,000 people “visit” the farm or learn remotely via social media, educational videos, the website, and a weekly newsletter. However, increasing awareness about the causes and impacts of climate change have increased demand for education on sustainability and innovation that has not been matched by expanded facilities and opportunities.

This project benefits from the wide breadth of UW community engagement permitted by our involvement with several key groups. We have utilized the post sharing feature on Instagram so related groups on campus (UW Sustainability, the UW Food Pantry, the UW Farm, and the UW Foster School of Business) could share our advertisement on UW Solar’s Instagram pertaining to volunteer or credited opportunities for students. UW Sustainability will continue to share educational information on the project with the community, which will raise awareness and serve as one pathway for gathering future volunteers. We have additionally received assistance from several departmental advisors (including from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS) and College of Built Environments (CBE)) in distributing advertisements through emailing lists. These connections will assist us with educating the UW community about opportunities supported by the tunnel design and construction process as well as its operation once implemented.

An important vehicle for raising awareness for our project will be an informational video we are developing with a non-profit called the 2050 Project (, started by two alumni of the UW Evans School for Public Policy. This video will highlight the origin and significance of the project, student and community groups involved, and our overarching vision. Additionally, it will serve to inform the public, gather additional student volunteers as needed, and potentially draw investors to sponsor additions to the tunnel, such as indoor vertical farming. As we approach implementation, we plan to increase our engagement efforts through a number of additional avenues, potentially including on-campus signage, tabling in Red Square, holding an event as part of UW Sustainability’s Earth Day week, and publishing in student news sources. We hope to participate in the UW Indigenous Food Symposium later this year, in which we will seek consultation on integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in our project as well as our aim to raise awareness of the impacts of historic boarding schools on local Indigenous communities. We also plan to enhance the educational opportunities permitted by the tunnel by collaborating with local and Indigenous artists, creating interactive installations that go beyond simply revealing design details and elaborate further on the role of food in IIndigenous communities; specifically the repercussions of boarding schools.

Environmental Impact:
  • Food
  • Waste
  • Community Development
  • Cultural Representation
Project Longevity:

This project benefits from the structural support and institutional knowledge of Professor Whittington of UW Solar, Perry Acworth of the UW Farm, several members involved in leadership of the UW Botanic Gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH), and miscellaneous faculty as mentioned above. Professor Whittington has overseen several other successful UW Solar projects that progressed similarly with CSF, in which many cases ultimately did not incur costs for hiring technical expertise during the feasibility study phase. UW Project Delivery Group (PDG) is in the process of assigning a Project Manager to our project; this individual and additional staff will assist with project delivery primarily after the feasibility study is completed, which students will shadow. Our team would appreciate more information on who provided support during the surveying phase on the former CSF project in the UBNA that involved implementing a boardwalk.

The presence of the Resiliency Tunnel will create cost savings for the UW farm by mitigating the need to rent indoor growing space from the CUH and sourcing its own water and energy. These annual savings for the UW Farm will support the operations of the tunnel, boosting the financial sustainability and resilience of the farm. Additional funding could be attained in the future from EarthLab to enhance the research capabilities of the structure, and our team will continuously research other relevant funding opportunities within UW Solar. The input of resources should be considered in terms of the sophisticated, resilient infrastructure they will make possible. The thorough design and implementation of this structure has and will create opportunities for those in the UW community and beyond. Any advancement toward this vision will contribute to the establishment of these opportunities.

Environmental Problem:

The sustainability challenges we are addressing with our design proposal are multifaceted and include: high food waste and inadequate yields, limited facilities for educational purposes that rely heavily on utilities, and missed opportunities to demonstrate sustainable food systems to the community including incorporating Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

In 2020, over 1,800 pounds of produce at the UW Farm - roughly 15% of annual production - were spoiled by rainstorms and unexpected frost, conditions becoming increasingly frequent and intense due to climate change. Our solution revolves around a high tunnel, a USDA-approved method for season extension, to protect crops and extend the production season by multiple months. The Resiliency Tunnel will enable the UW Farm to better capture produce with higher nutritional value in greater quantities, and ensure it reaches food-insecure populations. The execution and operation of this plan will notably contribute towards action VI of the UW Sustainability Action Plan, involving a target that 35% of food is from local sources by 2025 (UW Sustainability).

