About the SA Blog Network



The art of science and the science of art.
Symbiartic HomeAboutContact

The Three Little Pigs Never Thought of This Building Material

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint

Bricks, sticks, and hay are decidedly pedestrian building materials in comparison to a new building that just opened to the public last Thursday in Hamburg, Germany. Ambitious architects have built an apartment covered in a thin layer of living, breathing algae.

An architectural rendering of the BIQ building. Image © Arup Deutschland

BIQ - The World's first SolarLeaf-Building in Hamburg, Germany with 200 square meters of algae-filled bioreactive panels that supply the building with all of its energy needs. Photo © Colt International, Arup Deutschland, SSC GmbH

The building, known as BIQ (for Bio Intelligent Quotient), meets the extremely stringent passive-house standards of energy efficiency set by the International Passive House Association in part by covering the facade with 200 square meters of algae-filled bioreactors. The bioreactors act as a giant algae farm; they insulate against temperature extremes while generating populations of algae that will ultimately be fermented and turned into electricity for the building. Green architecture just got greener.

A working prototype of the SolarLeaf Facade System with thriving microalgae. Photo © SSC GmbH

Bubbles rising in the SolarLeaf Louvers keep the algae from settling (and rotting) while adding a certain... je ne sais... lava-lamp-charm? Photo © Colt International, Arup Deutschland, SSC GmbH

Check out more green buildings here.

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Rights & Permissions

Comments 3 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. alan6302 9:25 pm 04/29/2013

    Chlorella would make more $

    Link to this
  2. 2. jerryd 3:38 pm 04/30/2013

    Sorry but not going to be worth doing especially that very expensive way.

    They can’t even make it work in big plastic bags how will it in these expensive, little reactors?

    Link to this
  3. 3. 'RikS 10:44 pm 05/3/2013

    Does not seem so passive.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Holiday Sale

Scientific American Mind Digital

Get 6 bi-monthly digital issues
+ 1yr of archive access for just $9.99

Hurry this offer ends soon! >


Email this Article