The art of science and the science of art.

The Three Little Pigs Never Thought of This Building Material


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.

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

Share this Article:


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

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription
as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >


Email this Article