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Bioenergy façade 2.0 presented at Glasstec

Cinthia Buchheister Cinthia Buchheister Europe Press Office, Germany
22 October 2018

This week at the Glasstec trade fair in Düsseldorf, Arup – alongside our research partners – presented a new generation of bioenergy façades. The research team included Technische Universität Dresden, SSC GmbH, Pazdera AG, and ADCO Technik GmbH.

The concept of the bioenergy façade is unique: microalgae are cultivated in a nutrient rich medium inside glass façade panels, thus producing heat and biomass.

The BIQ-House, a pilot project built for the 2013 International Building Exhibition, had already proven the technical feasibility of the façade system. Following further research, aesthetic and technological developments, the bioenergy façade system opens up new possibilities for architectural design.

Slimmer, lighter, more flexible

The façade elements of the BIQ-House were clamped together and installed as external louvers in front of the wall. In the new design, the glass elements of the bioenergy façade are bounded together and the reactors are integrated into the thermal envelope. This makes the entire construction slimmer, lighter and more flexible in terms of design.

There are three design options available: A translucent version, which allows the green colouring of the algae to be experienced in the interior, an opaque solution, in which the algae serve as design elements on the outer façade, and a transparent frame, which ensures undisturbed views out. Iridescent colours with different incidence of light as well as rising gas bubbles make the glass elements appear lively. A fourth option is to install the glass elements in front of an opaque insulated wall.

We want to technologically optimise the bioenergy façade and – at the same time – expand the design options for architects and planners. The bioenergy façade should establish itself as a customizable product for façade design in order to implement closed material loops at the building and district level.

Jan Wurm Jan Wurm Leader Research & Innovation Europe

Improved photobioreactors

The benefits of the bioenergy façade result from the combination of aesthetics, technical flexibility and sustainability in the urban context.

The glass elements of the bioenergy façade are part of a solar thermal system with which, additionally, microalgae are grown to produce biomass and absorb CO₂. With a thermal efficiency of 38 percent and a biomass conversion efficiency of 8 percent, the bioenergy façade is comparable to conventional solar systems. ”

In order to improve the conditions for algae growth in the façade panels and at the same time to optimise the structure of the glass elements, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations were used to map the flow and mixing processes within the bioreactors.

In addition, the design of the bioreactors and the integration of the building services system components into conventional façade systems were improved. By binding the elements together, the total weight could be significantly reduced enabling larger maximum dimensions.

The function and economic efficiency of the system is ensured by a contracting model. The harvested algae are highly valuable for the food and pharmaceutical industries.

The bioenergy façade is being realised as a research project in cooperation with Technische Universität Dresden and the project partners SSC GmbH, Pazdera AG and ADCO Technik. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy and is scheduled to be completed in April 2019 with the construction of a 1:1 scale prototype.