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Biotechnology: The Latest Architecture and News

The University of British Columbia's Bacteria-Driven Solar Cell Can Produce Energy Under Cloudy Skies

14:00 - 17 July, 2018
The University of British Columbia's Bacteria-Driven Solar Cell Can Produce Energy Under Cloudy Skies, UBC researchers have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light to energy. Image Courtesy of Flickr/LillyAndersen via University of British Columbia
UBC researchers have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light to energy. Image Courtesy of Flickr/LillyAndersen via University of British Columbia

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have unveiled details of their recently-designed “bacteria-powered solar cell” capable of converting light to energy, even in overcast conditions.

Hailed as a “cheap, sustainable” method of renewable energy extraction, the cell can generate a current stronger than any previously recorded from similar devices. Development of the cell opens new possibilities for typically-overcast regions such as British Columbia and Northern Europe, where the world's first solar panel road debuted in France.

Tallinn Architecture Biennale (TAB) 2017 Vision Competition: "Re-metabolizing Paljassaare"

05:30 - 17 January, 2017
Tallinn Architecture Biennale (TAB) 2017 Vision Competition: "Re-metabolizing Paljassaare", satellite view of Paljassare Peninsula area
satellite view of Paljassare Peninsula area

Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2017 have announced the TAB 2017 Vision Competition, offering architects, scientists and artists the chance to define a new urbanity of the Paljassaare Peninsula in Tallinn in the era when no ecosystem is unaffected by human action. The deadline for the one-stage international competition is 25th of April 2017.

99% Invisible Discusses How Algae Biotechnology Can Affect the Urban Environment

12:00 - 17 December, 2016
99% Invisible Discusses How Algae Biotechnology Can Affect the Urban Environment, © BIQ via GOOD
© BIQ via GOOD

In a recent article for 99% Invisible, Kurt Kohlstedt explores how integrating microalgae into buildings can create a dualistic system of living and built, in order to perform services like create shade, generate power, and work with HVAC systems to modulate interior environments.

Projects that utilize such technology include bioreactors that produce oxygen and bio-fuel, a building with a bio-adaptive façade, and a street lamp that filters carbon dioxide from the urban environment.

For Terreform ONE, Bioengineering is the Future of Design

12:00 - 9 January, 2016

Could an emergency shelter also provide its users with food? Could we make furniture you can eat? Could you merge furniture and farming into one device?

It’s questions like these that set biodesign studio Terreform ONE (Open Network Ecology) apart from other design collaboratives. Instead of looking at design as finding a solution to solve one problem, their structures and furniture pieces try to tackle many issues facing the planet all at once. Need a structure to house refugees as well as find them a reliable source for protein? Why not build them a home that also acts as a cricket farm?

Terreform ONE's Biological Benches Question Traditional Manufacturing Methods

12:30 - 30 December, 2015
Terreform ONE's Biological Benches Question Traditional Manufacturing Methods, Courtesy of Terreform ONE
Courtesy of Terreform ONE

What if your chair was compostable? That's the question posed by this series of experiments with biologically-produced benches which are not so much manufactured as they are grown. Together, Terreform ONE and Genspace have developed two bioplastic chairs through similar processes: one, a chaise longue, is formed from a series of parametrically-shaped white ribs with a cushioned top; the second, a low-level seat for use by young children, comprises interlocking segments that can be used to twist the chair into different shapes.

IaaC Student Develops 3D Printed "Living Screen" From Algae

14:30 - 4 November, 2015

"The debate linked to a more responsive architecture, connected to nature, has been growing since the 1960s," explains Irina Shaklova in her description of her IaaC research project Living Screen. "Notwithstanding this fact, to this day, architecture is somewhat conservative: following the same principles with the belief in rigidity, solidity, and longevity."

While Shaklova's argument does generally ring true, that's not to say that there haven't been important developments at the cutting edge of architecture that integrate building technologies and living systems, including The Living's mycelium-based installation for the 2014 MoMA Young Architect's Program and self-healing concrete made using bacteria. But while both of these remain at the level of research and small-scale experimentation, one of the most impressive exercises in living architecture recently was made with algae - specifically, the Solarleaf facade developed by Arup, Strategic Science Consult of Germany (SSC), and Colt International, which filters Carbon Dioxide from the air to grow algae which is later used as fuel in bioreactors.

With Living Screen, Shaklova presents a variation on this idea that is perhaps less intensively engineered than Solarleaf, offering an algae structure more in tune with her vision against that rigidity, solidity, and longevity.

