Carbon fixing architecture

I am studying Carbon fixing architecture, which has a symbiotic relationship with environment and climate change.

Carbon forms organic molecules and thus organic life, carbon has both beneficial and restrictive effects on the way we live and propagate in future. I am interested to explore bio-chemical processes which are decisive for human life and which shape the physical scenario both within and outside of us.

The site is in the southern central region of India. An area which is geographically known as “Deccan plateau” of India. Which covers parts of 8 indian states and is essentially is a 2000 meter thick bed of ultramafic rocks i.e. formed out of volcanic activity 60 million years ago. By composition mafic rocks are richly composed of magnesium-ferrous metals and their composites.

India of today is growing like never before, the country had an average 9 percent GDP rate in recent years, the cities are emerging, population is on rise and set to overtake china in few years. Increase in export oriented , low-cost manufacturing and service industry means that country is absorbing the pollution of the developed world for products and services that developed countries eventually use. The greenhouse gas emissions of today are 2T per capita, which is expected to increase by 16x in 2050. While the emissions can only be allowed to increase by 2x. This is a huge gap and a potential hazard if not dealt with. The country is soon becoming a carbon sink, out of its own and industrialized global pollutions.

Yet, the country is younger and has not yet completely possessed the old industrialised polluting practices and infrastructure; there is still an opportunity for developing solutions that are new, innovative and inclusive. India of tomorrow needs a strong environmental strategy to deal with and overcome ill effects of carbon based pollution, the challenge is to develop low-carbon infrastructure using indigenous resources and new technologies.

I am keen to speculate the relationship between the physical growth and natural environments. If the two are able to perform symbiotic relationship then we may be able to combat issues of carbon dioxide and convert its role from being a destructive to rather a constructive agent in growth and progress.

This may be possible through catalytic processes that are possible using chemicals that can be found in certain species of brown algae (macrocysitis, laminaria and ascophyllum) which contain alginic acid. Salts of alginic acid are “alginates”. Alginates are long chain carbohydrates which have been shown, in proof of concept experiments (Ref: personal communication) to play a role in carbon fixation. The long alginate molecule appears to facilitate the formation of Magnesium carbonate at room temperature by creating the conditions for crystal formation by trapping dissolved CO2 from the air as bicarbonate ions in water and enabling it to form a stable salt with locally available magnesium ions, a process that can be facilitated by ion exchange. MgCO3 (magnesium carbonate) is a nacre/ mother of pearl like substance, which is found in shells of marine animals, it has a natural iridescent and shock absorbing properties. The surface has a reflective sheen which can reflect light/ heat.

I am proposing the project, which promotes the cultivation of seaweed in artificial lakes over Deccan plateau of India. Rich source of magnesium rich basalt reacts with alginates to form crystals of magnesium carbonates on the shores of these lakes. Where carbon gets trapped form CO2 (in bicarbonate form), if we imagine this process as a geo-engineering scale project in proximity of urban populations of Mumbai then the artificial lakes establish a symbiotic relationship with growth and development of coastal mega-city. The biological process engages directly with architecture of the city, cultivating “homemade raw materials” which digests the carbon waste produced by other industries.

Spatial possibilities can be at multiple locations, i.e. voids generated in the basalt beds during and after the production of magnesium carbonates and in surrounding urban growth where physical mass of trapped carbon is accumulated and self-constructed. Several things that are yet to be synthesised are to manipulate and have control methods to govern self-assembly of the residual material. How human interaction over a period of time does affect the process? The idea is possibility for change and is trying to venture into yet unknown/ unfound territory of India of tomorrow; our cities can be re-shaped for situation of tomorrow and can be asked to live with the nature rather against it.


~ by Dharmesh on December 14, 2009.

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