Living Architecture (LIAR) is a modular bioreactor-wall, based on the operational principles of microbial fuel cell technology and synthetic ‘consortia’ of microbes

LIAR is conceived as a next-generation selectively-programmable bioreactor that can:

  • be an integral component of human dwelling,
  • extract valuable resources from waste water and air,
  • generate oxygen,
  • produce proteins and fibre.

Its operational principles are grounded in distributed sensing, decentralised autonomous information processing, high-degree of fault-tolerance and distributed actuation and reconfiguration.

Applications within (existing) urban systems can include;

  • customizable micro-agriculture for installation in domestic, public (schools, hospitals) and office environments
  • the improvement of building performance through resilience and resource recycling
  • a mediator between the built environment and local ecosystems

Living Architecture (LIAR) is a modular bioreactor wall.

It is based on the operational principles of microbial fuel cells (MFCs). It is a programmable environment designed using microbial ‘consortia’ and integrated technologies.

LIAR is a next-generation, selectively-programmable bioreactor and integral component of human dwelling, capable of extracting valuable resources from sunlight, waste water and air. It generates oxygen, proteins and biomass by manipulating consortia performance.

Applications within urban systems are a form of customizable, programmable micro-agriculture for installation in domestic, public (schools, hospitals) and office environments. The system has far reaching impacts on building performance (resilience, resource recycling) manufacturing and design with ecosystems that comprise entangled relations between the techno and biospheres.

The project establishes:

  • Protocols for ‘synthetic ecosystem’ design and engineering.
  • Foundational concepts for computationally processing, recycling, remediating and synthesising valuable compounds from waste water.
  • Transferable principles for the construction of living architecture.

This high risk project is based on the novel convergence between existing ‘grey’ technologies (digital, mechanical) and ‘green’ technologies (biotechnology, agriculture) and goes beyond state-of-the-art science and technology.

LIAR creates a new bioreactor technology that can process organic matter and in turn, produce valuable substances, at the source. The new bioreactor technology will combine micro-agriculture (harvesting microorganisms) w/ synthetic biology and unconventional computing. It further will manufacture new products, remediate environmental toxins, distribute the product locally.

LIAR is an early stage technology, aimed at providing a foundational platform for the exploitation of synthetic biology principles to engineer synthetic microbial communities.

LIAR reclaims ‘resources’ from the built environment and addresses global scale challenges of urban sustainability and resource management. It is relevant to ‘circular economy.’

LIAR Prototype

  • will take the form of a modular wall-like partition, installed into a building interior
  • will possess a programmable internal environment
  • is exposed to sunlight and receives resources from flue exhaust and grey water
  • will remove pollutants (CO2, N2O, organic matter) from domestic waste products and turn into sustainable resources (fresh water, polyphosphate, O2) and small amounts of consumable products (fertilizers, biodegradable detergents)
  • WILL NOT produce unmodified biomass

LIAR is customizable

Specific productivity of every bioreactor wall – is based on the given feedstock (of any system) and the biological ‘programming’ (it is assigned). The intermediary stages are shaped by the designed (natural) metabolisms and through the synthetically designed bioprocesses via the microbial consortia of any customizable LIAR system.

The LIAR ‘system’ is housed within ‘block reactors’- each operating according to the complex interweaving of ‘green’ and ‘grey’ technologies.  Each unique block reactor provides an autonomous environment within our homes, offices, schools, hospitals, and even outdoor spaces. Its structural and operational flexibility allows it to be modified for a variety of contexts, both indoor and out, including use as a building façade.

Depending on the scale and site of application, LIAR, or ‘living architecture,’ has the potential to radically alter the environmental impact of homes, communities, businesses and cities – by improving relationships between all living organisms in a biosphere. LIAR can potentially be relevant in the commercial sector of home appliances e.g. washing machines and water purifiers.

Micro Agricultural practices (current)

BIQ House – able to provide around one-third of the total building heat demand (Steadman, 2013); using algae bioreactors embedded in the building’s façade. The bioreactors produce unprocessed biomass. To be of value, the harvested biomass requires subsequent processing, which adds cost and complexity. LIAR seeks to go beyond the current micro agricultural practices that are embodied in this approach and add value by directly entangling customizable manufacturing systems within the bioreactor.


The economic value models used to justify this approach are based in both notions of ‘circular economy’ and also the World Wildlife Fund’s initiative to set new benchmarks and protocols in establishing the ‘real’ cost of natural resources in industrial processes.

While the current proof of concept engages grey water purification and flue gas scrubbing, other inputs are also possible. Such flexibility enables a paradigm shift in the performance of bioreactors that are beyond sites of production. Programmable synthesis of ‘resources’ and targeted environmental remediation enables us to work more productively with substrates and ultimately, eliminate ‘waste’. This can lead to a change in the way buildings are designed and engineered. Rather than being inert environments (typical of modern architecture) or labour intensive, urban, agricultural systems (as in vertical farming); they become ‘metabolic apps’ that can be customised and fine-tuned to specific needs within a site and to meet specific community needs.