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"Algae-powered" building opens in Germany

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April 17, 2013

Splitterwerk Architects and engineering firm ARUP have unveiled the worlds first algae pow...

Splitterwerk Architects and engineering firm ARUP have unveiled the worlds first algae powered building at the International Building Exhibition hosted in Hamburg (Photo: Arup)

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Splitterwerk Architects and engineering firm Arup have unveiled what is thought to be the world's first building to be powered partly by algae. Officially "unveiled" at the International Building Exhibition hosted in Hamburg, the design, dubbed the BIQ, has a "bio-adaptive" facade that is claimed to be a first for using algae within its glass-paneled facades in order to generate energy, and provide shade, to a working building.

This year's exhibition showcases the BIQ's double layer facade on the sun-facing southeast and southwest sides of the building. Within the glass panels, tiny "micro-algae" plants, most no larger than bacteria, are continuously supplied with liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide via a water circuit. With the aid of sunlight, the algae photosynthesize and grow until they can be harvested. They are then separated from the remaining algae and transferred to the BIQ's energy management center as a thick pulp where they are fermented to provide bio-gas which can be used to heat water.

The project team at Arup confirms how well-suited algae are for this type of bio-fuel production. Algae produces up to five times as much biomass as terrestrial plants per unit area, and contain many oils that can be used for other energy uses.

The algae bioskin, which covers 200 sq m (2,150 sq ft) of the facade, also provides shade.

The BIQ aims to be in full operation by April 25. It has 15 residential apartments that contain flexible layouts.

Note that while the building is widely-reported as being algae-powered, the algae appears only to be used in the generation of hot water, and it is not clear if the algae biofuel need be supplemented by natural gas. Electricity is provided conventionally.

The benefits of algae have been shown to extend beyond biomass fuel, and into pollution-detection and carbon dioxide-absorption combined with oxygen release. The concept of algae supporting future lifestyles extends beyond the home for Arup. It recently visualized a skyscraper concept for the year 2050 that included algae power as an energy source.

Source: IBA Hamburg

About the Author
Donna Taylor After years of working in software delivery, Donna seized the opportunity to head back to university and this time study a lifelong passion: Architecture. Originally from the U.K. and after living in many countries, Donna and her family are now settled in Western Australia. When not writing Donna can be found at the University of Western Australia's Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts Department.   All articles by Donna Taylor
4 Comments

I like how the green building is 'green'. :)

BigGoofyGuy
17th April, 2013 @ 12:47 pm PDT

Assuming that the law allows it this greenwall could remove significant quantities of nitrates from waste water as well.

After fumbling through the diagrams with Google Translate They are heating the water with fuel cells and of course getting electricity as well. (I question the wisdom of using fuel cells do to the expense and how prone the catalysts are to being poisoned.) The building also has photovoltaic collectors, electrical storage, and a ground loop heat pump for heating.

Slowburn
17th April, 2013 @ 10:34 pm PDT

The building also has photo voltaic collectors, electrical storage, and a ground loop heat pump for heating. i was going to ask what it costs in man hours, $ etc. to run the green wall, but with the added info from slowburn, this building looks profitable.

billybob1851
18th April, 2013 @ 03:25 pm PDT

looking to the future

Chuck Holmquist
2nd November, 2013 @ 03:36 pm PDT
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