Resiliency Tunnel

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $5,000

Letter of Intent:

Summary of Project Proposal:

The UW Farm’s efforts to engage the community and meet the demands of HFS, the Community Supported Agriculture Program, and the UW Food Pantry in particular are currently constrained by inadequate facilities and increasingly frequent and intense inclement weather. The Resiliency Tunnel team proposes a modified high-tunnel for the UW Farm to create conditions more stable than the natural environment as a means of providing more reliable, plentiful, and nutritious food to fill the pressing supply chain challenge. This system would include a solar installation and rainwater catchment system to limit inputs and provide cost-effective and renewable sources of energy and water. To enhance the community benefit of the system, the tunnel would be outfitted with furnishings to support UW faculty in offering opportunities to study a model agroecosystem to UW students and the general public alike. By conducting outreach within the UW community and beyond, our team is involving experts to inform our approach. We are looking for support from CSF in the form of $5,000 of funding to conduct a feasibility study as we continue to develop the project. This funding would permit our team to, if necessary, hire expertise such as a structural engineer in order to answer critical questions in the feasibility study. More thorough and informed estimates of the full cost of the project will be developed as well as a complete feasibility study to be provided at a future date.

Meeting CSF Requirements and Preferences:

Cultural Awareness & Preservation:

We consider this project a unique opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the UW Farm and local tribes by integrating feedback from meetings with Polly Olsen, the Tribal Liaison of the Burke Museum. Acknowledging that the site of our project is on unceded land of the Coast Salish and Duwamish people, our team intends to collaborate with members of indigenous communities on design and planning for produce. The UW Farm itself currently partners with many groups within the campus, such as the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House as well as others from various cultures and communities to come together in a welcoming environment to share knowledge.

Engaging Underrepresented Communities:

The UW Farm struggles to meet community demand for produce, and the UW Food Pantry in particular receives exorbitant quantities of viable produce from the UW Farm during summer months when growing conditions in the natural environment are most conducive to successful and fruitful harvests, though its aim is to serve the food insecure members of the UW community primarily during the academic year. This results in a mismatch between the volume and timing of viable produce that the UW Farm produces and which the UW Food Pantry needs. Building the Resiliency Tunnel on the UW Farm would increase produce output by extending the growing season while simultaneously protecting crops from unpredictable and threatening weather.

Diverse and Interdisciplinary Collaboration:

The development of the Resiliency Tunnel brings together a wide range of disciplines. Our core team was formed by members of the RSO UW Solar, though we greatly expanded by conducting outreach through classes, professors, and LinkedIn to gather students from different areas of study, which has permitted us to engage 26 UW undergraduate and graduate students from the programs listed below:

  • Architectural Design
  • Electrical, Chemical, and Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Science, Atmospheric Science, Chemistry, and Biology
  • Construction Management
  • Finance, Information Systems, and Business Administration
  • Urban Planning
  • Evan’s School Environmental Policy

These students are divided into smaller teams focused on design, outreach, funding, and finance. The design team collaborates on architectural design, energy generation, and hydrology, assisted by students from Construction Management specializing in feasibility. 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, and serve as a center for innovation, research, leadership, and access to organic fresh vegetables and a healthy lifestyle.

Environmental Footprint and Justice:

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 which are becoming increasingly frequent and intense due to climate change. During heavy rain events, for example, tomatoes absorb enough water overnight to swell and split open, deeming them no longer marketable. The short term solution is to quickly harvest produce and deliver it to the pantry in single-serve plastic bags, but this results in excessive use of plastic and produce that spoils quickly. Establishing a high tunnel will protect tomatoes and other crops from weather events, and control soil and crop moisture. This structure will prevent the use of over 1,000 plastic bags that go to waste after a single use each year on the farm.
This solution revolves around the structure of a high tunnel, which are USDA-approved methods for season extension, constructed on the farm, that protect crops and extend the production season by multiple months. Diverting the UW Farm’s spoiled produce from disposal in compost highlights one of the most ecologically-sustainable features of this project. Capturing produce with higher nutritional value in greater quantities, and ensuring it reaches food-insecure populations exercises a commitment to all individuals' right to fresh, healthy, and reliable food sources.

