Richard Beckett, Marcos Cruz, Chris Leung, Sandra Manso-Blanco, Bill Watts. All images credited to BiotA Lab unless otherwise specified
The wall panels are part of the EPSRC-funded research “Computational Seeding of Bioreceptive Materials” and are focused on developing a new type of bioreceptive façade panels. The work is being done in collaboration with industrial partner Laing O’Rourke. Using a novel type of bioreceptive concrete and environmentally driven geometrical design, the panels aim to enhance the growth of cryptogamic covers (algae, lichens and mosses) directly on the surface of the façade panels. Following a design phase, 3 geometry types were chosen for fabrication and testing. This work stage encompasses a full seasonal observation study of 18 panels, split into the 3 geometry types with a pair-wise comparison between 3 bioreceptive seeded panels and 3 control panels cast using traditional Portland concrete.
Image: Paul Smoothy
Randomly ordered, the panels are exposed at a north-west facing orientation for data collection and analysis. The observation system will record raw quantitative data including photography of biocolonisation as well as measurement of biomass, presence of moisture, and thermal regulation.
RESEARCH: Bioreceptive concrete facades are being designed and tested as innovative wall-panel systems capable of growing microorganisms directly on buildings. By utilizing novel design and digital fabrication methods, facade performance will be improved through the implementation of a new type of biologically receptive concrete, designed to overcome the limitations of ‘green walls’ that have proven expensive to implement and maintain. This project responds to the urgency of improving the environmental quality of our cities. Climate change, increasing levels of pollution, and the loss of pervious surfaces within the urban fabric, has resulted in an ongoing effort of making our cities greener and more sustainable, especially in the developed world. Building envelopes, in particular roofs and facades, have been targeted as an opportunity for greening. Different from common ‘green walls’ the proposed façades address the increasing loss of cryptogamic cover surfaces (algae, mosses, lichens, etc.) in our cities. The research on Bioreceptive Concrete Facades is at the stage of being applied onto a variety of building or infrastructural surfaces in order to analyse the long-term performance of these innovative designs. Biologically receptive cementitious materials have been studied and chemically altered to provide pH levels, porosity values and water retention properties that are favourable for microorganisms to establish and proliferate. The adoption of biologically receptive concrete as a means of fostering green growth has the potential for the building’s façade itself to become the biological substratum for the growth of photosynthetic systems. It is envisioned that these bioreceptive panels could be applied over a range of urban contexts with a particular opportunity for infrastructural projects, including large-scale retaining walls, elevated railway lines and embankment walls, as well as furniture and pavements in public spaces. This can also be applied to buildings ranging in scale and typology from individual houses or housing blocks to the many blank and rather ‘wasted’ building façades of larger buildings. Research Objectives 1) Design and fabricate innovative wall panels to provide an alternative to existing “green walls” 2) Apply newly developed bio-receptive concrete to stimulate micro-organic growth without the need for additional maintenance. 3) Increase façade performance in terms of water absorption, retention and distribution, biomass, and thermal regulation with a high level of cost efficiency. 4) Combine interdisciplinary processes of design, digital fabrication, and environmental testing to create knowledge that will underpin future commercialisable products. 5) Design bio-receptive wall panels as aesthetically desirable for diverse stakeholders. 6) Establish a new design paradigm that could improve the built environment through increased green surfaces in our cities.
Image: Paul Smoothy
Research Team: Professor Marcos Cruz (Principal Investigator) Bill Watts (environmental engineering) Richard Beckett (design and manufacturing) Dr Sandra Manso Blanco (biology and material science) Dr Chris Leung (environmental testing and research engineering) Javier Ruiz (technical assistant) Acknowledgements: We are grateful to Michael Pelken, Laing O’Rourke We also thank our advisory board members: Professor Alan Penn, Dean Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment Professor Marc-Olivier Coppens, UCL Centre for Nature-Inspired Engineering Professor Nima Shokri, Multiphase Flow and Porous Media Research Group / University of Manchester Professor Peter Bishop, Bartlett School of Architecture Professor Antonio Aguado, Polytechnic University of Catalonia Richard Sabin, Biotecture (green walls specialists) Professor Mark Miodownik, UCL Institute of Making Dr Brenda Parker, UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering / UCL Algae Dr Marco Lizzul, UCL Algae Joanna Gibbons, Landscape Architecture Peter Scully, Paul Crudge and Nick Westby, B-Made Elinor Huggett, Max Fordham Andrew Minson, British Precast Concrete Federatio