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German engineering firm Arup is taking “green building” to an exciting new level. At the recent International Building Exhibition the firm revealed their latest innovation, installed in the BIQ building, which utilizes the energy generated by the growth and decomposition of algae to power an entire house through a process called “adaptive shading.” The “algae house” was designed in collaboration with Austrian design firm Splitterwerk Architects and German consultancy SSC Strategic Science Consult,

During “adaptive shading” the algae are fed a constant stream of liquid nutrients and carbon dioxide through a water circuit running through the exterior of the building. When they reach maturity and are ready to be harvested the algae are then transferred to a “technical room” inside the building and fermented in a biogas plant. The heat absorbed by the exterior of the building is used to warm the hot water tank, which encourages the algae’s growth. Increased algae growth also provides additional shade for the building’s occupants during sunny weather.

“To use bio-chemical processes for adaptive shading is a really innovative and sustainable solution, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario,” said Jan Wurm, a research leader at Arup, in an interview with

“As well as generating renewable energy and providing shade to keep the inside of the building cooler on sunny days, it also creates a visually interesting look that architects and building owners will like,” he added.

HafenCity and the International Building Exhibition, the two major urban development projects featured as topics of the IBA conference in Hamburg, address issues facing modern European cities. These concerns include the questions: how can metropolises embrace progress and growth in a specifically European manner, preserving their traditions, developing new qualities and yet responding appropriately to future social needs and community requirements?

Until this year, algae-powered buildings have been merely concepts, such as the modular algae pod-covered building and the biofuel-powered skyscraper in London. The Arup design is a remarkable leap forward towards the realization of a self-sustainable building that harnesses and utilizes the inherent power of nature.

The International Building Exhibition will remain on display until November 3, 2013 in Hamburg, Germany.

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