The solar installation will provide power for electrical needs and the rainwater catchment system will mitigate the structure’s demand on natural resources for irrigation of crops, increasing the resilience of the food-energy system to future disruption, particularly during droughts when water savings are critical. Once in service, the tunnel will serve as a center for innovation, research, leadership, and access to organic fresh vegetables and a healthy lifestyle. Educational opportunities would include the ability to conduct research experiments, demonstrate methods for crop protection, food system resilience, and farm waste reduction, while also highlighting the value of innovative practices and perspectives such as Traditional Ecological Knowledge, indoor vertical farming, and more.

As we build a new system serving the UW community, we must acknowledge that we are building on the usual and accustomed lands of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, Muckleshoot, and Coast Salish people. The Resiliency Tunnel will foster relationships with campus and community Indigenous organizations by incorporating Indigenous perspectives in the design, planning, and construction phases. Initially, produce will be shared with the Intellectual House and Indigenous students. The dichotomy between the agricultural space within the Resiliency Tunnel and the Indigenous remedies surrounding the high tunnel represents a potential physical manifestation of the impact of American Indian Boarding Schools on the agricultural practices of Native communities and their health. Incorporating culturally significant medicinal herbs and plants in and around the Resiliency Tunnel will help integrate this important story with the purpose of the tunnel and the surrounding farm while also offering a direct benefit to members of the Indigenous community as a space to use and connect with culturally significant plants. Integrating the Indigenous teachings of Resiliency Tunnel into existing courses at UW, and hopefully, the future creation of courses focused on this subject, as well as educational events and information at the space, can serve as a form of education for non-Indigenous students and the broader Seattle community.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

All through the design and development process, including feasibility study, the Resiliency Tunnel project will pull together interested students to learn about how to conduct these types of activities, from faculty and directly from Campus administrators and staff with expertise in the design and construction fields.

The UW Farm currently tracks the weight of all produce that is harvested and composted daily, weekly and annually. Previous seasons have been recorded including harvest amounts and waste amounts, which can be compared with relative amounts after the high tunnel is implemented, directly measuring the impact of our building on production. There is additional historical data on the number of individuals from the UW community and beyond that utilize the farm space, which can be compared with data to be gathered once the tunnel is implemented. This could include the addition of students able to receive instruction within the structure, the impact of increased awareness, and the creation of new, diverse educational opportunities for students and the public alike. There is much room for further analysis of trends before and after tunnel implementation such as the number of research projects conducted at the Farm, events coordinated by the Farm and the Intellectual House on campus, crop growth in the co-located native garden, visitors to the UW Food Pantry (who will utilize increased crop yields), and more educational and community outcomes. More definitively, records on historical water and electricity usage as well as the associated financial demands can be compared before and after tunnel implementation. We can measure energy generated by the panels in kwh (estimated to be 16 kwh per day) and water collected in cisterns by the gallon.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $12,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


Surveying + Geotechnical ($7,000) + Hiring Technical Expertise ($5,000) = Total of $12,000 (Detailed in attachment)
ItemCost per ItemQuantity
Surveying + Geotechnical$7,0001
Hiring Technical Expertise$5,0001
Total Costs$12,0001

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total: $12,000


This is a rough timeline from the beginning of our project to end, advised by Prof. Jan Whittington and UW Facilities
Investigate location by conducting pre-feasibility study By December 1st, 2021
Define purpose and estimate massingBy December 1st, 2021
Submit Letter of Intent to apply for funding for full feasibility studyBy December 1st, 2021
Generate systems diagrams (attached)By February 7th, 2022
Request funding for feasibility studyBy February 7th, 2022
Construct conceptual designSpring - Fall 2022
Conduct feasibility study, including surveying and geotechnicalSpring - Fall 2022
Develop schematic and detailed designSpring - Fall 2022
Submit design to Design Review BoardSpring - Fall 2022
Investigate permittingSpring - Fall 2022
Form a Request for Proposal (RFP)Spring - Fall 2022
Use cost estimate developed with UW PDG to submit request to CSF for full project cost fundingBy December 1st, 2022
Implement Job Order Construction (JOC) with UW PDGSpring - Summer 2023