BIQ - the world's first algae powered building - is set to be completed in Germany later this month. Built for the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Hamburg, this zero-carbon apartment complex will sport a bright green facade-cum-algae farm, while its interior proposes a radical new theory on how we will live in the near future.
More about BIQ after the break...
At about the same size as bacteria, microalgae can produce more biofuel per hectare than alternative crops. This joint venture between Splitterwerk Architects, ARUP, Colt International and Strategic Science Consult marks the first time algae-reactors have been fully integrated into the fabric of a building.
On the south-east and south-west facades, there is a second skin of hollow glass panels containing micro-algae farms. Here, the algae floats around basking in the sunlight which hits the structure, while being fed on a diet of carbon dioxide and nutrients by a network of pipes. Photosynthesizing and growing, the algae-pulp can then be periodically harvested and fermented in an external biogas plant to generate energy.
Aside from producing energy and performing the usual job of heat and sound insulation, the facade is characterized by other valuable traits. Heat from excess sunlight, not needed by the algae, is collected and can be stored in brine-filled boreholes, to be used for space and water heating. In addition, the algae provides adaptive shading throughout the year; the more intense the sunlight gets, the more algae grows inside the facade and the more shade is provided.
Also proposed by BIQ is a new model of living, which is based on the idea that the distinction between workplace and home is ever thinning, making traditional rigid apartment layouts somewhat obstructive. Two of the building's fifteen apartments have no separate rooms, instead they are large versatile spaces, which the resident can configure "on demand" to something which suits them.
Algae is quickly becoming a new buzzword in the fields of bio-architecture and energy production. As the likes of BP and Exxon put their money behind algae-fuel projects, algae-facades are increasingly being seen as a solution to the problem of sustainably powering buildings. Aside from being able to produce biomass and hydrogen, they can also be used to detect pollution and absorb carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen. Several conceptual projects have been proposed by architects, such as a plan to re-skin Chicago's Marina Towers with algae or ARUP's inclusion of algae-pods in their vision of the 'Skyscraper of 2050'.