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ORE is developing a unitized algae panel for a more efficient, less polluting energy alternative to today’s photovoltaics in building design. Derived from current research at Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Chlamydamonas Reinhardtii (CHL) produces hydrogen more efficiently with genetic modifications in the hydrogenase enzyme, making it a viable source of energy production.

Our area of research is modulating this technology into a unitized framework that can be incorporated into new or existing structures such as buildings, bridges, and highway walls. These algae panels would allow for local, biologically-produced clean energy to be available in urban and rural environments. Structures built or retrofitted with algae panels would function like plants in nature, creating their own energy through photosynthesis. On-site production eliminates loss of energy in transmission, thereby reducing waste. We see this not simply as a development in ecological fuel sources, but as a revolution in the structure of our fuel supply system and a potential shift in environmental design.

We applied this science as a conceptual systems model of algal architectural panels for the winning entry of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ International Energy Revolution Competition in 2004. Using the genetically modified algae, a building could be free of fossil fuel energy consumption.

As an architectural element this “second skin”, created by the algae panels, constructs a quilted mosaic of color. The Housing Units create fresh water and reduce carbon emissions, without requiring the occupant to change their energy-consuming habits. Two key strengths C. Reinhardtii exhibits are an exponential growth rate and natural hardiness. These factors allow for limitless algae cultures to be quickly created and replenished once they are starved of oxygen and sulfur, thus making it biologically feasible to farm hydrogen in urban environments.

 

Client: Royal Institute of British Architects International Competition 2004
Program: Algea Wall Panel System
Area: 7 Hectares
Status: Concept
Project Architect: Thomas Kosbau
Design Team: Tyson Gillard, Josh Chang
Awards: Royal Institute of British Architects’ International Competition 2004