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ARCHITECTURE IN THE Age OF ECOLOGY; Towards a Practice of a New Environmental Synthesis.

Mojan kavosh © 2016


Cover Image Single-celled bioluminescent organism known as ‘Tuscaridium cygneum Radiolaria’. Typically found in deep-sea waters and said to glow when disturbed. Working towards an ecological age we can begin to implement such natural material characteristics to produce artificially interactive materials based on similar principles. Justcutitout (2012) Spherical colony of Tuscaridium cygneum 2

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the BA Architecture Honours Degree, Newcastle University, 2016. Copyright Š Mojan Kavosh, 2016. All rights reserved. 120317026 | Newcastle University



First I wish to express my appreciation to Professor Rachel Armstrong for the exceptional supervision. Her extensive knowledge in Experimental Architecture and inspiring thought process has been tremendously motivational and great value to me in this journey. Last I owe many credits to my wonderful family for their unlimited and kind support they have given me. Mojan Kavosh



Towards a Practice of a New Environmental Synthesis

Keywords Industrialism, Environmentalism, Global Awareness, Sustainability, Green, Nature, Eco-design, Algae-systems, Biotechnology.


Whilst the architectural industry is concerned with the impact of urban growth on environmental quality and the carbon emissions that the construction industry is producing, the fundamental question it aims to tackle next is how we can re-design the way we design buildings to not only minimise the environmental impact, but also to benefit and favor our ecosystem: a design process that is ecologically orientated. One that can be upcycled, reused and returned back to its preliminary nutrient cycle. This dissertation explores ways we can change the architecture we see and build today, using innovative forms of green and sustainable methods to combat the issues associated with the development of living architectures. Our current structures are tightly hooked on timeworn traditional methods of form and construction from the days of industrial revolution; forming an inert environment with no constructive addition to our cityscapes in terms of ecological benefits. As designers we ought to look to work in partnership with the nature, by artificial means, bringing it into the built environment to generate and construct a healthier ecosystem for our future generations. Demonstrating an evolution from an age of industrial thinking about architecture to an age of ecology. One of the theoretical areas that this dissertation hopes to add to is to explore current thinking about sustainability and the possibility of moving beyond sustainability towards regeneration.


Contents 6

Abstract Chapter 1 1.1 1.2

Introduction Background Aim and objectives

9 9 13

Chapter 2 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4

(Re)Defining Terminology Sustainability in Architecture What is green? Ecological Design Recycling or Upcycling?

15 16 17 19 21

Chapter 3 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

History of Sustainability Industrial Revolution Twentieth Century Environmentalism Twenty-Frist Century Global Awareness Current Construction Materials

25 25 26 28 29

Chapter 4 4.1 4.1.1 4.1.2 4.2 4.2.1 4.2.2 4.2.3 4.2.4 4.3 4.3.1 4.4 4.4.1 4.5

Ecological Design Approach: Case Study Biomimicry Gherkin Tower Ethics of Biomimicry New Materials Exhale Project Silk and Leaf Project Self-healing Concrete ArchaID Synthetic Biology and Mineralisation Living Systems BIQ House Other Algae Systems EcoLogicStudio Biotechnology

33 35 36 38 41 42 45 48 50 52 53 58 58 61

Chapter 5 5.1 5.2 5.3

The Importance of Design Practice of Hypercomplexity Promotion of Life Role of an Architect

63 64 65 67

Chapter 6









1.1 Background

One of the most topical current issues is that of sustainability, which is recognised as key to human survival1. Although many factors, some as yet unknown, contribute to lack of sustainability, one of the most pertinent would appear to be the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The concentration ought to be finely balanced; if there is too little, plants will become starved of carbon; if there is too much, the planet will heat up2, 3, with possibly fatal consequences. Whilst anthropogenicA carbon dioxide generation is presently considered to be a prime candidate for the recent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, the mitigation measures are still controversial4, 5. Given that the building industry is studied to contribute about half of the anthropogenic carbon emissions in the UK3, special scrutiny needs to be given to buildings. We shall essentially focus on the atmospheric emissions (i.e. carbon dioxide) produced in the course of construction in the building industry. Approximately, 10.2 million tonnes of CO2 and 10.8 million tonnes of CO2B equivalent (other GHGsC, for instance: methane, nitrous oxide, etc.) in conjunction with other toxic gases such as SO2D (an acid rain precursor) are annually produced in the process of manufacture and construction of buildings6. Figure 1.1 shows the trend of increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

1 Ramsden, J. (2010), pp. 179-95. 2 Arrhenius, S. (1896), pp.237-76. 3 Holt, G.C. and Ramsden, J.J. (2008), pp147-84. 4 IPCC Workshop (2002)

5 Galam, S. (2008), pp. 237-45. 6 Statistical release (2015)


A Anthropogenic emissions are emissions caused directly by human activities. B Carbon Dioxide C Greenhouse Gases D Sulphur Dioxide


Figure 1.1 Figure shows the rapidly increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere from years 1000 - 2016. Red line accounts for the monthly records; black line shows the seasonal moving averages [5,6,7].

Sustainability has been the opening topic of conversations for over thirty years1 and is usually defined as: an economic and social evolution that meets the urgency of the prevailing generation, without undermining the potential of future generations to meet their needs2. Researchers have reviewed sustainability for countless years to minimise the energy flow between the natural and built environments. It has been found that nature is so complex that controlling and predicting the natrual environment is essentially impossible3. Many paths have been explored towards sustainability to develop a healthier system, with generational variations due to the environmental and climate changes that took place naturally4. Therefore, the effective method(s) of building development would be one that is feasible to any change within itself and simultaneously effective in dynamic conditions.

1 World Nuclear Association (2013) 2 Kuhlman, T. and Farrington, J. (2010), pp. 3436-441. 3 McGrew, S. (2012), pp. 45-54. 4 Almusaed, A. (2011), pp. 123-25.

5 Earth System Research Laboratory (2011) 6 Song, C. (2006), pp. 2-32. 7 Kavosh, M. (2011), pp. 3.



Since 1962, mastering sustainability has been the key challenge for humanity1,2. In many contexts, sustainability is used with the definition of reducing energy consumption3. Existing energy-efficient strategies for sustainability include: generating energy from renewable resourcesA, water consumption reduction, recycling etc. implemented to reduce and minimise the global energy transfer to the urban environment. Architects have focused on being efficient and “less bad”4 for countless years to minimise the impact of the construction industry. However, this reduction can only be influenced through architecture by a limited degree if we continue using the existing materials and construction methods which gained prevalence in the Victorian times, when sustainability was by far the last concern for designers.

A Renewable resources are natually replaced and can be infinetly used.

The problem may essentially be the way we think that is the solution to our environmental challenges. “It would be like saying we should all have our heads shaved so we don’t need shampoo”5. In recent years, W. McDonough, researcher and American Architect cites the concept of EcologismB: a political ideology based on the protection of the environment by reducing the negative effects of all badly made design. “Human beings don’t have a pollution problem; they have a design problem” [4]. Why not make shampoo that doesn’t pollute rather than shaving our heads?

B Ecologism is a political ideology suggesting that non-human is also worthy of moral condsiderations.

Gradually moving to an age of ecology, it has been increasingly, acknowledged that the limitation in dealing with sustainability in architecture is largely based on the existing construction materials. In 2009 N. Spiller and R. Armstrong proposed an innovative approach suggesting the connection of the built environment with embedded links to natural systems, supporting a drastic departure from inert traditional design methods.

1 Ramsden, J. (2010), pp. 179-95. 2 World Nuclear Association (2013) 3 Kuhlman, T. and Farrington, J. (2010), pp. 3436-441.

4 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2012), pp. 25-49. 5 Co.Exist (2013) 11


1.2 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this dissertation is to study the architectural design outcomes in order to move towards a practice of a new environmental synthesis in the ecological era. Therefore the objectives towards this aim, are: - To review the effect of the construction industry on environmen tal sustainability. - To re-define parameters of sustainability such as eco-design, green, recycling and upcycling. - To discuss the architectural practices in reflection to ecological living systems. The dissertation is titled: Architecture in The Age of Ecology; towards a practice of a new environmental synthesis.


