Algae Architecture: 4 New Buildings That Produce Food and Fuel

algae architecture

OK, I’m the first to admit I’m a little goofy on the subject of algae architecture. But to me, it makes such perfect sense and has such environmental symmetry that I get giddy every time I think about it. In a recent edition of "Inhabitat" they explored this very idea.Come to find the Europeans, especially the German's, are way of us.

Now algae architecture is the cutting edge of urban architecture. Designing buildings so not only are they energy efficient but also able to make fuel, AND grow crops. They are already doing algae architecture in office buildings in Europe and Asia. Take a look at the pictures below to grasp what I’m talking about.

So why would you want to design building using “Algae Architecture?”

algae architecture

To enhance sustainability:

• Building are designed to improve the carbon footprint by lowering the amount of embodied carbon;
• By using the building’s waste, to create usable, sale-able biofuels as part of a cradle-to-cradle design approach;
• By using a building’s interior and exterior space to grow algae biomass, as food crops or ornamental plants for on-site food supply or providing an additional revenue stream;
• By presenting opportunities for on-site energy generation;

To increase health and well being:

• Through bettering quality of air, via decrease in air-borne pollutants, humidification, as well as superior oxygen/carbon dioxide balance;
• By waste water biotreatment and cleaning of water;
• through process of designing ease and comfort for habitants;

To produce visionary structure designs that live harmoniously with the natural environment:

• Employing a biomimicry strategy when designing a building and building envelope;
• Through benefits of innovation and ingenuity.

OriginOil Jumps Into the Market

algae powered buildings

If OriginOil has their way, every time you flushed the toilet you’ll be actually generating heat for your home. That’s exactly what a Los Angeles-based startup is hoping to accomplish. OriginOil, a company that specializes in converting algae into fuel, is working on developing a pilot for an urban algae farm concept that would use wastewater to help grow algae, which is then used to generate energy, treating the wastewater in the process.

They aren’t the only ones. Paris-based Ennesys, in which OriginOil holds a founding stake, was engaged by large French developers to see if algae production could help meet France’s ambitious mandate that by 2020, all new buildings must generate more clean energy than they consume, and must purify and recycle water naturally.

Are living green buildings just around the corner?

A report recently released by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers suggests that sealed containers of algae Photobioreactors could be integrated into the sides of buildings to produce biofuels and sequester carbon, adding a whole new meaning to the term 'green building'. As the algae grows it sucks up the CO2 from the surrounding air which can then be stored.

algae powered building

Courtesy of

In Germany they’ve taken algae architecture a step further and designed the world’s first algae powered building. To build the algae façade, the structure is covered in bio-reactive louvers, much like flat panel bioreactors, that enclose the algae.

These types of louvers enable the algae to live and grow quicker compared to what they would normally while also supplying shade for the interior of the structure. Furthermore, the bio-reactors capture the heat energy produced by the algae, which may then be farmed and utilized to power the building.

Algae architecture design is getting enough respect and attention in the UK and Europe that architectural schools are offering courses and workshops.offering courses and workshops

Obviously, this is a subject very much in its embryonic form. But from a logical point of view there is no reason biofuels, urban rooftop gardens, passive solar for heat, wind turbines, as well as utilizing higher winds for passive cooling couldn’t designed into buildings right now. By adding algae to the mix of design possibilities, the number of uses an urban building can produce on it’s own, skyrockets.Imagine completely self-sufficient homes, apartment complexes, and office buildings. It’s probably a part of the future, and the future isn’t that far away.

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You have demonstrated this is not complex. We can do this.

Dear David,

I am a small farmer that is suffering from the Economic downturn and would not have had the finances to afford it at this time. I believe your work in research on algae and your willingness to share with us maybe at the center of new world wide wealth for the under privileged. The greatest aspect of your work is the empowering of the little people. You’re making us aware we have other choices, we will no longer in bondage the big energy companies. You have demonstrated this is not complex. We can do this.

Larry D. Hayes
Oregon, USA