Five ways buildings of the future will use biotech to become living things
Buildings with stomachs
… Most buildings are constantly absorbing materials and energy, while returning waste that needs to be taken away and treated at industrial scales. But new research suggests that this waste could actually become a source of energy for a building. A team of researchers on an EU project called Living Architecture is working to develop a new type of microbial fuel cell, which takes domestic waste and generates small amounts of power, as part of a wider project exploring the processing power of microbes in buildings.
The fuel cells are integrated into bricks that would become part of the structural fabric of the building as well as being its stomach. The bricks take in waste water and bacteria convert chemical energy, as the waste is broken down, into electrical energy. In this scenario, your toilet could charge your mobile phone.
Exciting as this sounds, there is a downside to living buildings: that is, they will inevitably die. But buildings already have a lifecycle. Aside from the occasional geriatric tourist attraction, most of our buildings are in a constant state of change. When they do reach the end of their useful life, taking buildings down is costly and polluting. Imagine a city of buildings that gently die and return to the Earth forming the food for the next ones to grow to change and adapt. Surely that is more exciting than a smart home with a fridge that will automatically reorder your broccoli.