We are used to science and technology coming up with solutions to environmental challenges like air pollution, clean energy development or waste water treatment, but combine science with the liberal arts and you get buildings whose very building blocks form a structure that is smart and functional.
What is the result?
We’re talking ‘smart’ bricks that will give homes their own ‘digestive systems’.
And that’s not all.
These clever blocks will be able to recycle wastewater and generate electricity as well.
And make detergent that the building occupants can use or sell.
The LAIR or Living Architecture project co-ordinated by Newcastle University brings together living architecture, computing, engineering and robotics to create sustainable living and working environments. Living Architecture plans to use the natural resources found in sunlight, wastewater, and air to ultimately develop ‘bioreactor walls’ that could then be incorporated in housing, public buildings and office spaces.
Each block will contain a microbial fuel cell, filled with programmable synthetic microorganisms. Robotically activated, each chamber will contain a variety of microorganisms specifically chosen to clean water, reclaim phosphate, generate electricity and create new detergents.
The living cells that will make up the wall will be able to sense their surroundings and respond to them through a series of digitally coordinated mechanisms.
“The best way to describe what we’re trying to create is a ‘biomechanical cow’s stomach’,” said Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, UK, who is co-ordinating the project. “It contains different chambers, each processing organic waste for a different, but overall related, purpose – like a digestive system for your home or your office.”
Here’s the unexpected benefit:
Professor Armstrong foresees communities harvesting reusable substances from their wastewater and create an economy by re-distributing these resources through councils, or washing machine manufacturers.
A bit creepy?
Professor Andrew Adamatzky, LIAR project director for UWE Bristol brings the reality home of living and working in these ‘alive’ buildings: “Walls in buildings comprised of smart bricks containing bioreactors will integrate massive-parallel computing processors where millions of living creatures sense the occupants in the building and the internal and external environmental conditions.”
The multidisciplinary project, co-ordinated by Newcastle University involves experts from the universities of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Trento and Florence, the Spanish National Research Council; LIQUIFER Systems Group and EXPLORA.