The inclusion of a solar installation and rainwater catchment system creates a net zero or even net negative impact from the structure, going beyond the efforts of carbon mitigation into true carbon reduction. This is a cost-effective solution that allows funds previously allocated to utilities to instead be utilized for improvement of the function and services offered by the farm, further promoting community well-being. The solar installation will provide power for electrical needs, and a surplus of energy that may be sold “back to the grid” in a practice known as net metering. The rainwater catchment system will mitigate the structure’s demand on natural resources for irrigation of crops, and provide resiliency during droughts when water savings are critical. Finally, the UW Farm produces locally-sourced produce for the Greater Seattle area, thus providing food with a higher nutritional value and a cleaner environmental footprint than traditional supermarket sources. Locally-sourced food reduces much of the supply chain emissions in food production as transportation, processing, packaging, and retail sourced emissions are reduced (Ritchie, 2019).

The execution and operation of this plan will notably contribute progress primarily towards action VI of the UW Sustainability Action Plan, involving a target that 35% of food is from local sources by 2025 (UW Sustainability). It additionally assists the campus in reaching actions VIII (15% lower energy usage intensity by 2025), IX (10% less solid waste by 2025), and X (45% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030). Produce from the farm is even desirable beyond that from local industrial farming as it does not involve unsustainable monoculture, and rather is NOP certified organic and salmon safe. Beyond that, the UW Farm received CSF funding in 2016 for a project titled the “Composting Toilet at the Center for Urban Horticulture”, which involves on-site vermicomposting and would provide soil amendments for the agriculture within the Resiliency Tunnel.

Leadership & Student Involvement:

The Project Manager for the project is undergraduate Emma Maggioncalda of Environmental Science & Resource Management and Urban Design & Planning. Emma is a fourth-year who originally partnered with Perry Acworth to identify several pressing needs of the UW community and associated proposed solutions as they pertain to the UW Farm. Student involvement greatly expanded this fall quarter as described above to constitute a highly interdisciplinary team, of which members are compensated with class credit. All team members attend Monday team meetings, share ideas, information, and responsibilities with team members, and participate in team meeting reports. We engage in ongoing efforts to involve even more students from different spheres on campus, with potential for paid positions through the UW Farm.

Directing UW Solar is Professor Jan Whittington of the College of Built Environments, who provides guidance and advice essential to using best practices in our project development process, outreach communications, grant applications, and team structure. Professor Jim Fridley of the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences serves as an advisor to Project Manager Emma Maggioncalda, providing key insights into helpful resources, alternative approaches, and case studies. UW Botanical Gardens Liaison Wendy Gibble serves as the point of contact between the Resiliency Tunnel team and the Botanical Gardens, and facilitated the arrangement of an introductory presentation to the committee that resulted in ear-marking the site for the development of this project in particular. The site recently became available for use by the UW Farm after another party’s lease expired.

The UW Farm currently utilizes over 400 student volunteers every year that assist in all areas of farm labor, especially field work, planting, and harvesting, nearly year-round. Given the opportunity to increase the amount of usable crop produced at the UW Farm, this project may divert more student labor to harvesting and packing produce, and mitigate volunteer efforts spent on the disposal of unusable produce. The farm has an existing system with capacity for increased production within the current capabilities of the “wash pack” and dry storage areas. The farm also has an electric bike with cargo attachments for produce delivery, as well as a farm delivery truck for transporting larger produce deliveries. At this time, the storage and delivery systems are under-utilized. The farm has a permanent full-time manager and a seasonal full-time AmeriCorps member. Our partner Perry Acworth, the current UW Farm Manager, has a positive track record for receiving grants and completing grant reports that are well-documented, with support from an accountant and financial administrators. The farm also hires seasonal student farm staff every year and supervises up to twenty interns. One of the students will be assigned the waste reduction focus and will be in charge of tracking progress.

