2023 UDAD 🏆 Awards

Gold Winner – Carbon Capture Tower by Politecnico di Milano

As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to increase, countries worldwide are committing to various goals to diminish greenhouse gas emissions. However, these efforts are not enough. The effects of global warming are felt year by year, breaking one historical record after another, while actions to combat climate change are being hindered. Carbon neutral is a common goal for 2030, 2050… or even 2100, but one question prevails, how much are we willing to change in order to achieve this? 

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Gold 🏆 Winner
Urban Design & Architecture Design Awards 2023

Carbon Capture Tower
Future Architecture (Concept)

Politecnico di Milano

Alessandro Bianchi

Design Team
Ana Rebeca Sorto, Camilo A. Rodriguez Espinosa, Ishita Agrawal, Kathryn Mathews, Mabe Aguirre, Paola Soundy, Prachi Rawat



©Alessandro Bianchi

To answer this question, we must recognize that carbon neutral is NOT enough. Cutting edge technologies are needed to shift the paradigm and establish a circular carbon cycle where more CO2 is absorbed than released. Accordingly, we are proposing Carbon Capture Towers integrated with photobioreactors (PBR) that will transform pollutants into purified air while minimizing waste. The main element is an innovative double facade composed of tubular PBRs flowing with a mixture of water, algae, nutrients, and carbon dioxide. When this micro-algae solution is exposed to sunlight, the solar radiation activates biomass production and increases with sun intensity. Due to large surface areas and therefore vast sun exposure and algae cultivation, tubular PBRs are the most efficient system estimated to absorb 400 times more CO2 than trees. To maximize algae production, additional PBRs are placed on the rooftop and inner facade. Once the tubes have reached their capacity, its contents are harvested and separated: water is recycled back into the photobioreactors while algae is used to develop byproducts, such as biofuel and energy. Furthermore, natural elements such as hempcrete and cross laminated timber make up the primary structure, which is organized to fit a co-housing community, in order to achieve a carbon positive footprint. 

Originally, Carbon Capture Towers were designed for Cremona Italy because of its diverse infrastructures and high contamination levels. Airborne pollutants from nearby highways, agricultural fields, and factories contaminate Cremona’s environment resulting in toxic living conditions. Therefore our focus point is Cremona’s largest polluter, the Tamoil Refinery, an abandoned oil factory that continues to emit greenhouse gasses and dust particles into the atmosphere. By revindicating the refinery and replacing the former infrastructure with our Carbon Capture Towers we will rejuvenate the ecosystem while activating neglected land. In fact, other industrial zones or polluted cities worldwide can have similar transformations with application of our towers. These locations will be determined by climate and urban analytics, in order to attain maximum efficiency for a sustainable and healthier future. 

In conclusion, our vision is a network of Carbon Capture Towers working amongst the public and private domain in order to revert three centuries of CO2 emissions. We must use all strategies at hand to create a healthier environment for present and future generations.