Algaetecture: create a greener architecture that can respond to the current state of global warming

Micro-algae presents a huge potential to completely change the design of architectural surfaces. By leveraging the billions of square meters used as facades and roofs as new photosynthetic surfaces we can create a greener architecture that can respond to the current state of global warming. Micro-algae perform an important photosynthetic activity and are up to ten times more efficient than large trees and grasses, absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, while acting as a second skin of buildings, boosting passive cooling and increasing shading.

'Algaetecture' is a project developed as part of the Future Food District for Expo Milano 2015 that looks at the possible application of algae in the field of architecture as well as a system of urban agriculture. Besides being an integrated, active and intelligent architectural coating, micro-algae systems can be used as an innovative energy and food production system within our cities, growing into a biomass, which can be processed for energy, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets.

The Urban Algae Canopy, based on ecoLogicStudio’s ‘HORTUS’ system, was presented as a 1:1 scale prototype during Milan Design Week 2014 at the exhibition-event sponsored by Interni “Feeding new ideas for the city”. It is the world’s first bio-digital canopy integrating an architectural system of micro-algae and real time digital cultivation protocols. The micro-algae have been integrated within a custom designed four-layered ETFE cladding system, whilst the flows of energy, water and CO2 are controlled and regulated in real-time and made to respond and adjust to weather patterns and visitors’ movements.

The Urban Algae Canopy is part of a preview of the innovative systems designed for the Future Food District - a thematic pavilion at the heart of Expo that explores new ways for people and food to interact thanks to new technologies, like the micro-algae systems here. If completed and integrated into the structure of the Future Food District, the Urban Algae Canopy will produce the equivalent amount of oxygen as four hectares of woodland, and up to 150kg of biomass per day – 60% of which are natural vegetal proteins.

The EXPO Milano 2015 Future Food District, curated by Carlo Ratti (Director - MIT Senseable City Lab & Partner - Carlo Ratti Associati) in collaboration with Favero & Milan Ingegneria, Capatti Staubach Landschaftsarchitetekte, Systematica, ecoLogicStudio, Cesare Griffa Studio, ENEA and CERES srl

Urban Algae Canopy prototype by ecoLogicStudio (Marco Poletto & Claudia Pasquero) & Carlo Ratti Associati; prototyping team -Taiyo Europe GmbH, Sullalbero Srl; consulting team - Nick Puckett, Paolo Scoglio, Catherine Legrand, Mario Tredici; lighting by: iGuzzini

Urban Algae Façade prototype by Cesare Griffa and Carlo Ratti Associati; prototyping team - Matteo Amela, Federico Borello, Marco Caprani; technical support by Environment Park Spa, Fotosintetica & Microbiologica Srl; lighting by iGuzzini

Photos by Filippo Ferraris - Video by Cesare Griffa

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