A new urban Habitat
In June 2017, we completed in Astana (Kazakhstan), BIO.tech HUT, the world's first permanent biotechnological dwelling. The project creates indoor habitats for growing micro-algae organisms. These habitats are integrated into 3 inhabitable pavilions.
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 dwelling.
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.