Algae in German Building Provides Shade While Making Biogas
April 17, 2013 5:34 PM
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System helps heat building, provides shade, and grows algal biofuel
called on engineers and architects to build buildings of the future for the
International Building Exhibition
, even they might not have imagined what the London-based Arup Group would come up with.
Arup's engineers designed a facade composed of glass louvers made by German consultancy
SSC Strategic Science Consult
that provides a number of green perks. First, the system's fluid is used as a heat exchange system to help heat the building on cold, but sunny days.
At the same time the system stakes a claim to acting as the world's first "living building", with the louver circuit containing live microalgae. Special systems feed the algae carbon dioxide and nutrients.
The microalgae are a special genetically engineered strain that can be processed into biogas. The algae provide shade inside the building. After a growth cycle they are harvested in-house as a thick pulp and then fermented into biogas in an interior fermenter.
The system has been installed in the BIQ building as a proof-of-concept.
Much of the previous "green building" research has focused on
putting solar panels
. At the same time many alternative fuel experts have worked to formulate designs for
algae biofuel farms
. The Arup project is perhaps the first real-world project to inject algae into a facade-type growing construct.
Jan Wurm, a research leader at Arup,
, "To use bio-chemical processes for adaptive shading is a really innovative and sustainable solution, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario. As well as generating renewable energy and providing shade to keep the inside of the building cooler on sunny days, it also creates a visually interesting look that architects and building owners will like."
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Nice, but what about in real life?
4/19/2013 2:55:51 PM
I see two major and somewhat related engineering issues with this approach, at a minimum.
First issue: what happens if/when a window breaks or need to be replaced (and how much does that cost)?
Second issue: what happens when, on a cold winter day, the window (and the fluid inside it) drops below freezing temperature. One single cold snap might shatter all those windows in one day...
And then, there's the issue of cost-effectiveness. All that extra plumbing, filtration, nutrient injection, and fermentation equipment costs money to install and operate. Do the heating and biofuel benefits really provide more bang for the buck that basic water-heating or PV panels?
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