9 min read


By Paulina Solis on Mar 2, 2018 6:22:29 PM

Topics: Emerging Design

Algae-powered buildings 

The building industry is a large contributor to global warming making up more than 18% of Australia’s carbon footprint [1]. It is crucial we now explore new construction materials and smarter energy production methods to reduce our impact. Would it be possible that we could find a simple solution in a natural product that will assist buildings became not only energy efficient and healthier for its occupants, but also self-powered? Reducing our environmental footprint and improving wellbeing naturally? Well, you better believe it because we have.. ALGAE!    

Algae, as a fast growing organic material, has many functions but two of them specifically assist the building industry in reducing its impact:

  1. Producing biofuel as a by-product, which can be used to power the building itself[3]
  2. Improving air quality through absorbing CO2[2]

Below are 3 algae-powered innovations that are utilizing these functions that are getting us excited 

  1. Algae-powered buildings

The world’s first algae-powered building was constructed in Hamburg, Germany by Splitterwerk Architects in 2013 [6] [7] [8]. The facade of the building has 129 panel glass bioreactors containing algae (see below) [8].

 ALGAE-POWERED BUILDINGSFigure 1: Façade of the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building in Hamburg, Germany by Splitterwerk Architects (2013)[3]

When sunlight heats the building, the algae multiplies and generates biomass and heat [8]. A management center within the building controls the panels and stores the heat it creates for other uses [4]. This way, the building occupants don’t have to pay any heating bills! [6] How cool is that?

  1. Algae-powered breathing pavilions


 ALGAE-POWERED BUILDINGSFigure 2: Design of the oxygen pavilions seen from the outside  (Adam Miklosi, 2013)[9]           

Already a problem in some cities, poor air quality is a challenge that more industrialized cities continue to face [9]. Designer and ethologist (animal behaviorist) Adam Miklosi created a new habitat for people tired of living in polluted cities by using “oxygen bars” [10]. “Chorella”, a fresh air pavilion, uses algae to produce breathable oxygen [9][10] . Chorella is designed to have a restorative effect on its users [10], encouraging them to take a breath and have a break from their frantic lives [9].  

ALGAE-POWERED BUILDINGSFigure 3: Design of the oxygen pavilions seen from the inside (Adam Miklosi, 2013)   [10]

  1. Algae-covered buildings

Ultra-futuristic architectural concepts are captivating, but if we want to address environmental concerns we need to find solutions that work with existing architecture [4]. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers released a report in 2009 recommending the cultivation of algae on the sides of existing buildings [11]. By doing this, biofuel can be produced on a larger scale [11], and thanks to algae’s ability to filter air in its vicinity, the air surrounding the building will be of a higher quality [4]. The report considers this solution as one of the most promising to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations.


Figure 4: Shows how a building in London could look like, if algae cultivations were added to its structure (by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 2009) [11]

Innovation is key if we are to continue reducing our environmental footprint within the building sector and algae is one such exciting innovative material. We hope that as the benefits of algae become more mainstream, we will start to see a growing uptake of it as a building material. Here at Certified Energy we cannot wait to see what other materials are possible to help reduce our impact on the world. 

 Certified Energy are experts in ESD consulting and are qualified to assess projects for their suitability under rating schemes including Green Star, ISCA, Section J and NatHERS.


To find out more: call us on 1300 443 674 or email quote@certifiedenergy.com.au



Works Cited

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Paulina Solis

Written by Paulina Solis