Algae Retrofits Absorb Urban C02

Algae Retrofiting on Marina City Tower

At the moment a lot of architectural work has been going into creating buildings, spaces and technologies that do not produce carbon emissions as a way to halt the effect of climate change. In the context of urban planning, vertical forests, vertical farming and green roofs have made their way into our cities and offer a way for us to limit the amount of carbon we emit, promote green spaces and shorten the journey between produce and plate.

Going one step further, the latest concept from the US architectural firm Influx_Studio is offering to actually reverse the amounts of carbon in our atmosphere.

Simply by retrofitting.

The architectural firm has taken on the city of Chicago with its high levels of population growth and complimenting carbon emissions increase. Much like the key ideology of the Green Building Council of Australia, the designers feel that with 70% of all carbon emissions in Chicago produced by office buildings, retrofitting these buildings would be the most practical and effective solution.

Marina City Tower Interior

This proposal is, however, no simple retrofit. It aims to implement a closed loop sustainable system in the heart of the city that offers to reverse excess carbon and its effects in the surrounding city area, rather than just the building.  Working under the ‘Decarbonize Chicago’ initiative, designers turn to what they have inferred as the ‘dark horse’ sustainable technology option.

“While the world is looking for alternatives to fossil fuels, Algae is an unlimited source of energy, food, and most important, a remarkable natural CO2 absorber” say the architects.

From this natural being formed the idea of algae retrofitting. In order to use this wonder plant to its greatest potential, designers have picked the Marina City’s Tower, a stereotypical 1964 built ‘brown’ building to retrofit using a number of sustainable technologies.

In addition to rooftop solar and wind harvesting technologies, which will provide energy for the day to day running of the building, algae bioreactors will be installed in order to process the carbon from polluted air, in turn creating a continuous supply of biofuel.

Marina City Tower terrace garden

The main idea will be executed through a three-step plan, which is best described by the architects.

“Using bio-engineering processes, a synergetic closed loop integrates three different levels of carbon reduction: direct carbon sequestration from the air (used to feed the Algae bioreactor), absorption by vegetal photosynthesis (Algae, vertical farming and phytoremediation), and reduction by energy saving (introduction of solar and wind harvesting energy)” they say.

Vertical farming will also be a standard feature throughout the building, with semi-circular balconies home to produce-filled gardens.

The technologies will not only work as their own separate entities, but they will work in conjunction with one another. The rooftop position of the two carbon ‘scrubbing’ plants is paramount. It enables the algae to collect CO2 from the air more effectively due to the wind turbines, which aid in the airflow, whilst producing renewable energy at the same time.

Algae Retrofitting

All wastewater in the building can also be reused as part of the garden and algae irrigation system.

This idea is not about changing one building, but the effects of excess carbon in an entire city area.  When building in the most sustainable way possible it is important to think holistically, encompassing more than just one idea, one technology, or one space. It is through this kind of design that the effects of climate change can be reversed, rather than simply stopped.

Images Courtesy Influx Studio

 

By Emily D’Alterio
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