By 2050, urban buildings that breathe and adapt

What will a skyscraper built in 2050 look like? How will it function?

Rather than being static as they are today, in the future buildings will produce food, energy and resources, according to a new report by engineering firm Arup, which designed the iconic Sydney Opera House and is building a zero-carbon city in Dongtan, China.

They will be "living buildings" whose intelligent systems adjust to the needs of inhabitants, respond automatically to variations in weather, are reconfigured by robots and produce more resources than they consume.

"The urban building of the future essentially functions as a living organism in its own right  reacting to the local environment and engaging with the users within," writes Josef Hargrave, a consultant with Arup's Foresight + Innovation division.

Of course, the building of the future is powered by renewable energy  in this case from external walls coated with photovoltaic paint, microwind turbines and an algae facade to produce biofuels. A nanoparticle membrane captures carbon and converts it to oxygen.

Vertical farms, which we're already seeing built, will be standard ways to produce meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Brain-like "intelligent building systems" will make "calculated" decisions about how to optimize resources by constantly tracking data on energy consumption, weather and the needs of residents.

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