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Algae-producing architecture at Astana Expo 2017

July 16, 2017

Garden Hut, uses a high-speed air flow to lift algae into glass tubes, generating a stirring effect that allows the desired oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to occur.

Will Yeates reports in that an urban “algae farm” producing low-carbon protein and bio-fuel is one of the highlights on show this week at the future energy-themed Astana Expo 2017 in Kazakhstan.

London-based EcoLogicStudio’s HUT is a three-part pavilion at the biennial world fair event, exploring the boundaries of biologically-based architecture. The prototype aims to “probe the future, test scenarios and promote the emergence of a new narrative in future energy.” Room. Image ©NAARO

One room — H.O.R.T.U.S., flooded with natural light — hosts an art installation containing photosynthetic microalgae. Visitors are encouraged to engage with the algae using their carbon dioxide to produce oxygen bubbles in 700 meters of glass tubing.

H.O.R.T.U.S. (Hydro Organisms Responsive to Urban Stimuli) room. Image Another area, Garden Hut, uses a high-speed air flow to lift algae into glass tubes, generating a stirring effect that allows the desired oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to occur, before falling back with gravity. A pump isn’t needed, a method that the team thinks hasn’t been used in algae production previously. Five tubes containing different types of algae loop the exhibit, collecting in tanks for harvest as super-food or bio-fuel.

EcoLogicStudio estimates the hut can produce enough algae-based protein for 12 adults, the protein equivalent of eight cows. By switching to an algae protein diet, the overall net contribution to carbon sequestration of the HUT would be around 90kg per day — the same carbon sequestration potential of 500 square meters of forest. The HUT can also produce about 1kg of biofuel a day, comprising either dry algae or oil produced by green algae — enough to power a home.

According to Marco Poletto, Director at ecoLogicStudio, it makes more sense to produce food from the algae produced. To realize the ambition of bringing microorganisms into architecture, “In an urban environment you are looking to grow strains that have higher market value,” he said.

Expo 2017 is being held in Astana, Kazakhstan until 10 September 2017.

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