[Germany] Natural, efficient and unique: the BIQ is setting new standards 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”. These are used to produce energy, and can also control light and provide shade. Inside, an innovative living concept is aimed at ensuring maximum design versatility for everyday life, and gives us a glimpse into urban life in the future. With its innovative living concept, futuristic exterior, and “intelligent” algae façade, the BIQ is a highlight of ”The Building Exhibition within the Building Exhibition”.
A Building with a Second Green Skin
The sides of the building that face the sun have a second outer shell that is set into the façade itself. Microalgae – tiny plants, most no larger than bacteria – are produced within this shell. They enable the house to supply its own energy. The only thing that the algae have to do is simply to grow. They 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 grow. This façade is the first of its kind in the world and makes use of the very latest energy and environmental technology.
Microalgae – a Smart Energy Solution
The algae flourish and multiply in a regular cycle until they can be harvested. They are then separated from the rest of the algae and transferred as a thick pulp to the technical room of the BIQ. Afterwards they can be fermented in an external biogas plant and thus re-used for the generation of biogas. Algae are especially well-suited to this process because, compared with soil-grown plants, they produce up to five times as much biomass per hectare and contain an especially large proportion of oils that can be used to generate energy. Alternatively, the algae can be used for research by the cosmetics and food industries. Depending on the season and requirements, the algae can be used in different ways according to demand (conversion into heat in winter or the use of biomass in the food industry in the summer months when growth is highest).
An Energy Concept that Calls upon Natural Forces
The BIQ has a holistic energy concept: it draws all of the energy needed to generate electricity and heat from renewable sources – fossil fuels remain untouched. It 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, like 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 metre-deep holes filled with brine. This remarkably 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 bio-reactor façade.
More than just a Shell: the BIQ Demonstrates what Tomorrow’s Façades can do
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. Whereas the north-east and north-west façades of the building are stylishly attention-commanding, the south-east and south-west façades feature panels of algae that produce heat and biomass to supply the building with energy from renewable sources. In addition, the façade also serves the conventional purposes of insulating the building from sound, heat, and cold, and provides shade in bright sunlight.
Spacious balconies give the residents sweeping views over the park, as well as the chance to see the natural power plant contained in the algae façade up close. However, visitors can also observe this film of matter as it grows. The greenness of the façade shows that the algae are breaking down the carbon dioxide and processing it through photosynthesis. This renewable form of energy production is thus visible from outside the building, and is an intentional part of the architectural concept.
Living on Demand
Inside, the BIQ reveals how we might live in the future. The ever greater interconnectedness between living and working and the increased demand for adaptable housing spaces means that there will be a call for versatile residential ground plans in the future. Two of the total of fifteen apartments to be housed in the BIQ do not have separate rooms, but rather enable the inhabitants to configure their living arrangements “on demand”.
Depending on their needs, individual functions of the apartment – bathroom, kitchen, sleeping area – can be swapped about or combined to form a “neutral zone”. In this way, the necessities of everyday life determine the appearance of the apartment, and the versatile layout can be adapted to suit the residents and their daily lives at any given time.
View original article at: Smart Material Houses (Photo Gallery)