Education, Outreach, & Behavior Change:

The UW Farm as a whole engages the UW community through its demanding and rewarding culture of community. Students, community members from the surrounding neighborhoods, and visitors from outside the area all have the opportunity to volunteer at the UW Farm and engage in learning about sustainable agriculture, food systems and their role in the community when it comes to reducing produce waste.
This project would assist in strengthening connections between our growing spaces and academics on campus by supporting the over two-dozen courses and volunteer programs that already utilize the farm as an outdoor learning space, as well as educational opportunities including supporting the Nutrition Science Program, Environmental Studies Capstone Internships, Public Health Internships, and Biology Internships. The UW Farm hosts and instructs over 300 service learners per academic year, and is connected to many UW courses linked to farm-based work.

However, there are currently no truly accessible or sheltered large meeting spaces on the UW Farm where students or other community groups can gather and learn together, which highlights the need for a project of this nature and has led us to take ADA specifications into consideration during our design process. The Resiliency Tunnel would be outfitted with furnishings to support UW faculty and students in running labs and experiments while gathering to generally study innovative sustainable agricultural practices, and these courses would be open to students and the general public alike. We are reaching out and teaching a wide group of people growing and consuming a healthy diet.

Feasibility & Accountability:

While we remain in the planning stage of the project for the time being, by having frequent and ongoing conversations with advisors and other UW Faculty, we are utilizing an informed and adaptive approach to designing, funding, and implementing the tunnel. Our team is engaging necessary stakeholders by contacting UW Facilities, the Design Review Board, and other relevant departments to investigate site conditions, tribal relations, innovative system design, and groups involved in alterations to the physical composition of campus. The UW Botanical Gardens has offered the necessary approvals for this project to move forward as planned. Our overview of the diverse and interdisciplinary collaboration involved in this project is outlined above, with references to the range of expertise we have drawn.

The proposed site was selected partly due to its close proximity to a utility pole which we would pull from and contribute energy back to, water sources which would supplement additional irrigation needs, and a paved road that ensures it is accessible year round, even when much of the farm is waterlogged in winter months. Our pre-feasibility study informed us that we would need two 500 gallon cisterns, totaling to 1000 gallons. The main energy needs of the Resiliency Tunnel are germination lighting for the crops and a basic irrigation system. To fully meet those needs, we plan on installing around 20 solar panels. These would be roof mounted and installed on the archway at the entrance of the Resiliency Tunnel. At roughly 300W each, this would provide us around 6kW of power, with excess power being fed back into the grid through the utility pole next to the site. We estimate an installation cost of around $15,000. On Helioscope we created a design for the Resiliency Tunnel to account for shading and other obstacles that could be generated on site. A power production graph was created using that information. This information is provided in an attachment over email titled “Resiliency Tunnel Pre-feasibility Study”. During the formal design and construction phases of this project we will utilize early funding to access services of a formal feasibility study, project management, and detailed design work.

Key stakeholders

UW Solar - Working with a diverse group of students from across majors and grade levels to design and organize the Tunnel Project. Students joined the Registered Student Organization for the first time to work on this project, bringing different perspectives and ideas to the planning of the project. Students are compensated with academic credit and develop strong research, communication, and collaboration skills.

UW Food Pantry - Communicating with Sean Ferris to design the Resiliency Tunnel to best serve underserved students on campus with a sustainable and reliable produce source. Will be collaborating with the Pantry to determine plant selection and transportation of produce.

UW Farm - Receiving information and guidance regarding the existing site and nearby resources. Working closely with the UW Farm Manager to learn how to design efficient agricultural systems and on recommended components to use to achieve project goals.

UW Botanical Garden (UWBG) - Ongoing communication was established early on with our project liaison Wendy Gibble. Presented to the UWBG, receiving positive feedback and gaining approval for site use. The planned site has been ear-marked for this particular development.

UW Irrigation - Communicated with James Boeckstiegel to discuss existing irrigation systems and water pipes on site. Future communication is anticipated to receive feedback on our design and information on the process for contracting out components.

UW Sustainability - Notified of project as it pertains to a physical change to UW campus and an improvement to sustainability. Will engage further in the process as needed.

