A graphical representation of London's "living" skyline as envisaged by award-winning architect Richard Hyams.

Story highlights

Over the next 40 years, "living" buildings could absorb carbon emitted from the city

Synthetic biology enables scientists to create life-like matter in the lab

Known as "protocells," these chemicals could be applied to buildings in the form of paint

Other chemicals will let buildings regulate their own temperature and produce own power

London CNN  — 

What if buildings had lungs that could absorb carbon emissions from the city and convert them into something useful? What if they had skin that could control their temperature without the need for radiators or air-conditioning? What if buildings could come “alive?”

Science fiction?

“Not as such,” claims Dr Rachel Armstrong, senior TED fellow and co-director of Avatar, a research group exploring the potential of advanced technologies in architecture. “Over the next 40 years, ‘living’ buildings – biologically programmed to extract carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere – could fill our cities.”