Algae Powered Architecture

By Jody McCutcheon

Talk about “green” buildings. Now you can quite literally, because architects and engineers have  pushed the design envelope to bring sustainability and the battle against climate change  into the domain of the building complex. Consider it better living through algae.


The idea is to incorporate algae farms into the building structure. This isn’t as strange as  it sounds. Algae colonies are super-efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide and producers  of biomass, which means they combat climate change and generate fuel for the structures  they adorn. Strategically deployed algae-filled “bioreactor systems”–appearing as  networks of tubes wrapped around the structure, or simply as a faà§ade of rectangular  panels–improve a building’s sustainability and environmental health. The design looks  stunning, too. Not only is the faà§ade marked by luminescent green; it’s literally alive, with the  ability to transform carbon dioxide into oxygen and solar radiation into lipids for biofuel  production.


But this is no futuristic dream–examples of algae-inspired architecture already exist. The Solar Leaf BIQ (Bio Intelligent  Quotient) commercial-residential building in Hamburg boasts 200 square metres of algae filled bioreactive paneling, which supplies the building with all the energy it needs and  reduces carbon dioxide emissions by six tonnes a year; while algae bioreactors at the Red  Hawk power plant in Arizona, USA, absorb 80% of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions.


n both cases, the algae colonies are ultimately recycled through biomass generators to  produce biofuel for use on-site.  According to the World Health Organisation, more than half of the planet’s population  lives in cities. Many urbanites arguably spend much of their time at home and/or work. By  converting both of these places into “living spaces,” our cities will look greener, our planet  will breathe easier, and we will all reap the rewards.

Jody McCutcheon
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