Canadian Consulting Engineer

“Bioskin” tanks of algae mounted on building to generate power

One of the new buildings that is part of the International Building Exhibition/Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) that just opened in Hamburg, Germany, is the first building in the world to have a bioreactor facade.

April 16, 2013   Canadian Consulting Engineer

One of the new buildings that is part of the International Building Exhibition/Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) that just opened in Hamburg, Germany, is the first building in the world to have a bioreactor facade.

Two sides of the BIQ building facing the sun are covered with a framework of louvered tanks that contain microalgae in a water solution. The “bio skin” can be used to produce energy for the 15-unit apartment building, and they also control light and provide shade.

The algae, which were gathered from the nearby Elbe River, are continously supplied with liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide via a water circuit running through the facade. As the organisms flourish in the warm sunlight, they provide shade and a sound barrier for building occupants. And when the algae growth is thick enough, it is harvested and processed in a special room in the building to produce biogas.

The facade also collects energy from the light that is not used by the algae for generating heat, as in a solar thermal unit. The energy can be used for hot water and heat, or cached in a ground source heating-cooling system. Splitterwerk, Arup, B+G engineers, and Immosolar are behind the concept for the house.

The BIQ is one of 16 innovative sustainable buildings that form the centrepiece of the IBA. Another is the Soft House which features a moveable textile membrane that turns towards the sunlight and incorporates photovotaic cells for producing energy. The fabric can also be used to cast shade.

The IBA exhibition opened on March 23 and finishes on November 3. It is taking place on 35 square kilometres on Hamburg’s islands of Wilhelmsburg and Veddel. The exhibition aims to be a model of sustainable and future inner city development.

For more information about the BIQ house, click here.

For more information about IBA Hamburg, click here.


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