by Jincy IypeJun 10, 2022
World governments and leaders convened last weekend for the much anticipated 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit in the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss urgent plans and efficient routes to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Also known as the UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy, COP26 took place from October 31 – November 12, 2021, drawing watered praise as well as weighty flak from myriad participants, speakers, media and viewers.
London-based architecture and innovation firm ecoLogicStudio presented two of their on-going and momentous research projects at the summit, that relate to air pollution and carbon neutrality: the Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine and the BioFactory system. Integrating PhotoSynthetica technology pioneered by the studio, both projects have been “developed in accordance with some of the main goals of the event, such as reaching net zero emissions by the middle of the century, protecting and restoring ecosystems, and building resilient infrastructures,” share Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, Founders, ecoLogicStudio.
Air Bubble Air Purifying Eco-Machine
Following the success of their Air Bubble biotechnological playground project built in Warsaw, Poland, the British firm’s latest project, the Air Bubble air purifying eco-machine, created in partnership with Otrivin®, has been installed in front of the Glasgow Science Centre within the COP26’s Green Zone area. The inflatable eco-machine claims to be made of 99 per cent air, water, and living photosynthetic air-purifying Chlorella cultures. This fresh bio-digital project illustrates how advanced integration of biotechnology within the built environment can assist and lead towards a new generation of living and growing architecture, where aesthetics go hand in hand with efficient ecological performances.
With the Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine, beauty becomes a true measure of ecological intelligence. – Prof. Claudia Pasquero, co-founder, ecoLogicStudio
The organic structure, akin to a massive bouncy jellyfish, is playfully soft and mostly translucent, a clear manifestation of the biotechnology it assimilates. The Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine encourages visitors, particularly kids, to interact with it directly, experience its air cleaning capabilities of micro algae cultures, in tandem with immersing themselves into a bubble of freshly metabolised oxygen.
The impressive sustainable design is also the studio’s first pneumatic bioreactor, comprising 6,000 liters of water that support 200 liters of living Chlorella cultures that are able to filter 100 liters of polluted urban air per minute. The inclusive strength of the assembly is made possible by its three-dimensional cellular organisation, achieved by a fabrication process that entailed complete unfolding of the structure’s shape into almost 100 CNC cut flat parts, which were then welded into position to create a fully three-dimensional matrix of inflatable cells.
"This process updates the traditional qualities of inflatable structures to create the eco-machine. The result is a responsive system, with air purifying capability, exceptional wind resistance and unique deployability. The incredible lightness of the empty membrane makes it uniquely low in embodied carbon and minimises emissions associated with transportation, installation and dismantling,” shared the design team.
Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine is a tangible vision of how a net zero civilisation can clean its pollution, produce its energy, grow its food and construct its buildings in the next 30 years, starting now. – Marco Poletto, co-founder, ecoLogicStudio
An array of accelerometers monitor in real time the outdoor membrane of the machine, sensing the wind and inducing vibrations in the air filled structure. These sensors are fruitful in activating a responsive array of growth lighting that support algal photosynthesis, that in turn, increase the process of air purification. “The entire bio-digital organism evolves a new kind of symbiosis whereby the more people play, the cleaner the air becomes,” they explain further.
The architectural morphology of the machine enhances the filtering process – a Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) membrane less than 0.5mm thick controls the air and water pressures, and the overall microclimate inside the bubble. The doors of the inflatable membrane also stimulate air recirculation and achieve natural ventilation.
"Air Bubble air-purifying eco-machine combines a lightweight inflatable technology with 24 photobioreactors (12 on each side) that are hosted in the inflatable system to create a unique microclimate inside the structure. A constant air circulation stream absorbs six core pollutants: fine particulate PM2.5 and PM10, ground level Ozone (O3), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO). The project is capable of absorbing 97 per cent of the nitrogen and 75 per cent of the particulate matter in the air,” notes Poletto.
BioFactory Architectural System
ecoLogicStudio’s recently unveiled BioFactory architectural system claims to transform the way we look at industrial architecture - integrating algae photo bioreactors within membrane cladding, the system is suitable for both commercial buildings and factory warehouses. Its pilot scheme was installed and carried out at the Nestlé HQ in Lisbon, Portugal. Food grade micro-algae are grown inside the photo bioreactors, alongside feeding on the CO2 emissions of the factory itself. "Freshly harvested biomass enters the factory supply chain to become a renewable and sustainable raw material for carbon neutral food products and packaging. This circular process changes the rules of efficiency and makes bio-factories capable of self-regulation and learning. As the system grows, it becomes more resilient and ultimately evolves higher levels of productivity,” explains ecoLogicStudio, known for their experimental design with a wholly green approach.
A low carbon construction process characterises a BioFactory, which sets employee’s' wellbeing as priority, in tandem with ensuring that its cladding remains carbon negative in its lifetime, while its adjustable and intelligent shading system minimises cooling load for buildings, while letting in natural light. “Adaptive shading and direct contact with dynamic living cultures increases psychological wellbeing and stimulates a creative approach to work,” the founders remark. Automation, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology converge within the BioFactory architectural model.
From advanced computation to micro farming to bio-design to future culinary and gardening, BioFactory fosters a proactive attitude exemplified by the fundamental aspects of cultivating, harvesting and processing living organic material. – Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, co-founders, ecoLogicStudio
Apart from the two projects, ecoLogicStudio is also currently exhibiting its first industrial design project, BioBombola, a domestic algae garden that will be on show until February 20, 2022 in the exhibition Waste Age: What design can do? at the Design Museum in London.