An innovative apartment block has been unveiled at the international building exhibition in Hamburg, Germany. This 15 unit apartment block – The Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) house is the world’s first building that generates heat and electricity from algae in its exterior walls.
It has 129 rectangular glass chambers containing water and algae hanging over the exterior of the southeast and southwest sides of the building. These algae cultivating panels also provide the thermal insulation and shading from the direct sunlight.
Designed by Arup, SSC Strategic Science Consultants and Splitterwerk Architects, these algae-filled clear chambers can be adjusted to follow the movement of the sun similar to the technology used for solar collectors. The excess heat built up in the algae chambers is either used directly for hot water and heating or transferred to saline water tanks underneath the building for later use.
Algae are well suited to generate biogas and contain many oils that could be used for energy. Algae reproduce when presented with abundant bright sunshine. To flourish and grow faster, the algae inside the chambers are supplied with liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide by an automated system.
When the amount of algae growth in the glass panels reaches a certain point, some of it is transferred as a thick pulp for fermentation in a processing facility inside the building. The biomass is then converted to biogas that can be burned to provide heat in the winters.
The BIQ house is being studied by various architects and engineers from around the world to determine the design feasibility and emulate the model in other cities.