Sustainable Algae Facade

Lucas Ewing – Blog Post Week #3
The Bio Intelligent Quotient [or BIQ] building is an apartment complex located in Hamburg, Germany.  Built in 2013, this particular structure utilizes part of its facade as a vertical algae farm.  While this seems rather unimportant, the designers of this building claim it to be highly beneficial and sustainable, since it is able to produce heat, create a certain biofuel from itself, and filter both direct sunlight and street noise.   The algae during growth provides a sun block and diminishes street noise.  The sun captured by the algae helps it grow, which in turn blocks more sunlight, and the vicious cycle continues.  Whatever amount of light that isn’t captured by the algae is stored directly as heat for the apartment complex.  When the algae is plentiful inside the facade, they cultivate it and take it to an energy/power plant.  Through a certain fermentation process, the algae gives off gases that can be directly turned into electricity.  The designers of this facade claim that this process for electricity would be carbon-neutral in that respect.  And while it may sound a little disturbing or unappealing , the aesthetic of it is described in the article to be similar to a lava lamp.
The reason I chose to write about this is because we were just discussing facade materials in our class this week for Project 01, and looking back on it now I wish I would have found this article in time for the project.  I was also really inspired by Ferda Kolatan’s lecture “Forms of Ambiguity” where he talked about how nature can be successfully utilized as a technology.  I believe this example clearly justifies Kolatan’s statement by using something as simple as an algae to make a world of difference. Perhaps this is something Alliiance could have considered in their proposals for the Tate Lab Renovation.

One comment

  1. Samuel Johnson

    Innovation vs. Novelty:

    Samuel Johnson – Week 4, Blog 4

    The Bio Intelligent Quotient apartment (BIQ) produces energy through a glass algae-farm, but its costs, inefficiencies, and effects on the world renders this technology a novelty rather than an innovation for human spaces.

    Vertical algae farms are excessively expensive. The growth of this organism incurs high maintenance cost through the cleaning of windows, panels, and pipes (1). The price of “scrubbers” and other cleaning equipment in contrast to opposing energy-producing skins furthers this expense. A 25 story tower can be entirely wrapped in photovoltaic panels in comparison to a four story tower partially wrapped in algae at a cost of $6.58 million (2).

    Growing algae on a building skin is unreasonably inefficient. Algae fuel has only a 5% energy return (3) resulting in insignificant gains. Behind the BIQ’s algae-window rests a shadowed photovoltaic panel unable to absorb the blocked sun to produce its higher 20% efficiency rating (3). As opposed to dedicated algae farms, this biomass can only be transported in small quantities to even start its fermentation process at a local energy plant (1).

    The BIQ farm negatively effects human lives. The intended noise reducing quality of the façade to stop unwanted exterior “racket,” in actuality produces equal amount due to the pumping system. Residents note, “[…]they would prefer the system would shutdown completely when they’re trying to enjoy the sun out on the balconies” (4). With the changing environment the algae process claims to be carbon-net zero, however multiple transportations of biomass require CO2 producing trucks to move only small shipments of biomass at a time (1).

    Algae farm production can be an excellent source of energy and should be given the chance to be pursued. However, with gross inefficiencies, high costs and weak sustainability, in human environments this technological novelty will never surmount into the public market.






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