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An experimental living building

A joint initiative from the Universities of Newcastle and Northumbria (UK), the OME is an experimental biological house in which new biotechnologies can be tested in a domestic setting.

Part of the so-called Hub for Biotechnology in the Built Environment (HBBE), the experimental living building will be used to test a wide range of technologies form new materials grown from microbes through waste systems which generate power from the output of the toilet.

The microbial life (microbiome) within the apartment will be studied to better understand the influence of materials, surfaces and ventilation systems on the microbes which surround us, both to avoid harmful organisms and even viruses such as Covid-19, and to encourage healthy bacteria that benefit human health.

The apartment sits above a laboratory, where processes will be developed to convert domestic waste including human waste, food waste, cardboard and plastics, into fuel, electricity, and other useful products.

The building allows researchers to apply biotechnologies in real-life situations rather than in the lab alone. It will also include a prototyping and exhibition space where designers, architects, engineers and microbiologists will work together to create large scale installations to demonstrate how their research can be applied at full scale within buildings.

The exterior of the building has been designed so experimental material samples can be easily installed for testing and whole sections of the internal and external walls can be replaced with new forms of construction.

Images: Universities of Northumbria and Newcastle / Assia Stefanova