London-based architecture and innovation firm ecoLogicStudio, led by Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto, is carrying out research to develop a BioFactory system that will change the future development of the built environment.

ARCHITECT: ecoLogicStudio (Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto)
PROJECT TEAM: Claudia Pasquero, Marco Poletto with Korbinian Erzinger, Claudia Handler, Alessandra Poletto, Emiliano Rando, Eirini Tsomukou
ACADEMIC PARTNERS: Synthetic Landscape Lab IOUD Innsbruck University, Urban Morphogenesis Lab BPRO The Bartlett UCL
CLIENT: Nestlé Portugal

BioFactory By ecoLogicStudio - Sheet4
©André Cepeda

Through the application of the PhotoSynthetica technology, pioneered by the studio, this research project tests the feasibility of building bio-factories in the near future, where microalgae are grown efficiently on the factory walls.

The integration of several algae photobioreactors takes place within the membrane clad facades. The system is suitable for both commercial buildings and factory warehouses, and will transform the way we look at industrial architecture under the premises of a radical change of paradigm. Bio-factories are the new architectures of carbon neutrality.

The BioFactory will thus implement locally circular economies of matter and energy. Micro algae will grow inside the photobioreactors while feeding on the CO2 emissions of the factory. Freshly harvested biomass will then enter the factory supply chain to become a renewable and sustainable raw material for carbon neutral food products and packaging.

The system couples the unique biological intelligence of photosynthetic microalgae with the Artificial Intelligence of autonomous farming protocols. 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.

BioFactory By ecoLogicStudio - Sheet5
©André Cepeda

Algae exists in a large variety of species, each of which with unique properties that can co-evolve with the needs of different supply chains. They grow quickly and can adapt to extreme urban conditions while absorbing and re-metabolizing most pollutants populating air and water.

Our PhotoSynthetica technology combines design innovation and science to create artificial habitats to grow microalgae within the built environment in symbiosis with human production processes. This is key to unlocking their potential to help achieve carbon neutrality and urban circularity.

— says Marco Poletto, co-founder of ecoLogicStudio.

A BioFactory is characterized by a low carbon construction process that will make the factories cladding carbon negative in its lifetime. Moreover the system is mostly made of recyclable materials such as glass and ETFE. In particular, ETFE foil is an extremely durable and lightweight material which is 100% recyclable, and requires minimal energy for transportation and installation.

By integrating the units of photobioreactors in the building facades, the project creates an adjustable and intelligent shading system, thereby reducing buildings’ cooling loads while allowing natural light in. It has been modelled that this method can save up to 65% of the HVAC cooling energy on glazed facades. At the same time, thinking of people’s health, adaptive or responsive shading also increases the psychological benefit for building users and employees. Infact, proximity to natural elements has been associated with a 15% improvement in wellbeing and creativity, and a 6% increase in productivity.

The BioFactory concept envisions a new space for production embedded in a systemic approach to true sustainability. The convergence of automation, Artificial Intelligence and biotechnology has the potential to transform the role of factory employees which gain unprecedented agency in the production process. New job definitions will reflect the interactions enabled by the system.

©André Cepeda

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.

The first BioFactory pilot scheme has been installed in Lisbon at Nestlé Head Office, as a result of one of the Sustainability Innovation Challenges run by InGenius – Nestlé’s Employee Innovation Accelerator. This pilot is now integrated in a (re)designed building (Campus Nestlé) that houses all Nestlé entities operating in Portugal, namely Nestlé Portugal, Nestlé Business Services Lisbon (NBS Lisbon) – an international shared services center that provides services to other Nestlé markets in Western Europe, and Nespresso Global Supply Chain Hub – which provides global Supply Chain services for the Nespresso brand. This new building welcomes around 1000 employees of 40 different nationalities. Marked by a vision of agile work, flexible and focused on well-being, Campus Nestlé enhances collaborative work and is based on a “Green Vision” reflecting the commitments and ambitions in terms of sustainability of a Group with the national and international dimension of Nestlé.


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