Residences with algae-coated facade by Splitterwerk and Arup completes in Hamburg
Façade design is one of the main features that define the aesthetic of a building. Encasing a shiny new form in panes of glass, metallic sheets or rustic wooden panels completely alters its look and feel but also provides functional extras such as shading or insulation.
Splitterwerk, SSC Strategic Science Consult and Arup have taken façade design to the next level in their recently-completed BIQ project in Hamburg. The 1,600 sq m facility is an experiment in residential architecture and a demonstration of ‘what tomorrow’s facades can do’.
The building sports a second green skin; a second outer shell set into the façade itself. This skin cultivates microalgae which photosynthesise using liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide provided by a separate water circuit which runs through the façade. These sun-facing panels actively photosynthesise and grow to produce energy to run the activities within the 15 residential units that comprise BIQ.
Completed in March 2013 at a cost of €3.4m, the development is the first of its kind in the world. This sustainable façade system not only provides energy for the building but offers effective sound and thermal insulation, and offers shade in bright sunlight.
As the microalgae within the façade panels develop they can be harvested in a technical room within the BIQ building. Fermented in an external biogas plant, they can later be reused to generate biogas, producing five times more per hectare than terrestrial plants. Any sunlight not absorbed by the algae in the facade is used directly for heating or cached in 80m-deep boreholes filled with brine.
“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,” explains Arup’s Europe Research Leader, Jan Wurm.