A completely self-sufficient building revealed at the International Housing Exhibition in Hamburg produces renewable energy by harvesting micro-algae.
With rising energy costs, rapid population growth, and the heightening consequences of climate change, it is extremely encouraging to see the constant stream of innovations being developed by researchers to tackle these very issues. Whether it is a photovoltaic paint that captures solar energy from any surface, or the Pavegen tiles reported on previously, renewability and self sufficiency are spearheading huge technological breakthroughs.
Enter the BIQ, or Bio Intelligent Quotient, House. This is not your ordinary house; even down to the arrangement of the various rooms, which can be altered by the owner whenever and however they choose. In a world first, all your energy requirements can be provided by micro-algae, which are contained within panel-shaped tanks on the façade of the building; consequently, your home can be disconnected from the grid.
Also expect to turn heads with your new home’s sci-fi vibe.
So how does it work? The algae are cultivated by continuously supplying them with carbon dioxide and nutrients via a water pump. The most important ingredient however is sunlight; without it, photosynthesis, the process by which algae can grow and multiply, will not occur. The glass tanks are hence assembled on the sides of the building that receive the most amount of the day’s sunlight. An additional benefit of this ‘bio-façade’ is that with more sunlight, as the algae concentration increases, more shade is provided; a neat alternative to standard blinds.
When ready for harvesting, the algae are extracted as a pulp for fermentation to produce biogas; this fuel is then consumed in an on-site generator, powering and heating your house. A proportion of the solar energy captured by the façade is also stored in underground heat exchangers; think of it as your very own personal geothermal energy source. If this sounds incredibly complicated, there’s no need to worry; the building’s technical room does all the hard work for you, managing all the energy transfers and ensuring your home remains livable at all times.
The project was led by Arup, and designed by the Austrian firm Splitterwerks Architects, as part of Austria and Germany’s Strategic Scientific Consult (SSC). If successful, the BIQ House could very well herald a new direction in building design.