(Re)Defining Terminology


The formation of words such as ‘environmental’, ‘green’ and ‘ecological’ can be traced back to the early 1970s1 when the labellingA concept embodied the notion that our building design should primarily take account of its relationship and impact on the natural environment. Other labels such as ‘solar’, ‘passive’ and ‘low energy’ emerged from the same period referring to the concept of reducing reliance of non-renewable resources in building operation1.

A The term label here expresses the strategy employed for these terms to achieve their conceptual strategies and outcomes.

Formerly, it was the protection of the inhabitant from it’s surrounding environment that was adequately known as the major image of “good architecture”. Whereas in later years it was the environment seen as needing protection from the pollution caused by human habitation1. In the present day, the term sustainability has a wider understanding in the popular conception than just the protection of the environment. Looking back at the traditional study of environmentalism, this was essentially a project focusing on the protection, preservation, restoration and conservation of nature. Therefore it seems necessary to regularly define such labels to avoid them from becoming an overused cliché.

1 Williamson, T., Radford, A., Bennetts, H. (2003), pp. 1-17.



2.1 Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture was a reviewed concept of architecture in response to the many contemporary interests concerning the effect of human activity1. Sustainability can be explained as a definition and or a process2. The definition being: “The impact of an action to be positive; now and for its next generations”. The process being: “Reviewing the action against its objectives for modification, remedial actions and any offset development”2. In other words the definition of sustainability requires the process to materialise. Fortunately, the idea of “sustainability” has gained popularity across many sectors – although a clear understanding of this term may be contested. For example; does sustainability mean discovering ways to continue doing what is already done, but with less damaging impact? Or does it mean essentially re-thinking and reconstructing our designs and processes altogether? Perhaps sustainable development made by humans in a global framework is not a fixed state but more a process of change in the direction of investment in our resources. The concept of sustainability in architecture can be as simplified as the energy flow control between natural and built structures3 to minimise the negative environmental impact through efficiency in the use of energy, materials and development spaces4. This will effectively ensure that our actions will not obstruct opportunities for future generations.

1 Williamson, T., Radford, A., Bennetts, H. (2003), pp. 1-17. 2 Emas, R. (2015) 3 Armstrong, R. (2010), pp. 73. 4 Dublin Institute of Technology (2001) 16


2.2 What is Green?

In architectural context, the word ‘green’ is adequately comprehensive to an environmentally responsible process or system. However, the controversy is that if a truly ‘green’ architectural language or system has been recognised in the past, it is more varied and extensive1. This will be a surprise to the group who associate green either with the modern add-on engineering appliances or with an extreme strand that may come under the term ‘deep ecology’A and has a visual reference that possibly comes under ‘organic’ in a perceivably unvarnished and literal manner1 e.g. The Fallingwater by F. L. Wright (see figure 2.1).

A An environmental movement regarding human life and its role in protecting the environmnet.

Figure 2.1 The Fallingwater was referred to as the natural evolution of dealing with nurturing, due to its previously untapped technology of utilising cantilevers to avoid demolition of environmental context. Many see The Fallingwater as an inspiring focus on sustainability and ecological issues [2].

1 Porteous, C. (2002), pp. 45-51. 2 Jaffe, E. ( 2008)



Figure 2.2 (A) “Stacking Green” by Vo Trong Nghia Architects in Saigon, Vietnam. The dwelling is described as green, “concerning ecological approaches” the structure also holds a garden roof top [5]. (B) Vo Trong Nghia also blends a mix of greenary with a concrete structure hanging gardens on the Babylon Hotel “immersed in a nature friendly environment” [6].



There is no misgiving in the fact that such generic terms carry an enormous scope when applied in architecture and tend to vary among different writers1. However, at the mere architectural end, the common objective of “green” is reducing the global impact of the built environment on nature2. In the Twentieth Century, green architecture brought together a vast collection of techniques to reduce the impact of buildings using renewable resources, for example the use of Photovoltaic equipment, green roofs and rain gardens3. As a result, green architecture became synonymous with visually green facades in harmony with natural features and resources surrounding the site. However, while the practices and studies are constantly evolving, we may have to begin to move on from such definitions - colloquially denoted to as “gling” (green bling) by architect Richard Rogers4, to translate a better understanding of what green necessitates in an ecological era. Perhaps a slightly more natural and pure outcome than just an urban greenhouse. 1 Porteous, C. (2002), pp. 45-51. 2 U.S. Environment protection Agency (2014) 3 Wikipedia (2016) Green Building 4 Armstrong, R. (2010), pp. 74.

5 Oki, H. (2012) 6 Oki, H. ( 2015)



2.3 Ecological Design

Ecological architecture, similar to green architecture, developed into a contemporary field of design culture1. The unsustainable design principles developed during the industrial revolution2 (see Chapter 3) propositioned a design field to help connect scattered works in “sustainable”, “green”, “eco-city”A, “eco-tecture”B etc. all into one category3. In the process of broadening the study of environmental development, ecodesignC was later interconnected to industrial ecologyD to derive human technical issues by conceptualising natural ecosystems3. Nevertheless ecological design was merely referred to as the additional environmental factor of a design process. Defined by S. Cowan and S. Van der Ryn an ecological design is4: “Any form of design that minimises environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes.” Although I have grown to agree with the idea of categorising eco-deign and believe it must not be perceived as a particular type of architecture that is observed in a particular way. I find that, on the contrary, ecological design is more than just “minimising” environmentally destructive impacts, particularly in this era. It is best for our labeling system to become more restrictive to enhance the aim of a true ecological design. It is highly valued and understood why environmentalists have dedicated decades on declining towards zero but the desire to head to zero can only be a midpoint or a crossing point on the graph (Figure 2.3).

1 Fallahi F. (2012), pp. 88-94. 2 Papanek, V (1985) 3 Anne-Marie Willis (1991) 4 Van der Ryn S., Cowan S.(1996), pp 18. 19

A A city designed and built based on the principles of living within the means of the environment. B Architecture that is influenced by concerns for ecological and environmental impacts. C Ecological Design D The study of energy flows and materials through industrial systems.


By the current system, the ascending diagonal line starting below the axis is and can well climb to reach zero. But what if we push this system for the line to reach further up above zero moving into the positive axis? This would result in a more beneficial solution where the system not only “minimises” the destructive impacts but also works in favour to the biosphere. As understood by W. McDonough, we do not need to have less negative environmental footprint after so much damage has been done: we can have a positive footprint by exceedingly following methods such as upcycling1. Figure 2.3 Figure shows a conceptual thinking towards how one should begin to think about environmental ecological movements. W. McDonough explains that our current sustainable technologies and approaches are only just managing or hoping to achieve what we see on the bottom half of the graph. The idea being that we should begin to work above the negative axis to do “more good” rather than “less bad” [1].


McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2012), pp 25-49.



2.4 Recycling or Upcycling?

McDonough discussing a ‘Cradle to Cradle’ system1 first introduced the notion of upcycling2. It was argued that every product exists within a nutrient cycle2 and by use of good design we can protect them from ending at landfill sites (cradle to grave). As common as recycling has been for most of human history3, the notion implies the conversion of waste into reusable materials4. So if recycling and upcycling both suggest reuse, how do the two differ? There seems to be a degree of confusion around the definition of upcycling; upcycling does not imply in reusing an object as another (i.e. using old shoes as plant pots - see figure 2.45) since the value is decreased and will eventually expire at the grave end of the cycle. There is of course a critical division between the two notions and it is key to distinguish the views. Figure 2.4 An example of the confusion in the true definition of upcycling. The gain of popularity in such words begin to define misinterpretations. In this example being; upcycling is not making an object reusable as literally as using old shoes as plant pots [5].

1 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2002) 2 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2012), pp. 14-15 3 McCorquodale, D. (2006) 4 Wikipedia (2016) Recycling 5 Mogg, K. (2015) 21


A Atmosphere of planet Earth occupied by living organisms. B The sphere of technologiaclly modified human activites.

