Algae Façade

The Algae Façade project integrates façade and building technology research (performance, materiality, and feasibility) with embedded systems (sensors, actuators, and microcontrollers). It deploys a double-skin building façade as a harvesting surface for algae growth for subsequent conversion into biofuel or as a simple carbon-footprint offset by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The algae façade functions as an adaptive building skin that optimizes sun exposure for algae panels and reduces solar gains in the inner skin of the double façade.

Student Researchers: Samantha Bard, Mary Lopreiato, and  Libertad McLellan, NJIT’16
Instructor: Andrzej Zarzycki, NJIT

Students developed a series of adaptive and reactive prototypes each testing a particular functionality: (left) aerates and monitors temperature, (right) positions itself toward maximum light exposure. Panel rotational shown in the video captures scanning of the surrounding environment by a light sensor for optimal lighting conditions.

There are a number of objectives that this design needed to achieve. In addition to tracking sun location and providing shading, it also had to monitor the growth of biological agents (algae). This meant aerating water inside the algae panels and collecting temperature data throughout the façade assembly, while allowing for various functionality overrides to maintain optimal building skin performance.
This sophisticated and complex behavior required comprehensive design and problem-solving thinking with research into several disciplines. It involved understanding of (1) biological processes behind algae growth, including species selection; (2) embedded electronic systems using microcontrollers with actuators and distributed sensors continuously monitoring building performance; and (3) construction assemblies with research into high-performance buildings

Facade panel details (right) with adaptive algorithmic logic (left)

Algae facade panels: Elevation

Facade assembly

Growing algae in a two-week cycle: Stage of growth

Studio presentation