Architect’s rendering of BIQ building

Architect’s rendering of BIQ building

An algae-covered/powered building, designed by Splitterwerk Architects, will go on display this Month in Hamburg, Germany. Called BIQ, the building features a bio-adaptive façade of microalgae and was designed for display at the International Building Exhibition (IBE) opening in Hamburg on March 23.

BIQ is being described by the IBE as the first building in the world to have a bioreactor façade. Microalgae are cultivated in the glass elements that make up its “bio skin.” The algae are then used to produce energy, and can also control light and provide shade.

The algae are continuously supplied with liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide via a separate water circuit running through the façade. With the aid of sunlight, the algae can photosynthesise and multiply in a regular cycle until they can be harvested. They are then batch separated and transferred as a thick pulp to the technical room of the BIQ. There they are fermented in an external biogas plant, so that they can be used again to generate biogas.

BIQ building under construction in Hamburg

BIQ building under construction in Hamburg

The BIQ building shows that, in the future, façades will be able to serve a number of different functions, and be much more than an aesthetic cladding to protect against rain and cold. While the northeast- and northwest-facing sides of the building have an elaborately decorated shell to draw the eye, the algae within the southwest and southeast façades produce biomass for renewable energy.

A holistic energy concept, the BIQ draws all of the energy needed to generate electricity and heat from renewable sources – fossil fuels remain untouched. BIQ is able to generate energy using the algae biomass harvested from its own façade. Moreover, the façade collects energy by absorbing the light that is not used by the algae and generating heat, as in a solar thermal unit, which is then either used directly for hot water and heating, or can be cached in the ground using borehole heat exchangers – 80 meter-deep holes filled with brine. This sustainable energy concept is therefore capable of creating a cycle of solar thermal energy, geothermal energy, a condensing boiler, local heat, and the capture of biomass using the bioreactor façade.

louvers

To create the algae façade, the building is covered in bio-reactive louvers that enclose the algae, providing shade for the interior of the building. The bioreactors trap the heat energy created by the algae, which can then be harvested and used to power the building.

The project is a collaboration among Spitterwerk Architects, Strategic Science Consult of Germany, ARUP and Colt International, who are responsible for the louver design. According to Simon O’Hea, Director at Colt, “We have put a lot of work into meeting the technical challenges and we now have a commercial-scale, effective solution that uses live algae as a smart material to deliver renewable energy. You can’t get greener than that.”