While recycling turns ‘waste’ into a reusable material1, upcycling ‘borrows’ material to then ‘return’ the product back to its initial nutrient cycle – biosphereA or technosphereB (see figure 2.52). Upcycling suggests designing materials differentiating between either technical or biological nutrients that can be repeatedly used at the same level of value2. Whereas recycling prevents waste to reduce consumption, reduce air pollution, reduce water pollution3 etc., in upcycling, there is no such word as “waste”, as McDonough adds, “Away has gone away” to discontinue contamination of the biosphere2, 4.

Figure 2.5 Figure is a graphic representation of the two nutrient cycles W. McDonough refers to in defining upcycling and material cycles [4].

1 Recycling vs. Upcycling: What is the difference? (2010) 2 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2012), pp. 14-15. 3 PM’s advisor hails recycling as climate change action. (2006) 4 McDonough, W. (2016)



Figure 3.1 Time from the industrial revolution severely damaged the urban context as well as the atmospheric pollutions. Figure shows river Irwell heavily polluted by industry, as pictured in this photograph [1].

Figure 3.2 In the 18th Century, a wide population of people moved to cities where countless factories had activated in manufacturing which had in effect provided many job opportunities [2].

1 Radcliffe (1902) 2 Quantumleap Alchemy (2016)


Environmental Revolutions


This chapter deals with the influence of different historical techno-economic periods in architecture. Therefore, the effects of influenced architectural design on environment will be described in three techno-economic periods: industrial revolution, Twentieth and the Twenty-First Centuries, and the current situation in the construction industry.

3.1 Industrial Revolution

In the Mid-Eighteenth Century, the industrial revolution renovated the modern world; a revolution that offered humans an increasing control of the potential of fossil fuels. The Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries tapped into using coal to power engines, generating electricity, while the modern sanitation systems led to a huge human population explosion; all of these continue to have an impact to this present day1. In terms of construction the industrial revolution marked a diverse modification from the regular brick, mortar and timber constructions into the world of glass, concrete, iron and steel2. This transformation was rather successful and relatively fast-paced as the change from an agricultural age to one of industrialisation took place in just under a century. A huge progression in factories took place; and cities expanded as more of the population moved away from their lives in agriculture towards manufacture and the island nation began forming vast lines of railroads and canals3.

1 Hilgenkamp, K. (2006), pp. 1-18. 2 Wikipedia (2013) History of Construction 3 Bradford, De Long J. (2000)



3.2 Twentieth Century Environmentalism

A Whereby a functioning city gradually falls apart, in this case due to environmnetal impacts. B The spread and expansion of urban development caused by population growth.

In the Twentieth Century, the intensification of land use, population growth, industrialisation, urban decayA, suburban sprawlB, pollution, and new knowledge of the human impact on nature gave rise to the conservation movement and policy approaches to limit and lessen damage to the environment1. The early Twentieth Century saw the formation of environmental education movements2 growing in popularity and recognition. Efforts began to save wildlife to a degree; Britain’s ‘Forestry Commission’ set up in 1919 increased woodlands3 to help reduce carbon footprint by locking up carbon emissions in forestation. Trans-boundary and even global impacts started to demonstrate that the concerns would need responses that were often international. Economists began developing a ‘sustainable’ economy that used renewable resources in the 1930s4, 5. Environmental artist and landscape designer A. Sonfists’ installation “Army Ants: Patterns and Structures” - 1972, compared human interactions to army ant movements in the city6. “Army Ants” (see fig. 3.3) is perhaps how environmentalism was understood in the era: an interest in the link between human and the environment that may have not necessarily committed to eco determinism or an early governmental plug-in for saving the environment6. Nevertheless ecology began to gain acceptance during this era with many studies vital to sustainability e.g. the biosphere and the importance of natural cycles2.

1 Bradford, De Long J. (2000) 2 Worster, D. (1994) 3 Forestry Commission (2015) 4 Hotelling, H. (1931), pp. 137–75.

5 Hartwick, J. (1976), pp. 137–75. 6 Benson, E. (2014)



Figure 3.3 “Army Ants: Patterns and Structures” by Alan Sonfist. This work represents the characteristics of ‘a million’ army ants in comparison to human interactions. The order in which they build and provide houses or re-organise their environmental surroundings [8].

During the second half of the Twentieth Century cyberneticsC began as an interdisciplinary study connecting the fields of complex control systems suited to the organisations discovered in nature1. Cybernetics enabled a better understanding of complex processes and how they function. Defined by mathematician N. Wiener, derived concepts such as communication and control of “Animal and The Machine”2 allow process information to respond to feedback, and alter for better performance3. In Sonfist’s paradigm, cyberneticians found that ants provided a complete biological model of complex behaviors. The unclear line between the two conceptions of the environment: cybernetic systems and natural systems subsequently focused on broader studies of communication and information of human and the environment.

C The study of complex systems in respect to their nature that can create artificial intellegence based on.

The late Twentieth Century saw environmental problems become global in scale4,5, global thinking moved towards more complex prospects of the environment and ecological education. Rapid environmental degradation and the global growth of human population are already defining limits of our former notions of unbounded opportunity that consumes, rather than sustains, the biosphere6. Modern humans will have to come to a compromise with the restraints in order to find balance, or face the rushing truth that will be our future7.

1 Jean-Pierre Dupuy, J.P. (1989) 2 Wiener, N. (1948) 3 Patten, B.C. and Odum. E.P. (1981), pp. 886-95. 4 Reid, W.V. at al. (2005), pp. 1-85.

5 Turner, G. (2008), pp. 397-411. 6 Sustainability and the U.S. EPA (2011) 7 Rothstein, ‘Principles of the Sustainability, Chapter 1 8 Sonfist, A. (1972) 27


3.3 Twenty-First Century Global Awareness

The degradation of the global environment during the Twentieth Century, led to the revolution and development of a new thinking about the relationship of human activity with the natural world1. Now the early Twenty-First Century where global awareness of the enhancing greenhouse affects is notably increasing, according to the climate scientists in in the IPCC2, 3. The shift in our understanding of the global environmental crisis, triggered by industrial capitalism, resulted in an innovative approach in the past decade. The concept of living architecture, similar to green architecture, looks to solve the ecological complications we face by forming artificial biological systems. The Twenty-First Century has conveyed a new set of questions that require a new approach to the production of architecture. Researchers are to use the expanded knowledge from the past to respond to and solve these new obstacles. This will enhance the current fabricated environment in tune with its newfound restraints. In the form of a pure organism or in other popular cases using a biological co-ordination in conjunction with a mechanical structure to create an arrangement of organic machines4. This may be feasible and yet the desirable approach to accomplish in this journey.

1 NZCER (2009) 2 Earth System Research Laboratory, ‘Carbon Cycle Science’. 3 BBC News, UK (2008) 4 Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (2010)



3.4 Current Construction Industry

One of the many concerns is of the environmental impact caused by current construction materials. It is costly in terms of its manufacturing process, composing and disposing procedure considering how little these “technical nutrients�1, which include materials not continuously created by the biosphere (e.g. metals, plastics etc.) offer back to us at the end of their cycle. Figure 3.4 represents the stages in building construction starting from the design stage to the point of demolition - The arrow length represents the duration of each process and the colours are a reflective representation of the most CO2 emitters, where darker colours are most environmental effective. Figure 3.4 Life cycle of a building: Design: Carbon dioxide emissions occur from early stages of the cycle. However, only at the design process can this value be reduced. Manufacture: Emissions at this stage are associated with domestic production and embodied emissions. Distribution: Transport emissions. On-site Operations: Direct and indirect emissions (i.e. combustion). In-Use Emission: Emissions caused by the building performance. Demolish: Process of demolition and waste removal [2].

