Architecture

Who needs air conditioning? Gizmag's Top 5 passively-cooled homes

Who needs air conditioning? Gi...
Gizmag presents a look at five of our favorite passively-cooled homes
Gizmag presents a look at five of our favorite passively-cooled homes
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Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)
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Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)
Wind Vault House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Jeremy San)
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Wind Vault House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Jeremy San)
The house features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, maid's quarters, a prayer room, and even an elevator (Photo: Jeremy San)
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The house features three bedrooms, three bathrooms, maid's quarters, a prayer room, and even an elevator (Photo: Jeremy San)
Wallflower Architecture and Design did an outstanding job of fitting such an unusual contemporary design within a residential area (Photo: Jeremy San)
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Wallflower Architecture and Design did an outstanding job of fitting such an unusual contemporary design within a residential area (Photo: Jeremy San)
The house features a total of three bathrooms (Photo: Jeremy San)
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The house features a total of three bathrooms (Photo: Jeremy San)
Wind Vault House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Jeremy San)
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Wind Vault House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Jeremy San)
Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)
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Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)
The YAK01 house (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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The YAK01 house (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
In a bid to further remove the sting from Bangkok's hot climate, YAK01's bathrooms, service areas, and staircases act as heat-absorbing "buffer zones" (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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In a bid to further remove the sting from Bangkok's hot climate, YAK01's bathrooms, service areas, and staircases act as heat-absorbing "buffer zones" (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
Cross-ventilation is provided by opposing windows in each room, and natural daylight is utilized where possible (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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Cross-ventilation is provided by opposing windows in each room, and natural daylight is utilized where possible (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
The design frees garden space, creates a cool shaded area, and provides 500 sq m of usable internal space (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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The design frees garden space, creates a cool shaded area, and provides 500 sq m of usable internal space (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
In a bid to further remove the sting from Bangkok's hot climate, YAK01's bathrooms, service areas, and staircases act as heat-absorbing "buffer zones" (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
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In a bid to further remove the sting from Bangkok's hot climate, YAK01's bathrooms, service areas, and staircases act as heat-absorbing "buffer zones" (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
Air Villa is a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
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Air Villa is a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
The villa is designed by Dutch studio Haiko Cornelissen Architecten (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
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The villa is designed by Dutch studio Haiko Cornelissen Architecten (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
Each of Air Villa's rooms are arranged linearly, promoting air-flow (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
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Each of Air Villa's rooms are arranged linearly, promoting air-flow (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
(Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
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(Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
Sliding doors afford access to the outside (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
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Sliding doors afford access to the outside (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
Water-Cooled House is based in Singapore (Photo: Albert Lim)
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Water-Cooled House is based in Singapore (Photo: Albert Lim)
The house is another product of local passive-cooling authority Wallflower Architecture and Design (Photo: Albert Lim)
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The house is another product of local passive-cooling authority Wallflower Architecture and Design (Photo: Albert Lim)
Water-Cooled House was completed in 2009 (Photo: Albert Lim)
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Water-Cooled House was completed in 2009 (Photo: Albert Lim)
As its name suggests, Water-Cooled House's main feature is its ample and innovative use of water (Photo: Albert Lim)
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As its name suggests, Water-Cooled House's main feature is its ample and innovative use of water (Photo: Albert Lim)
Some nice finishing touches include an oculus within the main entrance, and a minimal but striking spiral staircase (Photo: Albert Lim)
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Some nice finishing touches include an oculus within the main entrance, and a minimal but striking spiral staircase (Photo: Albert Lim)
The house features a fish pond on the first floor (Photo: Albert Lim)
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The house features a fish pond on the first floor (Photo: Albert Lim)
A small pond running much of the length of the second floor also helps to regulate the home's overall interior temperature (Photo: Albert Lim)
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A small pond running much of the length of the second floor also helps to regulate the home's overall interior temperature (Photo: Albert Lim)
The Winged House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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The Winged House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
The Winged House was constructed by K2LD Architects (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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The Winged House was constructed by K2LD Architects (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
The house is built upon a triangular plot (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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The house is built upon a triangular plot (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
The Winged House sports two large "wings" which serve as a roof (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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The Winged House sports two large "wings" which serve as a roof (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
Extensive overhangs enable naturally ventilated spaces (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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Extensive overhangs enable naturally ventilated spaces (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
The Winged House was constructed by K2LD Architects (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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The Winged House was constructed by K2LD Architects (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
The Winged House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
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The Winged House was completed in 2012 (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
Gizmag presents a look at five of our favorite passively-cooled homes
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Gizmag presents a look at five of our favorite passively-cooled homes

Home air-conditioning offers near-instant relief from hot weather but is both expensive and resource-heavy to run. Gizmag picks five of our current favorite passively-cooled homes that are environmentally responsible to keep comfortably cool, and – perhaps just as importantly – very desirable to live in.

In architecture, passive cooling refers to a building that uses no energy-consuming technology or devices in order to help maintain a comfortable inside temperature. Some common methods of passively-cooling a house include properly sheltering it from the sun, utilizing a reliable breeze, and using a nearby water source to cool the local air temperature.

Wind Vault House

Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)
Wind Vault House measures 553 sq m (5,950 sq ft) (Photo: Jeremy San)

The Wind Vault House, by Wallflower Architecture and Design, keeps its occupants cool in tropical Singapore with novel timber screens that are angled so as to make use of the area's prevailing winds. Working like a ship's sail, the screens channel the wind into the home's interior in order to provide a constant breeze – thus highlighting the importance of taking into consideration local conditions when designing a passively-cooled house.

