human beings in the developed world produce 80 litres of sewage on a daily basis, taking into account the water used for this process. architect sebastian amorelli puig offers a solution to this problem in his latest project, the biorefinery sewage system. while mapping the surrounding buildings at the project location in barcelona, 13 office buildings and hotels were identified within a 3 block radius. it was calculated that these 13 buildings alone produce an estimate of 1.28 million litres of sewage per day.

the biorefinery in barcelona’s [email protected] district



sebastian amorelli puig‘s biorefinery sewage system goes into a main low retention time anaerobic digester where it is fermented and broken down by bacteria during a 10 day period. during this process, the bacteria feeds on the sewage and in turn produce biogas, solid slurry and water. the biogas is then run through a carbon filter to separate the different components of the gas and obtain high grade quality methane and separate it from the carbon dioxide. methane is burned in generators to produce energy and heat, and the resulting carbon dioxide from the combustion is stored with the rest produced from the biogas. 

the biorefinery’s interior



the slurry is further composted in an aerobic process to eliminate remaining pathogens and is then used as a substrate for mushroom production. the spent medium can then be used as a high protein animal feed or used as a growing medium food crops. the water and carbon dioxide are mixed and constantly cycled to grow algae which purify the water and produce high quantities of biomass trapping the carbon dioxide. this biomass can be refined into fuel, oil, plastics or food. after this process is done, 1.28 million litres of clean water is generated daily, giving rise to the emergence of the wetland. in order to be connected to the wider net of the city, the wetland is sunk at an average of three metres to unite the lower phreatic water levels, thus becoming interconnected to the wider net of natural flows of water of barcelona.

an infographic of the system design



once the design parameters were established, an evolutionary genetic algorithm was used to find the optimal configuration for the building according to some pre-established goals. the code was elaborated to find the optimal configuration of tanks within the building, so as to obtain a perimetral mesh with the maximum area of high solar radiation where algae panels will be distributed for biomass production. in the biorefinery, the structure is indivisible from the system — the infrastructure developed also serves as the main support for the building. the resulting structure is a performative, oscillating, kinetic envelope in constant tensile equilibrium. a kinetic forest of tanks kept in balance by an inflated ETFE cushion canopy that adjusts itself to the oscillations, and a perimetral mesh that ties everything together completing the equilibrium.

the urban setting of the project



video © sebastian amorelli

the biorefinery amidst barcelona’s neighborhood 

sebastian amorelli puig’s design process

solar optimisation

the biorefinery’s composition

this project was elaborated for the self-sufficient building studio at IAAC’s master for advanced architecture



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynn chaya | designboom

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