1 BBC News, UK (2008) 2 Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (2010)



In the UK, the main three materials typically used for construction purposes are timber, steel and concrete1. While the production industries of these materials aim for greater sustainable and environmentally friendly formulations, and are in some cases achieving this, predominantly the matter yet remains within the inherent properties and the physical nature of the materials. As a means of comparison, it is worth observing the three consecutive materials by looking at their respective carbon emissions (kgCO2 /kg of produced material). The primitive production of steel in the early twentieth century revolutionized the world of architecture as it allowed assembly for more lightweight structures with larger spans2,3. Steel is currently manufactured for structural sections and galvanized stripping between 0.76 to 1.35 kgCO2/kg respectively, according to the Cradle to Grave report4. It can be vastly recyclable or even entirely recovered from a demolished building, to form products of the same quality. Due to its distinct property of high strength to weight ratio, less is generally used in comparison to other construction materials (see table 3.1)4. Similarly, concrete became extremely widespread in the twentieth century since it could be cast into any shape5, 6. Research shows around 40 million tonnes of concrete are produced annually in the UK; this quantity comprises all concrete framed structures, building foundations and mortar used for brickwork7. From 0.163 to 0.593 kgCO2 /kg is manufactured for pure concrete and steel reinforced concrete, respectively8. However, the fact of the matter remains that once concrete reaches the end of its cycle, it is either ground into hard-core or piled into landfill8, since it is not easily recycled. A The process of removing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in either a solid or liquid for form. B The process of burning accompanied by the production of Carbon Dioxide.

Timber has been commonly used for thousands of years due to its versatile nature and according to TRADA, glulam is currently manufactured at 1.1kgCO2 /kg8, 9. Timber may seem ecologically beneficial to many, as it removes CO2 through sequestrationA however recent publications indicate that, in the UK, up to 80% of timber demolition goes to landfill8; consequently returning contained CO2 back into the atmosphere through combustionB.

1 TATA steel, Life Cycle Assessment (2014), pp. 11. 2 Ochshorn, J. (2003) 3 Sennott, R. S. (2004), pp. 53-71. 4 TATA steel, Life Cycle Assessment (2014), pp. 23. 5 Gaudette, P. and Slaton, D. (2007), pp. 1-3.

6 Gaudette, P. and Slaton, D. (2007), pp. 4-6. 7 The Sustainable Concrete Forum (2012) 8 TATA steel, Life Cycle Assessment (2014) 9 TRADA (2011)


Ecological Design Approach: Case Study

This chapter outlines the new ecological approaches that reflect on environmental concerns in architectural design. Furthermore, the current designed cases that have followed these ecological approaches, will also be reviewed.

Architecture is fundamentally linked to ecological concerns on several levels: architectural principle theory shares in the philosophical, artistic discourses of the atmosphere, scientific, construction and building use. The last two have the most severe physical effects on the ecosphere implied by human1; an assembled environment as a spatial frame forming human relations and approaches. On one hand, context shows architecture as an observed impression of the leading social spirit of its age; on the other hand, architecture is seen as a form of media that shape the past, present and our future approaches1, 2. These methods then empower architecture with potentials that may affect the ecological crisis and the responsibilities associated. Prior to professional considerations, we should define the ethical standards of construction and for most, the principle of doing no harm. Human responsibility begins from understanding the ecological relationships, respecting the ecosphere’s complexity and finally identifying the limitations of our knowledge.

1 Dinur, B. (2004) 2 Lockton, D. (2011)




The construction materials we currently use rely on processes which can effectively harm the environment we inhabit1. Uncountable constructions are single faceted; this system will only offer little in return to the sites they occupy, when fully assembled. Through the advances in technology we have achieved in the past thirty years towards the study of sustainability, we must begin to reflect the ecological needs of our age. Fortunately researchers are beginning to approve of this conception and as a result working to generate new systems to solve the problems that will most likely ensue in the future. To begin with, one should consider how a structure could be constructed in its most ecological way. It is sensed that today, we are more concerned with ‘economy’ to be completed, or it is perhaps overwritten by sustainability in terms of ‘ecological economy’2. Ecological architecture must convey a measure of the universal ecological impact as opposed to the ‘investor’ side. Of course generally, financial economics perform an important role in delivering environmental development3, but the classification of the two must not be confused. Instead of the ‘high-tech’ systems we saw in the Twentieth Century for a more ‘sustainable’ living using properties of living systems practices with rather less processed, natural, biological materials and structures is recommended. The architectural conception of natural systems can be adequate in generating new sets of materials in the production of living systems4.

1 Dixon, W. (2010) 2 Wikipedia (2015) Ecological economics. 3 Everett, T., Ishwaran, M., Ansaloni, G. P. and Rubin, A. (2010), pp. 14-21. 4 Armstrong, R. (2015), pp. preface.



4.1 Biomimicry

An innovative approach appeared as early as 19821 and gained popularity through the work of J. Benyus in 19972 that suggested the extraction of novel strategies from nature and termed this quest ‘biomimicry’. This method implies intent to integrate nature with a design process by imitating nature’s shapes and forms3. In “Innovation Inspired by Nature” Benyus articulates that the forms, systems and processes found in nature, compared to our technologies, are truly ingenious3. Most of todays technologies are based on abundant amounts of chemical, thermal and mechanical energy in order to achieve desired performance characteristics. Using sustainable manufacturing techniques such as, locally available materials, ambient temperatures and water-based chemistry, nature has indeed achieved better performance characteristics. It is said that by both the concepts and the tools biomimicry provides, we can design products and processes or in other words, new ways of living, that are well adapted to life on earth over the long term3.

1 Connie Lange, M. (1982) 2 Benyus, J. M. (1997) 3 Benyus, J. M. (1997), pp.1-10.



4.1.1 Gherkin Tower

A A rigid outer structure as the shell for protection and support of the oraganism.

London’s commercial skyscraper “Gherkin Tower” led by N. Foster in 20031, was modelled on the structure of a Venus Flower Basket (see fig. 4.1)2. The biomimetic design with its “strong, cylindrical, lattice-like exoskeleton” handholds sustainability as a core value3, 4. The concept was to design a tall structure extending public space at ground level while offering natural ventilation to the office floors above3. The sea sponge naturally hosts a lattice-like exoskeletonA, which in its underwater environment appears glassy and lustrous. The fibrous lattice retained on various levels prevents stress on the organism and the cylindrical form help to reduce forces due to strong underwater currents2 – all which were applied to the design of the tower (see fig 4.2 (B) and Fig. 4.3). The circular plan being the key feature of the ventilation strategy creates six spiralling atriums (see fig. 4.2 (A)) around the parameter minimising wind turbulence by driving a cross-flow system3. Enhanced by the pressure variation, the atriums perform as the lungs of the building. This system helps exhausting the hot air keeping the interior cool5.

Figure 4.1 Figure shows a (dried) Venus Flower Basket. It is naturally made of glass-like fibres that are made from natural protein filaments and is able to transmit light. N. Foster’s Gherkin Tower was biomimetically inspired by this sea sponge [6].

1 EMPORIS, 30 St Mary Axe, London. 2 Ehsaan (2010) 3 White, F. (2012) 4 Shen, Y. (2009)

5 Williams, A. (2002), pp. 25-35. 6 Textile Innovation Blog (2014)



Figure 4.2 (A) An over-view of the Gherkin Tower showing the bio-adapted design of the Venus Flower Basket. The darker spiral patterns are the internal atriums providing a natural ventilation system [2]. (B) The design was also aesthetically adapted by the sea sponge in terms of its glassy and lustrous nature - N. Foster uses an entire glass faced creating similar illusions [3].


(B) Figure 4.3 The three diagrams in this figure show the idea of wind turbulence and cross flow systems being a key a factor of the design and explain for every feature of the finished structure [1].

