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The house that algae power built

algae-houseCan you imagine a house powered not by sun, wind or coal, but by living algae? A group of graduate students at the University of Cambridge can … and their idea has won them international recognition.

Practising what they call “algaetecture,” the students designed an “Algae House” they say could provide a model for future energy-efficient living. In such a model, the house’s residents would get the energy they need from the hydrogen and bio-mass created by the cultivation of algae.

The Algae House design, created by graduate students in the university’s Departments of Architecture and Engineering, was awarded first prize in an international design competition run by SASBE2009 — the third CIB International Conference on Smart and Sustainable Built Environments.

The competition challenged students to propose a concept of a small home that produces enough sustainable energy to equal out energy consumption.

The Cambridge team’s winning design uses in-built algae tubes and a photo bio-reactor to generate hydrogen. A glazing system and water pool are incorporated into the design to mitigate — reflect and cool — the sunlight the algae need to thrive. According to the students’ estimates, the house would produce 4,100 kilowatt-hours of hydrogen and bio-mass per year — enough to drive an electric MINI E car from London to Beijing and back twice over .

“Algae and people may not present themselves as obvious bedfellows, but through this project we hope to show that the integration of algae as an energy generator within a house is not only feasible, but that it opens up many exciting architectural possibilities for green living,” said Karuga Koinange from the Department of Architecture.

The competition, held at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, was organised and sponsored by the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB), the Passive and Low Energy Architecture association (PLEA) and the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE). The students presented their work throughout the week-long proceedings to a variety of conference attendees, including the Dutch Crown Prince, Willem Alexander.

The house that algae power built – The Global View

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