Algae-Powered Buildings: A Review of an Innovative, Sustainable Approach in the Built Environment
2. Microalgae and Their Intervening Role in Buildings’ Design
3. Façade-Integrated Algae
4. Algae-Powered Buildings: Energy Efficiency and Environmental Performance
|Recommended PBR Design Parameters|
|PBRs Type||Vertical Bubble Column||Vertical Airlift PBR||Flat Panels||Tubular PBR||Ref.|
|Material||Glass, Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), PVC, PMMA (poly methyl methacrylate)||Glass, LDPE, PVC,|
|Glass, Plexiglas, Polycarbonate, PVC, PMMA, Polyethylene, Plastic bags||Polypropylene acrylic, Polyvinylchloride, PVC, PMMA, LDPE||[74,75,76,77]|
|PBR dimensions||Thickness/Diameter(D)||D < 20 cm||D < 20 cm||D < 7 cm||5–9 cm||[42,76,78]|
|Height/length (H)||H < 4 m||H < 4 m||1.5 m||100–150 m||[42,76,78,79]|
|Surface to volume ratio (S/V)||2–8 m−1||2–8 m−1||20–80 m−1||up to 100 m−1||[38,77,79,80]|
|Type of Mixing||Via gassing (Bubbling of CO2-enriched air)||Via gassing||Circulation flow, Peristaltic pumps and Via gassing||Circulation flow, Peristaltic pumps||[38,74,77,78]|
|Oxygen mass transfer coefficient||High||High||Low||Low|||
|Risk of photo-inhibition||Low||Low||Medium||High|||
|Risk of self-shading of cells||Medium–High||Medium–High||Low (at thin panel thickness)||Low (at thin tube diameter)|||
|Risk of bio-fouling||Low||Low||High||High|||
|O2 -release||Easy||Easy||Difficult||Very difficult|||
|Scalability||Difficult||Difficult||Very easy||Very easy|||
|Advantages||Compact, good mixing with low shear stress, low energy consumption, easy to sterilize, good for immobilization of algae, reduced photo-inhibition and photo-oxidation||Suitable for outdoor cultures, good light path, high biomass productivities, easy to clean up, low power consumption and shear stress, easy temperature control, low operating cost||Suitable for outdoor cultures, good biomass productivities, improvement of air residence time||[74,81]|
|Limitations||Construction requires sophisticated materials, stress to algal cultures, decrease of illumination surface area upon scale-up, high cleaning cost||Scale-up requires many compartments, difficulty in controlling culture temperature, some degree of wall growth, possibility of hydrodynamic stress to some algal strains||Gradients of pH, dissolved CO2 and O2 gradients, fouling, some degree of wall growth, photo limitation, high capital, and operating costs||[74,81]|
|Recommended Operational and Environmental Parameters|
|Nutrients||Macro nutrients:||Phosphorus and Nitrogen|||
|Trace metals:||Fe, Mg, B, Mo, K, Co, Zn, Mb|
|Light intensity||5000–10,000 Lux (100–200 μmol/(m2 × s))||[42,82]|
|Liquid velocity||20–50 cm×s–1||[42,81]|
|Partial pressure of CO2 in gas phase||0.2 kPa (0.076 mol × m–3)||[80,81]|
|Aeration (bubble size)||1–7 mm|||
5. Real-World Examples of ABT
6. Algae-Powered Buildings: Drivers and Barriers
7. The Future of PBR-Integrated Buildings
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
|ABT||Algae Building Technology|
|AQI||Air Quality Index|
|BIM||Building Information Modeling|
|EUI||Energy Use Intensity|
|HVAC||Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning|
|ROI||Return on Investment|
|VOCs||Volatile Organic Compounds|
|WHO||World Health Organization|
|ZEB||Zero Energy Building|
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|Project||Objective and Design Data||Ref.|
|Green Loop Tower, 2011|
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Designer(s): Influx Studio
|The concept of this building aims to showcase algae potential connection with new emerging green technologies, to create a whole new CO2 scrubbing integrated system, contributing to clean polluted air, to create energy onsite, allow food and biofuel production, and ensure wastewater treatment.|
PBR type: Helical tube PBR
Building type: Retrofitted building
|Process Zero, 2011|
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Designer(s): Sean Williams
|Process Zero is a renewable energy system that includes a thin photovoltaic façade system, rooftop photovoltaics, integrated solar thermal panels, and series of transparent tubular bioreactors growing microalgae. This collection of renewable energy systems offsets the energy consumption of the building and serves as an artificial tree, absorbing CO2 for energy generation and releasing oxygen.|
PBR type: Modular tube panel PBR
PBR façade area: 25,000 ft2
Energy production: 14 kBTU/sf/year
|Algae BRA, 2011 |
Location: Tehran, Iran
Designer(s): Benetton Group
|An innovative ecological project based on natural ecosystem processes and the traditional Iranian architecture which aims to conduct solar control and screening, passive ventilation, and ground cooling by using water as thermal storage and heat regulator, biomass production, and decarbonation.|
PBR type: Vertical tube PBR
Building type: Retrofitted building
|FSMA Tower, 2011|
Location: London, England
Designer(s): Dave Edwards
|Mixed-use tower enclosed with bioreactors used for CO2 sequestration and improving air quality, with algae-absorbing CO2 emissions which are also harvested as bio-methane to provide heat and power.|
PBR type: Flat panel PBR
Building type: New building
PBR façade area: 21,100–44,000 m2
Absorbed CO2: 250,000 ton/year
Produced biodiesel: 450 ton/year
|Algae Therapeia, 2011|
Location: Donostia, Spain
Designer(s): Aragonés Balboa, J.