However, despite the ecological concept and appearance, the naturally ventilated biomimetic design of the tower is currently virtually impractical. It was found that tenants were not so concerned about the savings and opted for comfort by utilizing air conditioning packages (broadly mandatory for the top floors) and building partitions for confidentiality blocking the natural air flow1. The iconic design consequently remains ‘sustainable’ merely at a conceptual level, which could perhaps oppose against the ultimate solution biomimicry promises to be. 1 Shen, Y. (2009) 2 Macdiamid, P. (2015) 3 Moussavi, F. (2004)



4.1.2 Ethics of Biomimicry

Biomimicry is undoubtedly revolutionary in its implications for human systems of construction as a design concept. It is argued that our psycho-cultural patterns of desire as well as systems of production should be re-organised in accordance with the principles of biomimicry in order to collectively achieve integration with nature1. However it seems that the concept is in essential need of an additional philosophical elaboration and improvement. There is an ethically significant uncertainty in biomimicry that must be formerly discussed before one can decide if biomimicry is the bio-inclusive, sustainable outcome2. The notion of biomimicry, and the concept of a second industrial revolution based on it moved us much nearer to the goal of environmental ecological integrity2. Although, as previously mentioned, it appears relatively ethically under-developed still with a few ambiguities remaining in the concept. Advocates of the notion of biomimicry believe humanity should model production and organisation of all systems on nature; forming material culture according to the same principles that shape natural entities and systems2. With such an approach, human behaviour is blended back into natural systems to not so much reduce environmental impact but to make generative impact for nature. Benyus states nature’s nine basic design principles as the way of achieving our goal of sustainability1:

[see next page]

1 Benyus, J. M. (1997), pp. 7. 2 Mathews, F. (2011), pp. 364-87.



> > > > > > > > >

Nature runs on sunlight Nature uses only the energy it needs Nature fits form to function Nature recycles everything Nature rewards co-operation Nature banks on diversity Nature demands local expertise Nature curbs excesses from within Nature taps the power of limits

Of course these processes do, as Benyus says, “sweeten” the earth: “Life creates conditions conductive to life in everything it does, besides just meeting its own needs”1. While designer W. McDonough also deems that the scale of human consumption is not the issue; therefore industrial output reduction will not solve the problem. He states that regenerating nature by ‘re-designing’ industrial production is the way forward as oppose to depleting and degrading it2. But does this describe biomimicry as the “next industrial revolution”? In the nine principles of biomimicry, nature is identified in terms of the design strategies and life systems to direct human systems in using these strategies in their design practice1. However the principles Benyus states seem very descriptive rather than explanatory. Observing e.g. “Nature runs on sunlight” and “nature banks on diversity” in no way render together in a logical order. As stated by F. Mathews: “We can only truly get inside the mind-set of nature by understanding the reasons i.e. why it runs on sunlight and why it banks on diversity”3 – from that we may start ‘re-designing’ our world. The current interpretation of the notion finds that advocates are not only suggesting the use of biomimicry as a design tool, but rather to “act within nature” suggesting the idea of grounding all human actions according to the principles of nature.

1 Benyus, J. M. (1997), pp.1-10. 2 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2012), pp. 53-83. 3 Mathews, F. (2011), pp. 364-87.



However, the idea of biomimicry tackling all human complications might just be taking an exceedingly narrow look at our environmental challenges on a global scale. It is rather more crucial to find what the life system wants us to find in achieving environmental sustainability. How feasible is it really for humanity to suddenly face a lifestyle that entirely cuts out artifactual systems and merely dwells on the principles of nature? It seems unnecessary to convert modern humans to an inflexible metaphysics of nature in order to perform ecologically, when we have already recognised that sustainability only requires a connection with living systems and that is what the current industrial approach is lacking1. J. Kaplinsky argues for the potential of “human design” instead of “lazy design” referring directly to biological ideas. As architects we anticipate in generating form, and while biological studies open up possibilities in structural design, Kaplinsky states that at the same time biomimicry in some way devalues the human design2. Therefore idolising natural processes may not be the best way of approaching a design problem. However Kaplinsky’s impression of humanism seems out-dated as there is no denying that architects are still humanistically adopting biomimicry. Biomimicry is not “lazy design” but it is most important to find a right balance with alternative methods rather than using it as a single design tool (read more in section 5.2) – in other words, as long as it is used appropriately.

1 Mathews, F. (2011), , pp. 364-87. 2 Ian, A. Schwinge, J. and Kaplinsky, J. (2006), pp. 66-71.



4.2 New Materials

During the industrial epoch in the UK, the air in more populated cities such as London began to thicken with smog of poisonous pollutants composed from gases the new built factories emitted. To improve air conditions and the health of the city’s population, a type of hybrid tree named “Plantus x Acerifolia”A was planted across the city. This particular plant is able to extract the impurities from its surrounding air and store them in the pores found on the bark of the tree. Once the pores are filled, barks fragment renews and falls to expose a fresh replacement layer underneath (see fig. 4.4)1.

A Type of tree in the genus Platanus, known as London Planetree.

Figure 4.4 Figure shows the process in which the bark of the tree renews once the pores are filled the surrounding air pollution [2].

Figure 4.5 The leaves of a Plantus x Acerifolia: by becoming aware of our surround living materials we can start to implement similar characteristics to form new ‘life-like’ materials to build with [3].

1 Wikipedia (2015) Platanus × acerifolia. 2 Davis Landscape Architecture (2011) 3 Davis Landscape Architecture (2015)



4.2.1 The Exhale Project

A A chemical process by plants accompanied by tempreture, Carbon Dioxide, and light intensity.

The biological material ‘Exhale’ (see fig. 4.6) designed by the design engineer and innovator of new materials, J. Melchiorri in 2014 gained much attention as both projects were seen as forays into the world of capturing and operating photosynthesisA1.

B Unicellular microscpic marine living systems which exist individually.

This system was aimed for more urban states that are generally considered to be out of nature’s reach, by taking the efficiency of nature and employing that in the artificial environment1. Exhale is inspired by the process of photosynthesis to create a system that could be implemented through artificial means. This relatively small-dimensioned element consists of a silk protein vessel, culture of micro-algaeB and a liquidised solution. Fundamentally these components can be any shape or size due to their modular nature. The structure of the silk sacks allow the micro algae to be stored safely while letting air in for respiration purposes. Therefore, every Exhale component works to consume CO2, while providing oxygen and only producing very little biomass that can later be incinerated to generate power2. Research shows around 45-70% of the planets atmospheric oxygen is produced by salt-water algae and cyanobacteria1. According to BIOS-3 closed ecosystem at the institute of Biophysics, for every living being 8m2 of exposed algae is required to replace the produced CO2 with oxygen3. This product can essentially be modularised for numerous applications such as an air purification system1.

1 Melchiorri, J. (2015) 2 Dezeen and mini frontiers (2014) 3 Wikipedia (2012) BIOS-3. 42


Exhale might not be a direct structural response for construction purposes but a new material formed in the production of living systems. Exhale can be applied as a form of tiled cladding system or be implemented alongside an ecological building design. Melchiorri also states that as airflow increases, the efficiency of the Exhale product is further enhanced. As a result this component can be positioned atop many ventilation exhausts and building services or in his example seen in fig 4.7 and 4.8, to allow immediate exchange of CO2 with replaced oxygenated air1. Figure 4.6 J. Melchiorri’s ‘inspired by natural mechanism’ Exhale material explores the potential for even processes as common and well known as the process of photosynthesis [1].

Figure 4.7 Melchiorri’s example renders presenting his work in ways it can be used as air purification systems [1].

1 Melchiorri, J. (2015) Exhale.


Figure 4.8 Melchiorri’s example renders presenting Exhale as a replacement material of our current claddings for future structures to enhance the surrounding air quality and its environmental context [1]. 1 Melchiorri, J. (2015). Exhale.



4.2.2 Silk and Leaf Project

Melchiorri’s second novelty work Silk Leaf, portrayed as “The First ManMade Biological Leaf�, correspondingly follows a similar concept as the Exhale project, attempting to control using the process of photosynthesis, by utilising chloroplastA in plants instead of micro-algae1.

A A natural found resource in plants and algae, which essentially supplements the chemical reaction of photosynthesis taking place.

The Silk Leaf is a direct extraction from natural fibres of silk protein with a distinctive ability in stabilising organellesB. Taking advantage of this property, by predominantly placing chloroplast extract from living plant cells onto a silk mesh to generate a stable product that is proficient yet controllable, in processing photosynthesis1. This bio-oriented material is said to generate an optimized volume of oxygen in comparison to a conventional leaf dependent on particular factors (see list below), foremost given that it is exposed to sufficient levels of light and water for survival purposes1.

B A structure with specialised functions in cell biology.

> Quantity of chloroplast per unit of material > Composition of chloroplast > Efficiency of chloroplast > NanobionicC interventions on chloroplast (49% increase) > Genetic modification

C Consisting of Nano living organisms.

