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

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