Green building engineers are using microalgae to heat an apartment complex in Hamburg as part of an innovative experiment.

The new apartment complex highlights the city's goal of bio-energy use in urban areas. Called the Bio Intelligence Quotient (BIQ) house, it is currently under development and stands as one of 16 projects participating in Hamburg’s 2013 International Building Exhibition. According to developers, it will be the first building in the world to be fitted with a bioreactor on its façade, reports Designbuildsource.com.

The building's two south-facing walls will be covered with integrated photo bioreactors –  transparent shells containing vast colonies of the microalgae which are nourished using liquid nutrients, natural sunlight and carbon dioxide.

The bioreactors generate biomass which can be harvested to generate power while at the same time providing dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise reduction.

In addition to reducing utility bills for heating in the cool northern city of Hamburg, the microalgae will consume carbon dioxide, reducing the building’s greenhouse emissions.