1 Melchiorri, J. (2015) Silk Leaf.


Figure 4.9 Melchiorri’s example renders presenting Exhale as a replacement material of our current claddings for future structures to enhance the surrounding air quality and its environmental context [1]. 1 Melchiorri, J. (2015).



The modularity of the Leaf, significantly comparable to Exhale, enables this product to be shaped into any form and dimension. Due to the benefits of carbon dioxide absorption and replaced oxygenated air, the different applications of the Leaf may involve use inside ventilation systems as a more lightweight approach than costly mechanical systems to purify air, or cladding for interiors1. The two components by Melchiorri, do not necessarily structurally favour the ecological construction industry we aim to achieve. However, they are examples of how natural processes can be imitated to discover new group of materials using properties of living systems. In this case first and foremost an air purification system and a biomass generator. These may be sustainably mass-produced to reduce building carbon footprint.

Figure 4.10 Mechiorri’s Silk Leaf project inspired by the natural physical phenomena. Also Known for the first man made leaf [1].

1 Melchiorri, J. (2015). Silk Leaf.



4.2.3 Self Healing Concrete

Concrete, known as the world’s most popular construction material, can withstand high compressive forces but performs poorly under tension resulting in cracks1. The repair of these cracks are costly and time consuming, yet necessary. A healing agent was found to resolve the problem of concrete structures deteriorating; Mineral-producing bacteria, introduced by microbiologist H. Jonkers in 2006, embedded in the concrete converted nutrients into limestone2. On a wider scale the programme studied the self-healing potential of polymers, composites, plastics, metals and asphalt as well as concrete2. Working closely on the properties of steel and concrete reinforcement, in 2011 Jonkers developed a full-scale outdoor self-healing concrete3, 4. A An earobic rod-shaped bacteria.

This product is designed to biologically produce limestone; A supplemental combination of bacteria genus BacillusA, calcium lactateB, nitrogen and phosphorus added to the concrete mix works as a self-healing agent dormant within concrete for up to 200 years5. The pallet holding the healing agent will compromise approximately 20% of concrete volume, which inconveniently in effect weakens the concrete by 25%. However once rainwater leaks through the damaged structure, the bacterium is activated and begins to feed on the calcium lactate [1]. This procedure consumes oxygen converting soluble calcium lactate to insoluble limestone [2] in the process3. The cracked surface is permanently sealed as the limestone solidifies; increasing the lifespan of concrete structures and lessening maintenance. Where: 5CO2 + 5Ca(OH)2 5CaCO3+ 5H20 (Carbon Dioxide + Calcium Hydroxide Limestone + Water)


Ca(C3H5O2)2 + 7O2 CaCO3 + 5CO2 + 5H2O (Calcium Lactate + Oxygen Limestone + Carbon Dioxide + Water)


1 Wikipedia (2016) Properties of concrete. 2 Damian, A. ( 2011) 3 Boelens, R., Goedhart, J., Jagers, S., Oldenkamp, R. (2012)

4 Palin, D., V. Wiktor, and Jonkers. H (2014), pp.105-08. 5 Vekariya, M. S., Pitroda, J. (2013), pp. 4128-136.



Figure 4.11 An example of a severly damadged concrete support beam which will require a complete repair to save the structure from failing .

Figure 4.12 (A) Image shows the surface of the self-healing concrete slab before the gap is filled [3].

(B) Image shows the visible filled crack, after the white limestone has set [3].

Bacteria could theoretically eradicate the wastage of 40 million tonnes of annually produced concrete, in the UK1. Effectively reducing the vast amounts of CO2 it releases in the process and therefore furthering the ecological benefits of this biological healing agent.

1 MPA, The Concrete Centre (2016). 2 InspectAPedia (2015 3 Palin, D., V. Wiktor, and Jonkers. H (2014). 49


4.2.4 ArchaID Synthetic Biology and Mineralisation

A Synthetic biology is the human intervention into nature. B A biological process controls spatial distribution of cells in an organism, in effect helping the organism to develop into a unique form. C The process of organisms, either internally or externally, produce mineral crystals in the nature.

D A type of bacterium (commonly found in soils) with the ability to precipitate outside the cell and endure extreme environmental conditions. E An aerobic rod-shaped bacteria with the ability to grow under anaerobic conditions (commonly found in soil). F A delicate sea creature, shaped of a shallow-ear shell and pierced with respiratory holes.

The ArchaID research team at Newcastle University have focused on synthetic biologyA to study the design and engineering of biological systems. The intention is to uncover new materials for a more “ecologically” built environment with a particular interest on morphogenesisB and bio-mineralisationC. The transformation of industrialisation with regards to architecture, means living architectural systems must work in harmony with the biological world. Rather than burning limited resources and taking away from nature, we could perhaps begin to “add” to nature instead1. This could be taking design by its example i.e. biomimicry or it could through a wider scope be human technologies applied to manage certain aspects of nature2, 3 in an attempt to attain sustainably viable clarifications to human challenges. In ArchaID’s 2015 publication, the team researched into bio-mineralisation of Bacillus pasteuriiD and Bacillus megateriumE. This study looked closely at the bacteria growth in varied conditions, a method to associate the bacteria to synthetic biology and the additional work required to create a new viable construction material1. There are many examples of bio-mineralisation in nature in forms of either: fortification of biological tissues to create structure (building other tissues upon) or protection of softer tissues e.g. hard shell of molluscs. The way the shell is formed in an abaloneF was taken as an example presenting a non-biological substance shaped from a biological process; the organism forms soft tissues by morphogenesis as it grows, while through bio-mineralisation, the crystallised arrangement of carbon and calcium build on the soft tissue as its framework. It was stated that organisms could form different shapes in certain substances from the same carbon and calcium. The external layers of the abalone are vertical forms of crystal building a tough outer shell, whereas flatter internal crystals give a more brittle property1.

1 Dade-Robertson, M., Figueroa, C. R., and Zhang, M. (2015), pp. 28-39. 2 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2012), pp. 23-49. 3 Dade-Robertson, M, Figueroa, R. C, and Zhang, M. (2015) 50


Among further findings, the single-celled bacterium was noticed to produce calcium carbonate crystals in particular conditions. The team built a thin passage in-between the two surfaces around the bacteria to see how growth of the calcium carbonate crystals is affected. As the bacteria grew along these imposed channels, the shape was effectively distorted1. Although at early stages, the method of bio-mineralisation seems feasible. The primary steps into understanding the process and controlling state spaces in which bacteria grows in, is encouraging. Using this knowledge, designers are further exposed to opportunities in speculating new materials for an age of ecology.

Figure 4.13 Figure shows electron microscopic images of the Bacillus Pasteurii [2]: (a) Bacteria with no provided calcium. (b) Spherical Calcium Carbonate crystals induced by Bacillus Pasteurii. (c) Close up view of the fractured surface of a crystal. (d) The connection between crystals with a network of fine filaments.

1 Dade-Robertson, M., Figueroa, C. R., and Zhang, M. (2015) , pp. 28-39. 2 Dade-Robertson, M., Figueroa, C. R., and Zhang, M. (2015) , pp. 6.



4.3 Living Systems

A renovation from the world of industrialisation in architecture allows the discovery of alternative ways living organic matter might be incorporated within mechanical systems to generate mechanisms of environmental control. A complete ecological and efficient solution for our built environment is aimed to be found using existing biological knowledge. Working alongside nature rather than against it may allow living organic machines to work, as do plants do, in harmony with the environment in terms of materiality and coordination1 – A thoroughly green architectural design approach sensibly based on a cradle-to-cradle system. One of many issues is of finite sum of fuel supply. Nuclear power stations are found to be an upright response to this issue by generating years of energy for very little fuel intake. However radioactive waste and lasting devastation on surrounding areas of land are the leading disadvantages2. Renewable energy technologies (e.g. wind turbines, solar panels etc.) are notably documented from explorations on sustainability in the past. Renewable energy could also be utilised in the form of biomass or more commonly produced in the form of specialised crops3. Biomass solar energy as a form of input to store energy in bio-materials (i.e. plants). The way in which this energy is stored is considerably more tied than e.g. electrical power in batteries from a photovoltaic panel or wind turbine.

