Nice Shades: BIQ Building is powered by algae

© Arup

Green eyeshades work the same way for buildings as they do for accountants, cutting down the solar gain and providing shade. These particular shades are not tinted green, but are filled with green slime, or algae, and water. ARUP, the global engineering firm, worked with Splitterwerk architects to create the Bio Intelligent Quotient (BIQ) building, a demonstration project for an International Building Exhibition in Hamburg. It's not your usual trade show model home.

© ARUP

The algae are continuously supplied with nutrients and CO2 and grow until there is enough to be harvested, at which point it is moved to an exterior biogas plant, where it is fermented to generate heat. Since it gets the most sun, and generates the most heat, in summer, the energy is stored in brine filling 250 foot deep holes in the ground, which can be tapped in the heating season. According to the BIQ site,

The greenness of the façade shows that the algae are breaking down the carbon dioxide and processing it through photosynthesis. This renewable form of energy production is thus visible from outside the building, and is an intentional part of the architectural concept.

© Splitterwerk

This is no simple shade; look at the plumbing at the bottom of this panel in this photo from Designboom. It would be interesting to see how it compares in efficiency (and cost) to conventional solar thermal collectors. Accountants may love green eyeshades, but I think they might find these a bit much.

Transformer apartments

© Splitterwerk

Another interesting feature of the building is the unit design. From the brochure:

The concept of switchable rooms – dwelling on demand – has found its contemporary enhanced development in the BIQ. Rooms will no longer be mutually entwined, but functions will be alternatively or simultaneously ‘patched in’ to form a neutral zone.

The functions of the apartment such as bathroom, kitchen, sleeping areas are located in built-in furniture that will be
standing within the neutral space. The time sequence and changing program of everyday life will therefore characterise the appearance of the apartment.

© IBA Hamburg

Case Study Houses

The BIQ building is part of a larger "Building exhibition within the building exhibition." In North American trade shows, there is usually an aspirational model home; at the big builders show every January they build another single family monster that they then sell for millions. It's interesting that in Germany, they focus on multifamily houses that get occupied.

The “Building Exhibition within the Building Exhibition” will become home to around 130 apartments covering an area almost as large as six football pitches. They all have one thing in common: they are setting an example today for the new standards of tomorrow, and making architectural history. Built as case studies, they should serve as a focus for viewing and discussion, and should inspire new forms of building.

In North America, we can only dream of such things.

Tags: Architecture | Germany | Green Building