Astana, Kazakhstan - 2017
The world first bio-digital dwelling
National Company EXPO Astana 2017
Modern masterplanning rationally separates all functions. Zones of production and treatment of waste were moved further out of city centers originally mainly to prevent possible contamination and pollution of the living and leisure quarters. But also removing the byproducts of the urbanisation from our sight and more profoundly also from our consciousness.
This is the origin of the modern, industrialized and metabolically linear city. Resources go in and waste comes out. It is up to the Biosphere to close the loop and today we all know that its ecosystems can no longer cope. With a global urban population of 4 Billion people we now need architectures that are capable of closing the loop, implementing circular metabolisms where production and consumption are interconnected, on site.
A new urban Habitat
Following this ambition in Astana (Kazakhstan), we have recently completed BIO.tech HUT, the world's first permanent biotechnological dwelling. It is based on the idea of creating habitats for microalgae organisms grown as part of building envelopes.
Cyanobacteria like the ones in BIO.tech Hut have exceptional properties, that scientists keep refining in labs, and that make them capable of turning what we consider pollution or waste into nutrient and raw material; for this reason we see then as the potential missing link to a true closed urban metabolism.
Within the new design framework of BIO.tech HUT microalgae are not only able to photosynthesize by capturing solar radiation, but also to absorb emissions from the building itself, especially CO2. They become a new active layer that is part of both city and natural metabolic cycles.
Lab, Living and Garden
The BIO.tech HUT is composed of three fluidly interconnected environments that loosely embody the fundamental programs of a living space.
The Lab is a space of science and rationality, where new species of micro-organisms are domesticated and engineered into artificial cultivation environments, growth patterns and material assemblies. This is where the unique efficiency of the system is developed.
The Living Hut is a space of beauty and artistic experience. It is flooded with natural light and inhabited by photosynthetic colonies of Chlorella which visitors are encouraged to nurture with carbon dioxide from their exhale while liberating clouds of oxygen.
The Garden Hut is a communal and open space for production and crafts. At the core of it is the harvest area for the collective processing and transformation of biomass into food and biofuel.
In keeping with the ethos of the project, the structure and the systems of the BIO.tech HUT express the ideal of symbiosis between human and non-human organisms. Coils of lab grade glass tubes wrap the 3 main spaces supported by a series of sectional frames in high-performance honeycombed polycarbonate. The resulting structure is lightweight, fully recyclable and has the unique effect of scattering and enhancing the penetration of solar radiation deep into the BIO.tech HUT and to the photosynthetic cultures.
The bio.Tech Hut is 180sqm in plan, can host a large family and supports 1600L of living cultures of cyanobacteria in its lab grade glass photo-bioreactors.
Designed in collaboration with marine biologists and specialized algae farmers, the photo-bioreactive cladding of BIO.tech Hut is a first-of-its-kind revolutionary system. It uses high-speed air flow to lift the living medium into the glass tubes.
The air stream creates eddies on the fluid inside the tubes, and generates a stirring effect that catalyzes the desired O2 / CO2 exchange. The fluid then descends by gravity to complete each loop.
The multiple loops of glass tubes are coiled around the BIO.tech HUT and integrated in its cladding to become architectural elements, so that they are literally inhabited.
In optimal conditions BIO.tech Hut produces approx. 1kg of dry algae per day. Green microalgae can contain up to 60% oil from which 1kg of biofuel can be produced, releasing 10 KWh of energy.
That is enough to power an average UK home which makes Bio.Tech Hut energetically self-sufficient.
But our principle of urban symbiosis extends to food and nutrients; these are a crucial cycles where important changes are required to feed a healthy and affordable diet to a growing urban population that is predicted to reach 5 billion in the next 15 years.
A microalgae like Chlorella contains up to 60% vegetable proteins. Every day the BIO.tech HUT produces up to 600g of proteins, enough to supply the recommended daily intake of 12 adults.
This is the equivalent, in meat based proteins, of 8 cows!
And of course reducing farming also means reducing emissions of green house gasses. Moreover the living cultures of Chlorella growing within the BIO.tech HUT glass photobioreactors absorb 2kg of CO2/day. This is equivalent to the CO2 adsorbed by 32 large trees, it is a family run urban forest.