1 Oxman, N. (2013) 2 Sarabeth, A. (2016) 3 European Climate Foundation (2010), pp. 47-48.



The local biomass plant transforms the harvest into energy in a carbon neutral manner1 – previously sequestered CO2 by the organism is released back into the atmosphere via combustion. Data shows at present in the UK, only 2% of the energy is produced from processing biomass production. In Germany more than 8% of the nation’s energy derives from the use of biomass and they have generated Germany’s first biomass PBRA to enhance this method of renewable energy2.

1 European Climate Foundation (2010), pp. 31-39. 2 Wurm, J. (2013), pp. 62-65.


A Photo-bioreactor.


4.3.1 BIQ House

A Strategic Science Consult.

The collaboration of Splitterwerk Architects, engineering firm ARUP and later on, SSCA hydrobiology firm, established a design crew in 2009 and announced to produce a bio-responsive façade1. Micro-algae being the first chosen organism appeared to be precisely efficient in generating biomass2. Similar to other plants, micro-algae operates photosynthesis for growth and survival. Its rate of growth unlike other living organisms, is much faster and more efficient in absorbing and converting solar into chemical energy. The micro-algae are cultured in transparent contained flat PBR panels with cultivating medium. The process takes up small areas of land and is wholly impartial to the environmental conditions outside of the PBR. Later on in the project, the team compromised to enclose stacks of residential units to generate a microclimate outside the building envelop as a ‘second skin’2 (See fig 4.15). The “bio-adaptive” system applied to the façade is noticeably a significant visual element of this design. However the concept of culturing micro-algae inside panels, to then be mechanically extracted to power the residential flats through biomass, is what is most rewarding.

Figure 4.15 (A) North facing view of the facade [3].



(B) South facing view of the facade after the second bioskin was employed. Only Southeast and Southwest elevations see the PBR panels for maximum light capture [3].

1 ARUP (2013), pp. 91. 2 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 16. 3 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 6-7. 54


The panels on the ‘BIQ House’, are fitted with additional air uplift technology: pressurised air generating a constant stream of rising bubbles is pumped through the panels (see fig. 4.16), causing stimulation for growth while supplying PBR with vital carbon dioxide for the process of photosynthesis.

A Photo-bioreactor.

Furthermore, the high movement velocity of the algae hybrid in water marks as a self-cleaning system – cleansing the internal transparent surface. Lastly, a conducted open field test found the PBR panels are proficient in converting daylight to biomass with an efficiency of 10%1. Figure 4.16 (A)The micro-algae inside the PBR Panels are pumped with pressurised causing a stream of rising bubbles [4]. (B)Each PBR panels with dimensions of floor to ceiling height for maximum sunlight captivation and biomass production [4].



This “Algae-powered” BIQ House in Hamburg, winning first prize for International Building Exhibition in 2010, gained a lot of interest to commercialise and encouraged further research more on the concept2. With the aid of Colt International, results led to the production of a functioning façade, installed in 20133. Further improved panels are 2500 mm to 700 mm, height to width respectively, and are Southeast and Southwest elevated (see fig. 4.15) for maximum sunlight captivation. Each Panel a storey high is a PBR filled with growing micro-algae. The structure of the PBR is built of four panes of glass (three cavities); the two outer cavities are air-insulated layers protecting the internal chamber. The internal chamber has a capacity of 24 Litres of algae and cultivation medium per panel. Every individual panel is hinged at two points to allow rotation for further sunlight captivation and prominently for occupants view4. 1 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 16. 2 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 14. 3 Splitterwerk, (2015), pp. 19. 4 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 50-59.


56 1 Splitterwerk (2014) Synthetic Design Biotopes


The BIQ structure has four storeys, holding 129 PBR panels1 on two elevations with a total net surface area of 200sqm of algae bio-skin2. The condition of every panel such as, air, nutrition and micro-algae growth for biomass levels, is accurately monitored in a dedicated “plant room” inside the house3. Temperature is the most crucial aspect of control in this system, as these are a living organism. ‘Plant room’ is calculated to operate panel temperatures at maximum 40°C. Since panels inherently trap solar thermal energy, a heat exchanger system is consequently used to extract excess heat, which is then used for other building services3. Approximately 15g of algae can be syphoned off every square meter of the façade, per day. Correspondingly generating ≈30kWh/m2 of façade surface, ≈150kWh/m2 net solar heat gain and 2.5 tonnes of sequestered CO2, per year3. The studies are yet to be continued, but the prospect and effectiveness of micro-algae systems are valuable and highly relevant for consideration in future ecological architectures. The remarkably sustainable energy concept of using renewable resources to generate heat and electricity effectively allows fossil fuels to remain untouched. Therefore this bio-reactor façade develops into more than just an ecological building, and rather forms an ecological cycle of solar thermal energy, geothermal energyA, local heat and the capture of biomass. Future façades in the ecological age will serve more than an aesthetic cladding for habitants’ protection against weather conditions.

1 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 19. 2 Taylor, D. (2013) 3 Splitterwerk (2015), pp. 22.


A Geothermal energy is the thermal energy from the Earth - sustainable and clean.


4.4 Other Algae Systems

4.4.1 EcoLogicStudio Though at a more conceptual level to the BIQ, further projects have been carried out to design similar technologies in response to the environmental challenges. The British architecture and urban design studio, EcoLogicStudio proposes to redefine current architectures to breed new practices for the ecosystem1. A Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene - A transparent flourine based polymer that is highly resistant to corrosion and extreme range of temperatures.

Projects such as the Algae Folly and the Urban Algae Canopy, both presented a 1:1 scale (see fig. 4.17 and fig.4.18) prototype at the 2015 “Feeding the Planet” exhibition in Milan, are interactive infrastructures and built examples of architecture’s ecological future. The innovative architectures use exceptional photosynthetic machines, micro-algae and ETFEA architectural skin systems to provide algae growth and human comfort. An installed digital regulation system is automatically activated by human presence to stimulate algae insulation, oxygenation and growth2, 3.

Figure 4.17 Figure shows a model of the Algae Folly - provides shade for human comfort while it activates a digital regulation system to stimulate algae to oxygenate, using growth and solar insulation [4].

1 EcoLogicStudio, Web. 2 EcoLogicStudio (2015) 3 EcoLogicStudio (2014) 4 Synthetic Design Biotopes (2015) 58


Figure 4.18 Figure shows the 1:1 model of the Urban Algae canopy. An experimental infrastructure studying properties of microalgae organisms by their captivation within a 3 layer ETFE cladding system [1].

Architecture conceives by representing ideas hence transforming to an ecological era will require constant updates and experiments to refine the vital flows of matter, information and energy of living ecology. Such projects are in the process of exploring forms and qualities between people and products to essentially visualise the ecological future. Additional research is necessary for improvement in scale and efficiency. The prospect of success in micro-algae systems and algae bio-skin faรงades is somewhat revolutionary. The system remains ecologically positive conditional on the sustainability of the mass production process.

1 Synthetic Design Biotopes (2014) 59


4.5 Biotechnology

It is perceptible that architecture is merging with biology and engineering, to form new methods of production. As well as architectural simulations, developments in synthetic biology, material sciences and biotechnologyA have also succeeded to a degree in the journey. We are beginning to see a new sense of hybrid technologies, materiality and living forms integrated within the built environment. Current prototypes based on the innovative use of progressive biotechnologies already appear but in smaller scales as reviewed in the previous chapter. Therefore it seems pertinent to begin operating biotechnology at a bigger scale to grow a series of systems to explore greater ecological systems in architecture. The Bartlett School of Architecture’s BiotA Lab, are currently working towards new modes of production through modelling and simulation. The team are using complex systems to design reliant applications that suit ecological systems while providing feedback for further prototype iterations2. This ecological journey seems incredibly promising, but further expansion is necessary. Following the use of organisms to modify a wider scope of architectural products and processes will allow for human satisfaction and more realistic human living conditions.

1 Arlington, V. (2002) 2 The Bartlett School of Architecture, BiotA Lab


A The utilisation of living systems and organisms to develop or modify technological systems and products.


