Climeworks redesigns its CO2 removal plant with the help of designaffairs

Climeworks Front Perspective

Climeworks redesigns its CO2 removal plant with the help of designaffairs

  • Alexandre Avranches Industrial Designer, designaffairs
  • Anna Lena Romeis Industrial Designer, designaffairs
  • Stéphane Piqué
    Stéphane Piqué Industry X Lead Switzerland, Accenture

Climeworks’ new CO2 removal plant reflects its purpose—eco, advanced, inspired! designaffairs’ design blueprint promotes adoption.

The challenge. Climeworks has big ambitions. With its Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology, the world’s first commercial carbon removal technology, this Zurich startup aims to filter 1 percent of global CO2 emissions from the air by 2025. It’s about to start: via Orca, its flagship plant in Iceland, Climeworks aims to petrify and store around 4,000 tons of CO2 in the soil per year. However, to increase its outputs, the plant needs to scale, and that presented a design challenge.

This is Orca: Climeworks' new large-scale carbon dioxide removal plant.
This is Orca: Climeworks' new large-scale carbon dioxide removal plant.

Climeworks’ technology can help save the world. A unique visual identity can help it articulate its vision, driving awareness and take-up.

Climeworks’ strategic goal is to take its technology global, so making the technology blend with the Icelandic landscape was, for the design team, part of a larger challenge.

When placed in open landscapes, on highways, on top of buildings or in business and industrial locations, these plants must be aesthetically pleasing, they must ‘fit’ the environment. However, to capture the imagination of the world and drive sales of this technology, the CO2 extraction plants need to send a strong message—they need to reflect what Climeworks stands for, driving awareness and inspiring action.

The mission. The mission for designaffairs was therefore to create a design process that would assist Climeworks to create a distinctive solution that would fit into any location, with variables such as materials and structural considerations catering to differences in environment and application. At the same time, our structure must visually reflect its action: it inhales a CO2 charged air and exhales a carbon free one. And it all has started with the world’s biggest climate-positive direct air capture plant: Orca.

Quote Climeworks: How did the design add value?

The process. The first part of the task was to render what the plant would look like from various aspects. To ensure designaffairs met the government of Iceland’s stringent requirements, we sent a team to Iceland to experience and study its unique landscape and architecture. Onsite, our team used drones and photogrammetry software to create a virtual 3D map of the landscape.

In 2019 designaffairs sent a team to Iceland to experience and study its unique landscape and architecture.

There were some key considerations:

  • Usability and function– aligning design elements to functional structures. We were inspired by architectural icons such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
  • Environmental demands and regulation– meeting the need for a robust solution that can withstand a rugged climate, as well as complying with governmental regulation in terms of materials and aesthetics.
  • Sustainability– using materials that have a low eco footprint, are locally and sustainably sourced, and are durable.

We created a mood board detailing its considerations and presented Climeworks with three design options. The aerial photography allowed us to create a 3D landscape into which we could insert a 3D model of the redesigned plant. We used this to present the design for approval to Climeworks and the Icelandic government.

Our 3D model of Orca. The redesigned plant will be able to permanently remove 4000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per year.

The outcome. With our understanding of the power of design—how to marry form and function but also how to create a unique visual identity for a brand to articulate its vision and purpose—we knew we could make a difference in driving awareness and take-up.

The design of Climeworks’ CO2 removal plant in Iceland has now shifted from industrial to ‘minimalist eco’. It is functional, eco-friendly, blends into landscape, and is modern. But most importantly, the new design is inspiring—it makes visible the invisible problem of global warming, driving awareness of this technology and stimulating demand. Additionally, an exciting future application for Climeworks will be to use this 3-dimensional scene, or material captured at a potential client site, together with a VR headset to present Climeworks’ technology to clients.

This creative journey and design process template will help Climeworks define its presence and drive sales, which equates to action on climate change. Everyone wins, but especially the planet.

Climeworks chose Accenture as its innovation partner to accelerate the business. Being a part of Accenture Industry X, innovation consultancy designaffairs was chosen to assist with the redesign of the plant.

We are very proud of our collaboration with Climeworks and want to make Climeworks more competitive and successful in their mission to clean the air.

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