The world’s building sector is responsible for 40% of global energy use, 34% of GHG emissions, 60% of electricity, and 25% of global water. By 2050, 70% of the world population will live and work in urban areas, adding 2.1 billion people to urban centers. A growing number of glass high rise buildings will be built to accommodate this new urban population, creating challenges in economic viability and environmental stewardship.
Our on-going research in bio-facades demonstrates a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to transparent glass facades. Advantages of the bio-facade system include good thermal performance, improved daylight transmission and views, and impact resistance. Bio-facades have thermal mass potential for passive heating in winter months while modulating solar gain over the entire year, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions while offering the future potential of producing a renewable energy fuel stock.
Construction of a full-scale prototype has begun, used to ensure national standards and demonstrate economic and environmental benefits of bio-facades through direct application. We have also worked to identify appropriate algae strains and an optimum growing environment (i.e. nutrients, salinity, light and temperature), considering building site location, façade orientation and façade geometric variations. Future research includes more specific details on the operation and maintenance of the biofacade system as related to algae harvesting, system maintenance strategies, and possible biotechnologies necessary for biofuel conversion.