- small algae-containing compartments in which grey-water nutrients and power are supplied and from which photosynthetic gases are exchanged with building inhabitants
- spherical outcroppings where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place
Derivative: Alveolus “the little cavity”. A small air-containing compartment of the lungs in which the bronchioles terminate and from which respiratory gases are exchanged with the pulmonary capillaries.
We are taught that the practice of Architecture and design is to provide a solution, in both form and function, to a problem: one that includes a response to a site, time and social context. Those solutions which are most successful are often ones that may be the least visible, most adaptive or most easily integrated into existing environments.
When we look at the problems of the 21st century, the most prominent central factor is population growth. As our societies expand with it comes strain on infrastructure, scarcity of resources and a higher rate of waste production.
The densification of urban cores has simultaneously forced a redefinition of livable space and increased carbon emissions. The level of air pollutants in buildings and homes can be 3 times higher than that of the outdoors. A logical approach to offset these pollutants, without any added energy expenditure, would be the use of plants. This is one explanation to the popularity of green walls. However, just as we have redefined our living space, it has become imperative that we find new definitions for our green space as well. Green space should not only clean air, but filter water, produce biofuel and neutraceuticals, and be farmed for food and biofeed.
An organism capable of such tasks is Algae. Algae has long been studies as a source for the production of biofuel. However, much like plants, algae converts CO2 to O2 through photosynthesis and is an important bioremediation agent. Again, much like plants, they require light, air, water and nutrients to grow. If allowed to thrive in the context of integrative building systems, algae could then provide an efficient living carbon sink into the built environment. The task of creating efficient and integrative systems can be achieved through the development of an algae based basic modular building block: a bioreactor.
The project Algeoli, is based on the study of a modular bioreactor that can harbor the growth of Algae. In the context of building systems the lifecycle of the Algae can include the filtering of air and water after which it can be farmed for food and biofuel.
The module is composed of a core surrounded by a flexible membrane. The core supplies polluted air through the base and grey water from above; both filter through the algae solution before passing onto the next module. LEDs supply the light necessary for photosynthesis when natural sunlight is not available.
The bioreactors are weaved together through a network of supply lines delivering indoor air, power and nutrients to each module. The nutrients are supplied by the building’s waste water while the algae is nourished by the CO2 from the exhalation of the inhabitants or other sources. Much like a lung, the module expands and contracts with the circulating air revealing it as a mechanical-organic entity that is continuously refreshing the air. The modularity of the bioreactor delivers a flexibility in scale and dimensionality.
With the use of sensors, a smart system acts in real time responding to environmental changes. When the occupants or pollutants in the immediate environment are increased, the modules are autonomously activated through an augmented circulation of air and light. More pollutants are consumed and the algae thrive. As densification forces us to pollute and consume more energy, in turn the Algeoli grows greater crop and increase the production of biofuel. The Algeoli’s lifecycle adapts to the changing environment.
Each environment or microclimate will provides a different set of challenges: whether it is the availability of space, amount of pollutants or access to light. As a modular system that can be integrated into any living space at a variety of scales, Algeoli provides the potential for creating an invisible respiratory network with a lifecycle to provide great benefits on an urban scale.
Mae Shaban earned her first Master’s degree in Science at the University of Western Ontario researching the intricate molecular world of cells. Soon after, she entered a Master’s degree in Architecture at the University of Toronto where her affinity to interdisciplinary design quickly took hold. Shaped by years of scientific and architectural training, her design philosophy is rooted in the growing need for responsible design that is not only beautiful, but also socially and environmentally conscious. Mae is always eager to expand her understanding and skills in designing sustainable products, building and environments. She aspires to break the boundaries between design that is speculative and that which is achievable. Mae is currently practicing architecture in Toronto, Ontario.
Winner of the Hettich and Reich 2011 International Design Award for ALGEOLI project; 2011 Award ceremony and project presentation at the IIDEX 2011 in Toronto, Ontario.