The Hamburg IBA (Internationale Bauausstellung or international building exhibition) is a bit like a larger-than-life laboratory. Starting in 2007, researchers have been looking at questions such as “How will we solve problems like climate change?” and “Where are we headed, how and where will we live, work, and learn in 20 years?” Their answers have become functional buildings on the Elbe islands that are being exhibited until November 3, 2013.
There are many aspects to the IBA, of which the category Smart Material Houses is just one. This project showcases “smart construction materials of the future,” according to the IBA website. Each building incorporates dynamic new construction components that use energy from the surrounding environment, making the buildings’ outer shell a focal point.
One of those buildings—the BIQ—has raised the bar for green building standards as the first structure in the world with a bioreactor façade. Microalgae grown inside external glass elements are used to produce energy, as well as to control light and provide shade. Mature algae can then be harvested and fermented in an external plant to create biogas. Algae can produce more biomass per hectare than terrestrial plants and contains many oils that can be used to create energy, making it a particularly good choice for living architecture.
The Soft House, alternatively, uses textiles inside and out to create a sustainable energy solution. On the building’s façade photovoltaic cells incorporated into the fabric can convert sunlight into energy while casting shade on the building itself. Inside, residents can use transparent “curtains” to create and change the interior layout. The electricity generated by the building’s façade is fed into these curtains to provide heat and light.
The designers of the WOODCUBE went back to basics. They wanted to create a structure that did not emit any greenhouse gas during its life cycle and which is fully biodegradable, and so they turned to a traditional building material: wood. The building materials used in WOODCUBE are almost entirely renewable, and electricity and heat are also taken from carbon-neutral, renewable sources.
The final of the 2013 IBA’s Smart Material Houses outdoes itself in energy production. Smart is Green is an “efficient house plus,” which means that it can produce more electricity than its residents use. This is made possible through a combination of techniques, most notably the use of PCMs. PCMs act like the pocket warmers that can be “charged” in hot water and use to warm cold hands later. The PCMS on Smart is Green’s façade absorb heat, siphoning off excess heat during the day and releasing it as needed. The same technology is used in the building’s central heating system, and extra energy is fed into the local energy network.
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