Two bio façades have emerged as world firsts over the past year as architects explore the possibility of self-sustaining buildings.

Vertical gardens, solar panels and smart glass have become popular facade materials for their green credentials, but bio façades take things a step further, generating energy for their buildings.

The trend toward bio-materials is a trend being driven by the depletion of fossil fuels. Buildings are responsible for approximately 40 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption, and the architecture industry is responding through the new form of building exteriors.

World First Bio Facade

Bio facades can be an energy source, reducing the need for depleting fossil fuels

A new gas and receiving station of the Agro & Food Cluster (AFC) New Prinsenland, located in the Netherlands, has been recognised as the world’s first bio façade.

Studio Marco Vermeulen clad the building in bio-based panels which are constructed of a composite of bio resin and hemp fiber.

The panels were developed by NPSP Compositsite in Haarlem. NPSP says the hemp fibre is sourced locally while the bio resin is made primarily from waste products from the sugar industry, natural oils or lactic acid.

Studio Marco Vermeulen believes the current rise in organic materials will be significant for the construction industry.

World First Bio Facade

Bio Facade Features Embossed Letter Panels – The Chemical Composition of Natural Gas

“The green materials will largely be based on organic residues from agriculture and horticulture,” the company’s website reads. “In the future biobased economy these residues (biomass) will first be processed (valued) into usable raw materials. The remaining organic material is available for renewable energy.”

The letters demarcating the chemical composition of natural gas – hydrogen (H), carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) – are embossed onto the panels.

The facade fuels the 600-hectare site, for which AFC New Prinsenland envisions a sustainable intensive food production area and a greenhouse area that can utilise waste heat and C02.

Another benchmark project is the world’s first algae-based bioreactor façade, which was unveiled at the International Building Exhbition in Hamburg last year.

The façade features makes up the exterior of The BIQ House, which is clad in 200 square metres of integrated photo-bioreactors. Microalgae are then cultivated into the glass elements of the facade to make up the building’s “bio skin.”

The façade system, known as SolarLeaf, is the result of research from Colt International with the concept developed by SSC Litd and Arup.

World's First Micro-Algae Facade - Shades

The world’s first micro-algae facade shades and generates energy for the building

It generates micro-algae biomass and heat to create a renewable energy source while providing shade for the building, offering insulation, interior thermal comfort and acoustics.

“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept,” said Arup Europe research leader Jan Wurm in a statement. “It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.”

Unlike many green buildings in which credentials are housed within the building or hidden under solar panels or vertical gardens,  the self-sustaining and “bio” materials movement could finally building’s contributing to preserving the planet in a visible way.