|The concept of this design aims to establish a research center of marine algae, typical of the Basque coast, for medicinal, food, and industrial applications. A PBR skin generates the necessary energy for all building operations.|
PBR type: Tubular PBR
Building type: New building
Location: Paris La Défense, France
Designer(s): Axel Schonert
|A speculative building proposal enclosed with microalgae PBR focusing on transforming algae into biofuels, coupled with wastewater treatment.|
PBR type: Flat panel PBR
Building type: New building
PBR façade area: 100,000 ft2
Microalgae yield: 150 ton/year
Produced biodiesel: 70 ton/year
|In Vivo, 2016|
Location: Paris, France
Designer(s): XTU Architects
|A speculative building integrating a microalgae-producing PBR bio-façade for medical research. The heat collected by the PBRs is used for domestic hot water and heating.|
PBR type: Flat panel PBR
Building type: New building
PBR area: 100,000 ft2 (932 m2)
|French Dream Tower, 2018|
Location: Hangzhou, China
Designer(s): XTU Architects
|The towers enclosed with PBRs for regulating solar energy and thermal insulation, acoustic insulation, and reducing the building’s carbon footprint by absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen.|
PBR type: Flat panel PBR
Building type: New building
|Algae Tower, 2020|
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Designer(s): UOOU Studio
|The façade system acts as a large-scale PBR transforming a classic façade shading system in an “artificial-leaves-canopy”. The canopy protects the building from direct solar radiation, generates energy, and absorbs CO2.|
PBR type: Artificial-leaves-canopy
|Influencing Factor||Influential Factors|
|Thermal insulation||PBR material|
Culture medium density
Surface to volume ratio
Culture medium density
|Biomass production||Regional climatic conditions|
Surface to volume ratio
Building aspect ratio
|BIQ Building||Hamburg, Germany||2013||Splitterwerk|
|The first and most well-known actual enclosed PBR building that uses algal biomass to produce heat and energy, control light and provide shade, sequestrate carbon, and improve building energy savings.||PBR Type: Flat panel (24-L capacity)|
Number of PBR modules: 129 (2.5 × 0.7 m)
PBR façade area: 2500 ft2
Sequestered CO2: 16 kg/day
Biomass production: 30 kWh/m2/year
Heat production: 150 kWh/m2/year
Cost of PBR’s installation: USD 2300 to USD 3200
|CSTB prototype||Champs-sur-Marne, France||2014||XTU Architects||Microalgae curtain wall system that is integrated with PBRs with the aim of growing biomass, protecting the apartments from both sun and noise, carbon sequestration, and air quality improvement.||PBR type: Flat panel PBR|
PBR façade area: 200 m2
|SYMBIO2||Nantes, France||2014||XTU Architects||The project aims to demonstrate the economic and technical feasibility of simultaneous microalgae production and flue gas partial treatment in a waste processing plant.||PBR type: Flat panel PBR|
PBR façade area: 300 m2
Biomass production: 0.7–1 ton/year
Sequestered CO2: 1–1.8 ton/year
|PhotoSynthetica||Dublin, Ireland||2018||ecoLogicStudio||The curtains capture CO2 from the atmosphere, store is via algae and transform into reusable biomass.||PBR type: Curtain module|
Sequestered CO2: 1 kg/day
Number of PBR modules: 16 (2 × 7 m)
|AirBubble||Warsaw, Poland||2018||ecoLogicStudio||The world’s first biotechnological playground integrated with air-purifying microalgae. The white bubbling noise of the algae gardening system masks the surrounding urban noise to provide a calming atmosphere in which to play and interact.||PBR type: Glass algae reactors|
Number of PBR modules: 52
Total volume of microalgae: 520 L
Flow of polluted air: 200 L/min
|Microalgae Ivy||Charlotte, NC, USA||2021||EcoClosure + UNC Charlotte||A full-scale prototype to retrofit low-performing window for biomass production and CO2 reduction.||Full-scale prototype dimension: (8 × 12 feet)|
Biomass production: 200 kg/year
|➢||Energy savings due to promoting natural cooling process, improving thermal insulation capacity, transmitting natural light; inside the building, and providing shades;|
|➢||Capturing airborne pollutants and reducing noise;|
|➢||Reducing CO2 levels and enjoying the benefits of low-carbon economy;|
|➢||Providing aesthetic variation and creating visual interest;|
|➢||Production of biofuels and other high-value bio-products;|
|➢||Health and safety concerns due to odors and toxins may produce by algae;|
|➢||Requiring highly efficient and specialized maintenance;|
|➢||Unknown durability of technology and long ROI;|
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Sedighi, M.; Pourmoghaddam Qhazvini, P.; Amidpour, M. Algae-Powered Buildings: A Review of an Innovative, Sustainable Approach in the Built Environment. Sustainability 2023, 15, 3729. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15043729
Sedighi M, Pourmoghaddam Qhazvini P, Amidpour M. Algae-Powered Buildings: A Review of an Innovative, Sustainable Approach in the Built Environment. Sustainability. 2023; 15(4):3729. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15043729Chicago/Turabian Style
Sedighi, Mahsa, Peiman Pourmoghaddam Qhazvini, and Majid Amidpour. 2023. "Algae-Powered Buildings: A Review of an Innovative, Sustainable Approach in the Built Environment" Sustainability 15, no. 4: 3729. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15043729