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World’s first microalgae façade goes live’

Marina Miceli Marina Miceli Europe Press Office,London
24 April 2013

The world’s first full-scale bioreactive façade at the BIQ house in Germany is going ‘live’ as microalgae are fed into the system for the first time.

The tiny green algae will play a huge role in determining the future potential of this technology, which aims to provide shade and a renewable fuel source for the experimental apartment.

The BIQ house was built as part of this year’s International Building Exhibition (IBA) in Hamburg. With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this innovative passive-energy house generates microalgae biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionalities such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.

The microalgae used in the facades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2,5m x 0,7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and then fermented to generate hot water.

Known as "SolarLeaf", this innovative façade system is the result of three years of research and development by Colt International based on a bio-reactor concept developed by SSC Ltd and design work led by the international design consultant and engineering firm, Arup. Funding support came from the German Government’s “ZukunftBau” research initiative.

We’ve done the research. We’ve got the units in place. Now as we add the microalgae we will see for the first time how the bioreactor façade operates in a real life situation. It is a test for the technology, but it also represents a huge step forward. If we can demonstrate that microalgae biofaçades can become a viable new source of sustainable energy production, we can transform the urban environment, as well as providing architects with a new source of inspiration. Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader

The microalgae biofaçade goes live on 25 April 2013 when the technology will be presented in detail to the media and the team will publish comprehensive documentation on the system.

This new system is going to be distributed through Colt International.