IBTS Greenhouse

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The IBTS-Greenhouse is a biotectural, urban development project suited for hot arid deserts.[1][2] It was part of the Egyptian strategy for the afforestation of desert lands from 2011 until spring of 2015, when geopolitical changes like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Sinai Province in Egypt forced the project to a halt.[3] The project begun in spring 2007 as an academic study in urban development and desert greening. It was further developed by N.Berdellé and D.Voelker as a private project until 2011. Afterwards LivingDesert Group including Prof. Abdel Ghany El Gindy and Dr. Mosaad Kotb from the Central Laboratory for Agricultural Climate in Egypt, Forestry Scientist Hany El-Kateb, Agroecologist Wil van Eijsden and Permaculturist Sepp Holzer was created to introduce the finished project in Egpyt.[4]

The IBTS Greenhouse, together with the programme for the afforestation of desert lands in Egypt,[5][6] became part of relocation strategies. These play a crucial role in Egypt as urbanization of the Nile Delta is a problem for the agricultural sector and because of infrastructural problems like traffic congestion in Cairo.[7][8][9]

The IBTS relies on a new quality of systems integration including architectural, technological and natural elements. [10] It combines food production and residence, as well as desalination of seawater, or brackish groundwater.[11] A CAE demonstration project using real weather-, soil and economic conditions proved feasibility under hyperarid conditions. The relevance of the IBTS is its water desalination methodology with an efficiency of 0.45kwh per cubic metre of distillate. Desalination, as one of the most important key-technologies of the 21st century, has thus become financially and ecologically viable for large scale agriculture, forestry and aquaculture.

The building has its roots in construction engineering and construction physics in contrast to food production as it is for most greenhouses. It is fundamentally different from the renowned seawater greenhouses.[12] Much more so it differs for its performance (Integrated biotectural system#Performance|see below) in desalination. Without exception, alternative desalination-technologies, air-to-water utilities and desalination-greenhouses in testing, require a multiple (up to 200x) of the energy for fresh-water production, as is the current efficiency record in the industry.

The significance of the term Integration lies within the efficiency that only systems integration can achieve. Particular importance lies on the imitation of natural systems, especially closed cycles. The establishment of closed watercycles being the most crucial of all, because of the increasing severity of the Global Water crisis particularly in hot desert climates.

The desalination feature in the current version is bound to hot climates because it requires high amounts of solar thermal power. It has turned out to be very suitable in mitigation of the sinking of water tables in agricultural areas of the MENA region and beyond. In future versions the IBTS can be deployed in cold climates using extra heat energy sources like from compact nuclear fusion, or alternative fission reactors.


The energy of operation is 0.45 kWh per cubic metre of distilled water in the full scale version.[3] This performance is more than 10 times lower than the records set by desalination plants in Dubai and Perth according to official numbers given by the respective authorities.[13] The IBTS is based on a modular concept, with a core size of 1 hectare. This is the minimum size for the construction and for self-sufficiency, but the circular, architectural modules can be built 10 hectare large, or more. Each module is based on sub-modules allowing for immediate commencement of operation and generation of profit (like a reafforestation site generating profit in its early stages). Best efficiency and full capacity can be provided with a superstructure approximately 100 modules large. 10 km² have the capacity of an industrial desalination plant, which is 0,5 million cubic meters of water per day. Since the first version of the IBTS the atmospheric water generation has evolved through a series of hygrothermal models and can now be operated at 0.45 kwh/m³ according to the developer.[14] The IBTS works with natural processes in closed cycles, hosted in a building. Therefore it never hits natural, or physical limitations for growth like the desalination technology in the Persian Gulf already because of brine discharge and temperature rise.[15][16]

Primary energy

Important for understanding the performance of the IBTS is the fact that it is operated with electrical and thermal energy produced from wind power and concentrated solar power, on-site (in a proprietary process). This means that the energy requirement and the use of primary energy can be considered the same, which is not the case for common desalination plants.[17]

Common desalination plants are dependent on power-plants using fossil fuels. Accounting for energy-loss during the energy transformation in the power-plant, common desalination plants use 2-3 times more energy than stated in the usual performance data. These are common factors for energy-conversion losses for the combustion engines used in the desalination industry.

Taking this into account the IBTS uses less than 5% of the current efficiency world-record, which is about 3.5kWh/m³ plus ca. 1.0kWh/m³ for seawater pumping and other factors not accounted for . This is multiplied with the efficiency of primary energy use. Together 9-14 kWh/m³. See primary energy

The economic reality behind these numbers looks even worse for common desalination plants (in Life-cycle assessments) because energy-loss occurs during many stages Upstream (petroleum industry), like drilling, transportation or the manufacturing of required machines. Some of this does not have to be considered for solar-power, because it is free and infinite. Relevant for solar-power is only "power installation per investment unit" not the efficiency of primary energy use.

Economic implications

Because of the independence of primary energy- and material resources, the efficiency of water production and the scalable, modular design the IBTS Greenhouse is a blueprint for a new economy which is sustainable. It is a fertile city according to new architectural terms. A strategic, national infrastructure project like the IBTS allows for the successful energy-transition into a sustainable economy. This can be understood by a comparison of GDP growth, the generation of real values and a weighted GDP.

An example for the infrastructure services of the IBTS Greenhouse is water purification. Wastewater is percolated into the ground and provides water and nutrients for the growth of trees. This is not so easy with food crops. Thus the IBTS provides sewage treatment in countries, or areas that lack treatment plants.[18]

Examples of other Biotecture

The most famous example is the Biosphere 2, a research project and demonstration site. It was designed to be self-sufficient including food production in an ecosystemic context. Another renowned example for Biotecture, which is foremost a residential home, is an Earthship. Earthships incorporate water-purification and reuse on multiple levels.


  1. H.El-Kateb (2012). "National programm" (PDF).
  2. N.Berdellé (2011). "Rethinking landscapes" (PDF).
  3. 3.0 3.1 F.Heinrich (2013-03-18). "5th water roundtable".
  4. LivingDesert Group (2011). "LivingDesert Group" (PDF).
  5. H.El-Kateb (2014). "Sustainable forestry".
  6. H.El-Kateb (2015). "Afforestation in Desert".
  7. Hamza Hendawi (2019). "Cairo flooding".
  8. John Irvine (2019). "Cairo relocation".
  9. Nicol-André Berdellé (2011). "Inland Desalination".
  10. H.El-Kateb (2012). "from sewage water to plantation" (PDF).
  11. N.Berdellé (2012). "Integration factor".
  12. N.Berdellé (2012). "Solution mosaic resources".
  13. unknown (2018). "desalination efficiency".
  14. N.Berdellé (2013-07-10). "Integrated Biotectural System project data" (PDF).
  15. “Status of Coral Reefs of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea region”
  16. Dr. Christophe-Tourenq, “Conservation of Coral Reefs in the Persian Gulf”
  17. N.Berdellé (2012). "The energy-agriculture connect".
  18. A. Kassahun (2016). "Forest from wastewater".

External links

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