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Sustainability

Smart Construction Materials: Algae

Alice-India Garwood
by Alice-India Garwood on September 19, 2018

We are constantly amazed by the green and sustainable innovations coming out of the construction industry. New ways to build and to power our lives. Our new favourite? The power of algae!

Algae is making waves in construction. Some are still relatively theoretical, some are already being “beta tested” to some extent and others are happening right now, without any of us even noticing. They’re just that good!

Bobtrade construction innovation sustainable algae[Photo Credit: Inhabitat]

Algae is just another amazing natural product that can be used to make pretty much anything we can imagine. Whether it’s cosmetics or pharmaceuticals, plastic or food, algae has a place in all of these industries. 

So the first on our list of exciting algae innovations is a great place to start.

A great deal of work is being put in to ways in which we can replace power guzzling and environment destroying materials like plastic with sustainable or organic ones.

Algae Panels Construction Materials Building Supplies Bobtrade[Photo Credit: Design Curial]

At the Beazley Design Awards 2018, Studio Klarenbeek & Dros have been nominated for their investigation into the replacement of non-biodegradable plastics with algae based plastics.

"Algae is just another amazing natural product that can be used to make pretty much anything we can imagine"

We already have bioplastics made of things like rice, if algae has the properties to replace plastic, then why shouldn’t it?

The future for algae in our day to day lives is a bright one.

In a collaboration with engineering and design group Arup, Solarleaf developed algae panels which utilise photosynthesis to produce energy and heat.

solarleaf bobtrade green energy construction innovation [Photo Credit: More Than Green]

When sunlight hits the panels, filled with water and algae, photosynthesis triggers the microorganisms to multiply and give off heat. The energy from this process is then harnessed to power the building or store underground. 

"When sunlight hits the panels, filled with water and algae, photosynthesis triggers the microorganisms to multiply and give off heat."

Any excess or leftover algae can even be harvested, dried and recycled for biofuel, food or any of the other wonderful applications of algae outside of construction.

bobtrade green energy algae construction innovation sustainability[Photo Credit: WUR]

So why algae over other traditional solar panels?

Solar panels are a surprisingly inefficient renewable energy source. It’s believed that only 20% of the sunlight that reaches a solar panel is actually turned into energy. In 2014, a Swedish company, Swedish Algae Factory, sought to increase the efficiency of solar energy through using photosynthesis and algae.

By ‘farming’ a specific type of algae, diatom algae, which can grow and multiply even in minimal light and low temperatures, they hope to utilise algae-solar energy and eliminate the inefficiency of solar power.

algae-bioreactor-farm bobtrade construction innovation green energy sustainable[Photo Credit: Next Nature]

Algae can be grown at an incredible rate. If there is a strain which can produce the kind of heat necessary, under limited sunlight, just imagine how effective it could be!

"Swedish Algae Factory, sought to increase the efficiency of solar energy through using photosynthesis and algae"

The panels Arup developed with Solarleaf were used in the construction of the BIQ building, a residential block in Hamburg. This made it the first residential building in the world to be powered exclusively by algae panels.

algaewall bik building construction innovation sustainable bobtrade[Photo Credit: This Big City]

"The BIQ building in Hamburg is the first residential structure in the world powered exclusively by algae."

Follow-up checks of the property found that the building was still working effectively and efficiently with the green power source. Further investigation in to the resistance of diatom algae to hostile environments and weather has long-term potential.

Tags: Sustainability

AUTHOR
Alice-India Garwood

Alice-India Garwood

Content Marketing Executive at Bobtrade. Interested in design, sustainability and the history of construction. I love all things indie and theatrical.