A living machine
These numbers give us a spatial and material dimension of the efficiency of building integrated microalgae cultures and the renewed ability of the urban fabric to synthesize resources. The microorganisms grow faster in our artificial environment than in the wild because they are very closely connected with the life of the building and that stimulates its biomass to grow; the biomass in turn is used by the inhabitants of the building itself as source of energy and food. It is a new kind of symbiosis.
It is a crucial transition; the urban environment stops being just a container of programmes or functions, like in the modernist "machine for living", and becomes itself a dynamic process of production, a "living machine". And a living machine has an ability to harvest and process matter, information and energy in a way that differs radically from how we produce and distribute energy today, even renewable ones.
Under this premise the linear metabolism of the modern city can evolve into the many interlocking circulars metabolisms of the Bio-City of the future.
The BIO.tech HUT is the world first Urban Algae Farm, designed to integrate the cultivation of microalgae like Spirulina or Chlorella in elegant urban environments.
This provides clients with unique branding potential and, at the same time, ecologic performance.
Key performances are:
- unique aesthetic and spatial experience of nature in elegant corporate interiors
- air oxygenation and CO2 sequestration
- production of fresh spirulina or chlorella, ready to be used as powerful food supplements as well as wellness products
The Bio.tech HUT provides is an investment in the future of urban ecology and sustainability while providing immediate revenue.
Revenue streams include:
- improved environmental quality and productivity of workforce
- improved branding power
- sale of fresh Spirulina or Chlorella.
Bio.Tech HUT is composed of three interconnected environments:
- The LAB is a space of science and rationality, where new species of micro-organisms are domesticated and samples are stored; it is also a space to educate visitors to the secrets and opportunities offered by Urban Algae farming.
- The LIVING core is a space of artistic experience, and contains the main photo-bioreactor. This is a space flooded with natural light, inhabited by photosynthetic colonies of cyanobacteria, adsorbing carbon dioxide in order to generate oxygen and growing biomass.
- The GARDEN is a space for production of super-food and biomass. At the core of the Garden Hut is a harvest area for the collection and processing of biomass into food and wellness products.
SYSTEMS and MATERIALS
In keeping with this ethos, the structure and spatial organisation of the BIO.tech HUT express the ideal of symbiosis between humans and microorganisms;
- Designed in collaboration with marine biologists and algae farmers.
- The photo-bioreactive cladding is developed from a first-of-its-kind revolutionary system that uses high-speed air flow to lift the living medium into LAB grade glass tubes. The air stream creates eddies on the fluid inside the tubes, and generates a stirring effect that catalyzes the desired O2 / CO2 exchange.
The fluid then descends by gravity to complete the loop.
- Multiple glass tubes are coiled around the BIO.tech HUT, and become architectural elements.
- The dynamic of the air flow makes BIO.tech HUT a beautiful visual and sound experience that fills the surrounding environment and improves its quality.
- Structurally, the coils of glass tubes are supported by a series of sectional frames in high-performance honeycombed polycarbonate.
- The resulting structure is lightweight, fully recyclable and has the unique effect of scattering and enhancing the penetration of solar radiation deep into the BIO.tech HUT.
The BIO.tech HUT hosts a total of 1600L of living cultures of cyanobacteria.
- On average the BIO.tech HUT produces 1.12kg of dry algae per day.
- Green microalgae like Schiochytrium or diatomee like Phaeodactylum Tricornutum can contain up to 60% oil in dry weight. Hence BIO.tech HUT can produce 672g of oil per day from which approximately 1kg of biofuel can be produced.
- This releases up to 37 MJ of energy or 10.3 KWh.
- A microalgae like Chlorella contains up to 60% vegetable proteins, so every day the BIO.tech HUT could produce 672g of proteins, enough to supply the recommended daily intake of 12 adults.
- An average cow provides 52kg of meat based proteins and it takes 660 days to breed it. Therefore the BIO.tech HUT produces the equivalent meat based proteins of 8 cows.
- Every cow also produces methane equivalent to 4 tons of CO2 per year; for 8 cows that is 87kg per day. If we would switch to an algae proteins diet, the overall net contribution to carbon sequestration of the BIO.tech HUT would be of approx. 90kg per day. It takes 500 square meters of forest to do that.
- In optimal conditions BIO.tech HUT absorbs 2kg of CO2/day and produce 1.5kg of O2.
- BIO.tech HUT ability to absorb CO2 is equivalent to that of 32 large trees.