Planned Outreach

Eli Wheat, UW Farm Advisory Council -  We are currently in the process of scheduling a meeting to discuss how the tunnel and the future plans for the farm can be synced to mutually benefit each other.

David Zuckerman, Manager of the Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) - Will engage after our initial meeting with the UW Farm Advisory Council once we are more informed on necessary proceedings.

Jeremy Parks, UW Electrical Utilities & Power Systems Manager -  Plan to hold a meeting to discuss our electrical design and advice for the implementation of our project, particularly with the integration of our electrical systems with each other. This also includes receiving information on the process for contracting out components.

Steve Tatge, Executive Director in UW Facilities Project Delivery - Will contact to discuss and review our cost-estimate and financial organization of the project, as well as to connect with other individuals that will be valuable in moving forward in our project design and construction phases.

UW Design Review Board - Presenting to the Design Review Board in late winter to review and receive feedback on the interior and exterior design of our tunnel and site for final revisions to the project.

Core Project Team

This information is provided in an attachment over email titled “Resiliency Tunnel Team Contact Information”, with team leads denoted with an asterisk.

Itemized Estimate of the Project’s Budget

This project is considered large (> $1,000), and for this cycle we are requesting $5,000 for a feasibility study as we continue to develop the project. This funding would permit our team to, if necessary, hire expertise such as a structural engineer in order to answer critical questions in the feasibility study. More thorough and informed estimates of the full cost of the project, including line budget items dedicated to project management and detailed design development, will be developed in this feasibility study and provided at a future date. We have, however, attached our best estimate of projected costs for your consideration in an attachment over email titled “Resiliency Tunnel Cost Estimation”.

Timeline for Project Completion

PHASE 1: Planning and Funding / Finance

  • September - October 2021: Investigate proposed location and conduct site analysis
  • Identify:
  • Services we need aim to provide
  • Stakeholders and possible sponsors
  • Brainstorm system components to deliver services
  • Conduct pre-feasibility study
  • October - December 2021: Identify potential funding sources
  • Request funding for a feasibility study during Cycle 2 of CSF funding (by December 1st, 2021)
  • November - December 2021: Massing and defining purpose
  • Use constraints (site, funding, etc.) for massing
  • Name system components matched with purposes
  • Identify how we are doing something different to solve a particular problem
  • Consider how construction can be staged

PHASE 2: Design

  • December 2021 - January 2022: Conceptual Design and Systems Diagram
  • Use site information and general massing of structure to evaluate the variety of alternative system components in combination
  • Utilize faculty to discuss ways to deliver different services
  • Brainstorm possible arrangements of technology to satisfy purposes at appropriate scale
  • Generate 2 or 3 scenarios of how system components can fit together to develop the first design
  • Utilize faculty again to evaluate these proposed systems
  • January 2022: Feasibility Study
  • Describe a rough order of magnitude
  • Further develop cost estimate accordingly
  • Input into full proposal to CSF
  • Spring 2022: Design Review
  • Meet with the Design Review Board at UW
  • Spring - Summer 2022: Schematic and Detailed Design
  • Speak with UW Facilities and other UW administrative bodies for:
  • Comments on the application for full project cost funding
  • Investigating prospects for funding operations and maintenance
  • Making “Make or Buy” decisions (in-house or contracted services)
  • Defining UW Facilities role in contracting out
  • Creating a scoring system for evaluating proposals
  • Accepting bids and choosing award by ranking bidders
  • TBD: Apply for funding for full project costs
  • Expand and update proposal from January 2021 to submit during Cycle 3 of CSF funding

PHASE 3: Construction - GOAL: Late Summer 2022 (at the earliest)

  • Receive an assigned UW faculty Project Manager
  • In-house or contracted services serve to implement construction of system
  • UW students shadow UW faculty and contracted bodies as further learning opportunity

PHASE 4: Operations and Maintenance (TBD)

  • Utilize data collection services to evaluate functionality and impacts of system
  • Third-party hired to check functionality of deliverable


Primary Contact First & Last Name: Emma Maggioncalda