The Importance of Design


This Chapter comprises outcomes of architectural approaches towards sustainability, described in Chapter 4 (Ecological Design Approach: Case Study).

Reaching towards sustainability from an architectural point, is not about science taking over the world of design. It is also not about destructing the world of design. It is solely about taking inspiration from the undimmed biological familiarity and bringing that into practice through an architectural point of view. This encouragement and inspiration may of course be from any topic of choice – eco-design is somewhat an experimental science which biology shares a clear link with our environmental ecology and the two are conjointly articulate. Correspondingly changing the current architectural design methods to better understand and overcome our environmental crisis.



5.1 Practice of Hypercomplexity

In the contemporary world, global flows provide new levels of interconnectivity and interactions1. In an architectural conception, the rapidly changing climate (global flow), has and is challenging the practice of architecture to learn and adapt to the situations. The technologies that converge to adapt to these situations such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, information science etc., creates outcomes that are not easily predictable2. The converging technologies to adapt to these environmental challenges subsequently determine a role in the ecological hypercomplexity1. In other words, hypercomplexity brought by climate change, extreme pollution, population growth etc. somewhat frames the contemporary design practice in architecture. Where adapting to the changing conditions can be understood as the ambition of the practice with the adaptive capacity being what is assumed to be the expected limit of the practice3. Moving towards practice of a new environmental synthesis may face an exponential increase in the complexity (hence hypercomplexity) of system technologies. In an ecological era the aim is to explore the intersection of this complexification, the environmental crisis and the imaginative architectural production to ‘design’ for a more sustainable future.

1 Styliaras, G., Dimitrios K. and Fotis L. (2011), pp. 72-166. 2 Gilster, P. (2014) 3 Bobbette, A. Miller, M. Turpin, E. (2015) 64


5.2 Promotion of Life

Human, artifact and natural systems all depend upon each other for an effective and responsible design. For example, an artifactual systemA takes shape by imposing on natural systemsB to obey human (systems)C aims and desires. However, each entail particular design requirements unique to their individual category. ‘Good’ design becomes defective once these distinctions are ignored and or treated equally1. Modern human as we know it, have increasingly become reliant on artifactual systems1 particularly after the industrial revolution. Our lifestyle, approvals and desires are predominantly based on the convincing satisfaction artifact design brings to us. We inherently live and change for what we are most drawn to, with desire for constant improvement. This attraction is the influence of ‘good’ design; appeals for a set of functions to provide ease while, most importantly, is perceived aesthetically pleasing. The architectural conception of using natural systems as a design tool in the age of ecology will undoubtedly suggest a radical disagreement with the current human expectations if we merely focus on the natural aspects and ignore other design requirements. As much as we aim to protect the natural world, there is no denying in the conservation of human contentment. There is no shame in being humanly realistic in an ecological age, or “human-centered” as implied by R. Armstrong as she also points out2: “Medicine is optimistic science applied to the body; architecture gives you the chance to improve health and wellbeing in society.”

1 Kroes, P., Vermaas, P. E., Light, A., Moore, S. (2008) 2 Simpson, A. (2011)


A Artifactual systems describe as the group of products produced and caused by man and would not be natrually present. B Natural systems are systems that propose to natural factors. C Human systems are intended and structured approaches to influence the reality in desirable direction.


Pro-sustainable architecture can boundlessly propose methods for environmental crisis prevention for decades. Yet, with no use of the ‘good design factor’ concerning promotion of life for human contentment, none would perhaps ever convincingly revolutionise the architectural orientation. For example, A. Hendricks’ speculative design research “The Incredible Shrinking Man” studying the ecological existence of downsizing human species to 50cm1 or R. Roys’ five reasons for living in “Earth-sheltered Houses”2, may never stand as the ideal forms of human life - unless no other approach is ever endorsed. Figure 5.1 Figure shows Roy’s idea of sustainable living - Earth-sheltered houses may perhaps be sustainable but not so desirable [2].

Figure 5.2 A diagrammatic sequence of Hendricks ecological approach for “The incredible shrinking man” - studied the height of human in relation to the amount of energy each requires. Effectively achieved that 50cm is the most sustainable scale [1].

1 Hendriks, A. (2013) 2 Roy, R. (2009)



5.3 Role of an Architect

The emphasis on aesthetic architectural design frequently fades when one becomes too involved with the ecological aspects and environmental impacts. To a realistic degree, in the process of seeking a healthier construction industry, the human habitants’ expectations of lifestyle remain unchanged. Therefore the trend necessity of architectural function and aesthetics extends to an architectural integration of perception and experience1. The architects’ influence in the design phase is equally as important as the work of environmentalists. Hence, maximally employing natural systems as a design tool, without considering the architectural necessities of humans may become counterintuitive over time. The architectural conception of natural systems is merely an altered architectural design perception inspired by the properties of living systems. Having discussed the contrasted criteria of the importance of design, it is understood that the outcome of an ecologically sustainable architecture not only relies on science to draw upon the environmental context it is applied to, but to design to purpose aesthetics. This forms a collaboration between science and architecture to design an interactive built environment.

1 Thomsen, A. (2010), pp. abstract.



5.3 Role of an Architect

The emphasis on aesthetic architectural design frequently fades when one becomes too involved with the ecological aspects and environmental impacts. To a realistic degree, in the process of seeking a healthier construction industry, the human habitants’ expectations of lifestyle remain unchanged. Therefore the trend necessity of architectural function and aesthetics extends to an architectural integration of perception and experience1. The architects’ influence in the design phase is equally as important as the work of environmentalists. Hence, maximally employing natural systems as a design tool, without considering the architectural necessities of humans may become counterintuitive over time. The architectural conception of natural systems is merely an altered architectural design perception inspired by the properties of living systems. Having discussed the contrasted criteria of the importance of design, it is understood that the outcome of an ecologically sustainable architecture not only relies on science to draw upon the environmental context it is applied to, but to design to purpose aesthetics. This forms a collaboration between science and architecture to design an interactive built environment.

1 Thomsen, A. (2010), pp. abstract.





There is enough evidence to show the drastic climate change that is taking place in the planet. The continuation of this change at current rates will cause severe environmental damage. This dissertation was a quest concerning the environmentally conscious architecture, which led to the following conclusions: 1. Building construction industry is the source for approximately half of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. 2. We reached an environmental crisis in Twentieth Century, framing a situation where we need to identify a new relationship between nature and architectural design. 3. The necessities of a wider scope in natural conceptions of architectural design such as sustainable, green and ecological design are emerging. 4. The developing set of ideas and products with new applications based on nature could lead to new explanations of ecological architectures. Biomimicry as the extraction of novel strategies from nature; and Biotechnology as the combination of biology and engineering could offer opportunities of new methods and materials. We are beginning to see a new sense of hybrid technologies, materiality and living forms integrated within the built environment. Current prototypes based on the innovative use of progressive biotechnologies already appear but in smaller scales. Therefore, it seems pertinent to begin operating biotechnology at advanced scales to grow a series of systems to explore greater ecological systems in architecture.



5. Sustainability and the role of architecture: Pro-sustainable architectures can propose methods for environmental crisis prevention to promote human life, and to understand the environmental hypercomplexities. The outcome of an ecologically sustainable architecture relies on both science and aesthetics of architectural design. This requires a convergence and collaboration between science and architecture. Therefore, the role of architects in an interactive built environment will be equally as important as environmentalists. 6. Further concerns in eco-design: Further efforts must be made to reach more decisive clarifications towards a practice of a new environmental synthesis. More investigations will still be required to achieve new groups of artificial materials with properties of living systems. These efforts include continuation in experimenting to evaluate new materials, while considering the uncertainties within the framework and nature of the topic. 7. Diversity: The concept of living architectures in an ecological age sees no final solution and rather looks for as diverse technologies as possible. Therefore, the topic should perhaps always be left open to some degree for this ‘diversity’ to take its lead and find alternative methods in solving problems.



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Dissertation: "Architecture In the Age of Ecology", Mojan Kavosh - Newcastle University 2016  

The aim of this dissertation is to study the architectural design outcomes in order to move towards a practice of a new environmental synthe...

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