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Algae Buildings: A Growing Trend In Architecture
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Algae Buildings: A Growing Trend In Architecture

algae building

Green Towers In Hangzhou, China

There is a growing trend in design and architecture communities that looks to integrate greenery into buildings. I mean who wouldn’t like a little greenery to brighten their environment. But we are not just talking about a few succulents by a windowsill here. We are seeing projects sprout up around the globe which greenery and plants cover entire buildings.

These design features are more than just superficial additives to buildings. Green vegetation looks to provide a functional purpose for structures as they look to become sustainable.

In one such example, French studio XTU Architects, developed a concept for four twisting glass towers in Hangzhou, China, featuring facades covered with micro-algae.


Photo by XTU Architects


The tower designs involves introducing a layer of algae to provide natural insulation, as well as offsetting the building’s environmental impact by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. The algae covered façade would allow symbiosis to transpire between the towers and its surroundings environment.



Algae-Powered Building In Hamburg, Germany

This wouldn’t be the first project of its kind. In fact, several algae covered building have already seen successful completion. Engineering firm, Arup, pioneered algae facades five years ago, with the world’s first algae-powered building in Hamburg, Germany. As well as shade, the micro-algae growing in its glass panels, are capable of generating renewable energy.


algae building

Photo by Arup


The algae covered façade also absorbs heat from the sun to warm the building’s hot water tank. While sunny weather encourages the algae’s growth to provide more shade for the building’s occupants.


Photo by 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,” said Jan Wurm, a research leader at Arup.


Green Screens: Zero Electricity Air-Cooling Panel Made Of Agricultural Waste

The trend is also taking root in academic circles as student look to innovate architecture with recycled compost. While a different concept than the algae covered structures seen in Germany. Gina Ciancone and her team of collaborators at Harvard rethought our entire approach to air-conditioning. Her Green Screen proposal is a zero-electricity air-cooling panel made entirely of agricultural waste. The waste used for these panels would have otherwise been burned by farmers and further contributed to air pollution.


Photos via Mittal South Asia Institute


This “Green Screen” proposal offers a remedy to air pollution and extreme heat. This entire concept relies on the principle that plant and agriculture waste can absorb heat and produce passive cooling via compression.

Green Screen is currently in a testing phase. This is Green Screen team is working in India to implement a pilot product. Green Screen will also be testing the screen’s cooling effectiveness at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Indicating Green Screen’s potential space related use-cases.


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