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February 2014: Algae-powered Bio Intelligent Quotient House

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 2014: Algae-powered Bio Intelligent Quotient House

The BIQ House in Hamburg, Germany, is the first building in the world with a dynamic, algae-based, bio-reactive façade. With 200 square meters of integrated photo-bioreactors (PBRs), this passive-energy house generates high-value biomass and solar thermal heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the innovative façade system also integrates additional functionalities, such as adaptive shading and noise reduction. In total, 129 SolarLeaf bioreactors have been installed on the southwest and southeast sides of the apartment complex, which debuted last year at the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg. As a whole, the façade will significantly reduce CO2 emissions from the building.

The microalgae used in the façade are cultivated in vertical glass louvres. These flat glass panels are filled with water containing nutrients, which convert daylight and CO2 to algal biomass through photosynthesis. This closed-loop system takes advantage of the simple, unicellular structure of microalgae, which are much more efficient in the conversion of light to biomass than higher-level plants. Alga can grow roughly ten times faster than larger plants because each algal cell is capable of photosynthesis. It is this bio-chemical process which creates the building’s shimmering lime green exterior.

By monitoring the technical performance as well as how people perceive and interact with the façade, the project partners hope to apply the multifunctional building design towards zero-energy and zero-carbon buildings of the future.

The BIQ House is the result of three years of research and development by various international design and engineering firms, with funding from the German government’s “ZukunftBau” research initiative. The building was recently a prize winner in the 2013/14 Land of Ideas – “Ausgezeichnete Orte” competition.

Image: ©Colt International, Arup, SSC