The Ultimate Green Building Powered by Algae


Our Thursday green news brings you the latest on green architecture, climate change, energy and communities:

Algea building, green architecture

Photo courtesy of NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons

  • An algae-powered building rises in Hamburg, Germany: Designed by Splitterwerk Architects and the engineering firm Arup, the BIQ is the first residential structure to fully utilize the power of algae. While on the surface the 15-unit apartment building looks like a bubbling green lava lamp stretched over an entire building, those moving bubbles help to feed and order the living algae embedded within the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) facade. The living algae, in turn, powers the entire structure, making it the world’s first algae-powered structure and theoretically fully self-sufficient building ever. As the engineers describe their technology: “The building is coated on its two sun-facing sides with glass-plated tanks of suspended algae. Pressurized air is pumped into the system, feeding the organisms carbon dioxide and nutrients while moving them about—creating the lava lamp effect—to keep them from settling on the glass and rotting. Scrubbers clean off any sticking biomass, freeing up more sunlight for the remaining algae to perform photosynthesis. Periodically, algae are culled, mashed into biofuel, and burned in a local generator to produce power. Excess can be sold off for food supplements, methane generation to external power providers, or stored for future use. The result is a building shaded from summer heat by algae foliage, insulated from street noise, and potentially self-generating the power to sustain its own harvesters, heat, and electricity.”

    green architecture, algae-powered buidling

    Photo courtesy of ARUP and Colt International

  • Climate change and family planning: The increasing amount of people goes hand in hand with an increased impact on our environment. Therefore analysis of population trajectories and its effects seems like an obvious and necessary part of the climate change dialogue. Since human population has exploded in the last 85 years from 2 billion to more than 7 billion, there is an urgent need for policy makers to discuss the trajectories and the impact of population on war, food, water, health, fuel, climate, and more. As Bill Gates put it several years back: “our carbon problem = persons x services x the energy intensity of services x the carbon intensity of energy”. According to the Aspen Institute’s  estimates, voluntary family planning for all who want it could provide 8 to 15 percent of needed carbon reductions. The Center for Global Development argues that putting climate dollars into family planning programs compares favorably to many investments in low-carbon technologies.
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