Arup and GXN Innovation's Biocomposite Facade Wins JEC Innovation Award

10:00 - 4 March, 2015
Arup and GXN Innovation's Biocomposite Facade Wins JEC Innovation Award, © lichtzeit.com
© lichtzeit.com

Arup and GXN Innovation have been awarded with the JEC Innovation Award 2015 in the construction category for their development of the world's first self-supporting biocomposite facade panel. Developed as part of the €7.7 million EU-funded BioBuild program, the design reduces the embodied energy of facade systems by 50% compared to traditional systems with no extra cost in construction.

The 4-by-2.3 meter panel is made from flax fabric and bio-derived resin. Intended primarily for commercial offices, the glazing unit features a parametrically-derived faceted design, and comes prefabricated ready for installation. The panel is also designed to be easy to disassemble, making it simple to recycle at the end of its life.

Video: Jan Wurm and Lukas Verlage Discuss Arup’s “Solarleaf”

00:00 - 15 October, 2014

In this video from Zumtobel Group, Jan Wurm of Arup Deutschland GmbH and Lukas Verlage, CEO of Colt International GmbH, discuss the unique technological developments in “Solarleaf,” which recently won first prize in the Zumtobel Group Award’s Applied Innovations category. In addition to functioning as an effective shading system, this façade system uses solar panels to produce energy from algae to provide a new source of sustainable energy.

Arup's Latest Solar Panels Produce Energy From Algae

00:00 - 13 June, 2014
A view behind the BIQ House Solarleaf panels.  Image via GOOD. Image
A view behind the BIQ House Solarleaf panels. Image via GOOD. Image

Architects have been experimenting with the potential of building envelopes for years. Now, Arup has an interesting, Zumtobel Group Award-nominated proposal: the Solarleaf bioreactor. Developed in collaboration with SSC Strategic Science Consult GmbH and Colt International GmbH, this thin, 2.5 x .07 meter panel, when attached to the exterior of a building, is capable of generating biofuel - in the form of algae - for the production of hot water. More efficient than electricity and more sustainable than wood, algae is ideal kindling for producing heat, especially since it can be grown on-site. Moreover, the water in which the algae grows also collects solar energy, providing an additional supply of heat. More details on this sustainable innovation, after the break.

Insulation Grown From Fungi

00:00 - 9 February, 2014
Insulation Grown From Fungi, Courtesy of Ecovative
Courtesy of Ecovative

Inspired by the woods of Vermont, a US biotechnology startup have developed a system for using agricultural byproducts with fungal mycelium (a natural, self-assembling binder) to grow high performance insulation. Ecovative Mushroom® Insulation is seen as a viable competitor to plastic foams that can be found in both in packaging and building insulation, for which the project recently won second place in the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Challenge.

Courtesy of Ecovative Courtesy of Ecovative Courtesy of Ecovative Courtesy of Ecovative + 6

Bricks Grown From Bacteria

00:00 - 1 February, 2014
Bricks Grown From Bacteria, Courtesy of bioMason
Courtesy of bioMason

A unique biotechnology start-up company have developed a method of growing bricks from nothing more than bacteria and naturally abundant materials. Having recently won first place in the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Challenge, bioMason has developed a method of growing materials by employing microorganisms. Arguing that the four traditional building materials - concrete, glass, steel and wood - both contain a significant level of embodied energy and heavily rely on limited natural resources, their answer is in high strength natural biological cements (such as coral) that can be used "without negative impacts to the surrounding environment."

Can Glowing Trees One Day Replace Electric Streetlights?

00:00 - 15 May, 2013
Can Glowing Trees One Day Replace Electric Streetlights?, Courtesy of Wikivisual
Courtesy of Wikivisual

“We don’t live in nature any more – we put boxes around it. But now we can actually engineer nature to sustain our needs. All we have to do is design the code and it will self-create. Our visions today – if we can encapsulate them in a seed – [will] grow to actually fulfill that vision." - Andrew Hessel in a recent ArchDaily interview

"Engineering nature to sustain our needs" is exactly what the Glowing Plant Project aims to do. Synthetic biologist Omri Amirav-Drory, plant scientist Kyle Taylor and project leader Antony Evans are working together to engineer "a glow-in-the-dark plant using synthetic biology techniques that could possibly replace traditional lighting" - and perhaps even create glow-in-the-dark trees that would supplant (pun intended) the common street light.

How is this possible? Read on to find out.

World's First Algae Bioreactor Facade Nears Completion

00:00 - 4 March, 2013
World's First Algae Bioreactor Facade Nears Completion, BIQ via GOOD
BIQ via GOOD

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...

AD Interviews: Andrew Hessel

01:00 - 4 March, 2013

Architecture is bigger than itself.