world's first algae powered building by splitterwerk
world's first algae powered building by splitterwerk world's first algae powered building by splitterwerk
apr 12, 2013

world's first algae powered building by splitterwerk

‘bio intelligence quotient [BIQ] house’ by splitterwerk, wilhelmsburg, hamburg, germanyimage courtesy arup/splitterwerk




the world’s first bio-adaptive facade is installed in ‘BIQ house’ in hamburg, germany. designed by austrian firm splitterwerk in conjunction with arup, strategic science consult of germany and colt international, the home was unveiled as part of the international building exhibition in hamburg. essentially, microalgae are used as bio-reactors inside panels that clad the southeast and southwest faces of the building and enclose spacious loggias where the bio-reactive process will be readily observable to future residents. svelte glass volumes hold algae sourced from a nearby tributary of the elbe river, creating a responsive architecture that is constantly in motion and is characterized by ever-changing color. not only do the planes act as a shading device, their exposure to the sun is designed for the algal matter to grow more quickly to produce biomass, a renewable energy source from living organisms that can be converted into biofuel. in effect, the process of photosynthesis is responsible for a dynamic response to the required solar shading, while the algae creates harvestable energy while multiplying inside glass louvers. the full potential of the system was realized as a result of a technological issue arising from overheating photo bioreactors. the dilemma was posited as a solution to the need for high amounts of heat in buildings. while the louvers are part of a holistic energy concept, excess energy can be stored in buffers or sold back to the local grid. interiors are characterized by a flexible plan, allowing their inhabitants to configure rooms as needed. long winters and inconsistent summers characterize the site; the prevailing logic is that if the solar-dependentsystem can function in hamburg, the technology can be adapted to myriad environments.

solarleaf-designboom04glass photo-bioreactors create the suitable environment for photosynthesisimage courtesy arup/splitterwerk




‘the project became a milestone to create a new value chain and plays an important role in establishing surplus energy and zero carbon building clusters for the future.’ said arup’s europe research leader jan wurm. ‘with the bioreactor-façade and the integration of technical and biological cycles a new era of building construction has been marked. colt feels honoured that solarleaf is shortlisted for the prestigious zumtobel award.’ stated lukas verlage, director at colt. the ‘applied innovations’ category honors outstanding, sustainable solutions in architecture and engineering that make a notable contribution to the quality of life for the future. announcement of the laureates will be held on 22nd september at the serpentine galleries in london.


image © gerhard kemme

glass louvers contain algae harvested from a nearby tributary of the elbe river image © arup



a video shows the dynamic, functioning panels

video © misterius own



two sides of the building are clad in panels containing live micro-algaeimage © arup



prototype of the algae-filled glass louvers image © splitterwerk



the algal matter generates biomass, which can then be converted into clean energy image © splitterwerk



micro-algae are not much bigger in size than bacteria, but produce up to five times as much biomass as terrestrial plants image © splitterwerk



the northern facades are rendered with graphics image © IBA hamburg



solid, north-facing facades contrast with the responsive glass louvers on the southern faces of the structure image © IBA hamburg



construction view, right before topping out image © IBA hamburg



in process image © IBA hamburg



construction site mid-way through the building process image © IBA hamburg



in-process site view image © IBA hamburg



foundation view image © IBA hamburg



early construction view image © IBA hamburg



rendering shows the vibrant green building image © arup



early drawings of the graphic faces image © splitterwerk



image © splitterwerk



diagram of the energy flow and operating system image © splitterwerk


*update: this article has been revised on august 8, 2014 with the inclusion of new images and the announcement of the ‘solarleaf’ receiving a nomination in the ‘applied innovations’ category of the zumtobel group award 2014.

  • great! but those speechbubbles somehow turn it into some kind of parody…

    david says:
  • fantastic .. taking this project to florida .. many thanX

    sherolyn says:


    Chanyatola says:
  • I would also love to know how much energy is generated. I think its a great idea, but I wonder about the health and safety implications of this system.

    Mr Green says:

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