A living green dynamic façade...Surely this is science fiction?

Colt has recently become involved in a research project that you might think belongs in science fiction: it’s about creating a façade that uses live micro-algae to provide shade and generate renewable energy at the same time. You can’t be greener than that!

“Algae in a façade,” you may ask, “How is that possible?” It is, with the ingenuity of Colt and its partners in this project, Arup who designed the concept and SSC who supplied the bioreactor technology. The façade is made of hollow glass louvres that serve as containers, or bioreactors, to grow the micro-algae. These are highly dynamic organisms that grow at an incredibly fast rate, doubling their mass in a day. This makes them the most efficient plants at converting light energy into biomass, which can be harvested to generate energy for the building.

The hollow louvres built by Colt to serve as bioreactors are 2.6 metres high, 70 cm wide and approximately 2 cm thick. Each cavity contains about 24 litres of an enriched culture medium to grow the micro-algae. Each bioreactor has an inlet and an outlet pipe which connect the bioreactors and transports compressed air and gases to make sure the culture medium is constantly in motion and the micro-algae don’t settle at the bottom. This is important because the micro-algae not only provide biomass for energy, but also shade when they are evenly distributed within the bioreactor. And they respond to environmental conditions, as they grow faster in bright sunlight, adapting the amount of shading they provide according to external light levels.

This smart, green façade has been installed in a zero-energy house in Germany as the world’s first ‘bio-adaptive façade’. The house was officially inaugurated in March 2013 and opened to the public during the International Building Exhibition in Hamburg. Scientists, engineers and builders are assessing the full potential of the system as a green alternative providing dynamic solar shading alongside sustainable, renewable energy – and with its shimmering green façade it is a strikingly good looking building too!

Read the news article