German Building Powered by Algae-Filled Walls

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A new building in Hamburg, Germany is powered by the live algae growing inside its walls.

The “BIQ” building, as it is known, was recently featured at the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg. The five-story residential building is covered with glass panels filled with fast-growing algae, tiny plants that are not much bigger than bacteria. This “bioskin” is used to produce energy.

The "BIQ" building in Hamburg, Germany is powered by the live algae growing in its walls. Photo: IBA Hamburg

The “BIQ” building in Hamburg, Germany is powered by the live algae growing in its walls. Photo: IBA Hamburg

“Algae are particularly well suited for this, as they produce up to five times as much biomass per hectare as terrestrial plants and contain many oils that can be used for energy,” the creators of the BIQ building say in their project statement.

The algae is supplied with liquid nutrients and compressed carbon dioxide through a separate water circuit. When the sun shines on the glass panels, the algae photosynthesize and grow. The plants are then harvested and fermented at an external biogas plant. The biogas is burned in a boiler, which along with a heat recovery system and solar panels on the roof, make the building entirely sustainable.

“The BIQ has a holistic energy concept: it draws all of the energy needed to generate electricity and heat from renewable sources – fossil fuels remain untouched,” say the creators of the BIQ building.

The BIQ building is a collaboration between Spitterwerk Architects, Colt International, Strategic Science Consult and ARUP, the firm that designed and installed the panels.

Find out more about the BIQ building and see more pictures of the building at the International Building Exhibition website and the official BIQ building website.

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