The architects also placed a swimming pool near the house, which lowers the local air temperature as the wind passes through, serving much like a simple swamp cooler.

Wind Vault House was completed in 2012.

YAK01

Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)
Almost half the house is cantilevered over the ground floor (Photo: Piyawut Srisakul)

The YAK01 house, by Ayutt and Associates Design, is located in Bangkok, Thailand, and makes the most out of available plot space by cantilevering the upper floor over the ground floor, and thus creating a cool shaded garden space for the occupants to enjoy.

Additionally, YAK01 is built following an L shape, with a swimming pool positioned in parallel. This design draws cool air into the home's interior when the sliding glass doors are opened. AAD also designed the house so that bathrooms, service areas and staircases act as buffer zones, absorbing the heat, and keeping the remaining inner rooms cooler.

YAK01 was completed in early 2013.

Air Villa

Air Villa is a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)
Air Villa is a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat (Rendering: WeMake3D / Haiko Cornelissen Architecten)

What could possibly be more appealing than a beautiful Panamanian holiday retreat? That would be a beautiful passively-cooled Panamanian holiday retreat, of course. The Air Villa concept, by Dutch studio Haiko Cornelissen Architecten, offers a radical rethink to keeping cool indoors by turning a typical villa design on its side.

Each of Air Villa's rooms are arranged linearly, promoting air flow. Sliding doors afford access to the cooler exterior, and, thanks to their novel "jigsaw-like" design, enable cross-ventilation. The addition of LED lighting and solar energy boosts the villa's green-credentials yet further.

Air Villa is due to be completed in 2014.

Water-Cooled House

Water-Cooled House is based in Singapore (Photo: Albert Lim)
Water-Cooled House is based in Singapore (Photo: Albert Lim)

Once again the work of passive-cooling authority Wallflower Architecture and Design, Singapore-based Water-Cooled House takes the principle that a swimming pool can lower the local temperature, as seen in the YAK01 home, and turns it up to 11.

As its name suggests, Water-Cooled House's main feature is its ample and innovative use of water. A fish pond on the first floor, in addition to a pool and plenty of open space for air circulation, ensures that evaporative cooling lowers the local temperature.

Some nice finishing touches include an oculus within the main entrance, and a minimal but striking spiral staircase, while a small pond running much of the length of the second floor also helps to regulate the home's overall interior temperature.

Water-Cooled House was completed in 2009.

The Winged House

The house is built upon a triangular plot (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)
The house is built upon a triangular plot (Photo: Patrick Bingham-Hall)

The Winged House, by K2LD Architects, is also based in Singapore, and built upon a triangular plot. Taking this as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, K2LD Architects produced a modern home that draws on traditional Malay architecture.

The Winged House sports two large "wings" which serve as a roof. This is more than mere attractive design though, as the extensive overhangs enable naturally ventilated spaces, and this is complemented by opening screens, a nearby pool, and an open air-filled interior.

The Winged House was completed in 2012.

11 comments
Bob Shock
Nice designs for the 0.01% of the population that can afford them, but what about posting articles for the other 99.9% of us? I could pay my air conditioning bill for the next millenium for what one of those houses cost!
אראש יאן חלמון
There are centuries old passively cooled houses in the city of Yazd in southwestern Iran that give you a chill in temperatures over 100!
harry_72
Yep only the mega rich can afford these houses... places like I live it is near impossible to have a house passively cooled for us non millionaire plebs, 45°c during summer and there are no cooling breezes as the breeze is already 45°c+ and you cant use pools of water as water is a scarce commodity... leaves mechanical cooling only, which despite the ultra greenys BS can be done with little environmental impact through solar powered mechanical air conditioning!
Larry English
yes those only cost about 2 million each wle
jerryd
I live in Fla, a similar climate and for 5 months/yr you'll be sweating in these. In fact I'm sweating right now at 90F on Oct 21th!! They are stupidly large thus hardly called low energy. I'd combine a much smaller, airy place like shown with either an underground area or a highly insulated one with a small A/C. I'm moving onto an uninsulated 34' trimaran that with just 1kw of PV runs my power needs including A/C for 20+ yrs for $1200 system with storage, sunelec and Auto Zone. So it depends, my Tri is far lower impact that the examples including it's A/C . And I can sail anywhere with it.
Jerry Peavy
Not only are these houses ugly, they are ridiculously expensive. Passive cooling is available to anyone with access to enough subsurface area to install a below ground passive cooling system, where the temperature is around 57 degrees!
Jay Finke
All I hear is waaa I can't afford it waaa. I'm with All Gore as long as I can keep my power bill under $3000.00 a month I'm happy
Bryan Haslett
I love some examples and all the benefits of a monolithic dome home. The technology makes for not only a super efficient home but near disaster proof as categorized by FEMA. They can be heated or cooled for a fraction of the cost of a standard stick built home and they will still be standing in a couple hundred years. Just do a web search for monolithic domes or check monolithic.com The shape is radical but I suppose if we were used to them we would see square as radical. A friend asked what do you do with all the curves to which again I say we would be saying what do we do with all those corners. Oh and the costs are equivalent to a standard build. If you put your utility savings into your mortgage you could pay a 30 year mortgage in 12 years.
MoraigandBenjamin Klenner
Good article, though, it does make passive solar houses look unattainable for the average homebuilder. Here is a great house built in Western Australia for the same price, and the same timeframe as a regular house: http://joshshouse.com.au
PrometheusGoneWild.com
No mention of shade trees. To be fair a few of theses homes seem to have them. During the summer the trees shade the house for most of the day. There are a few hours in the middle of the day when direct sunlight hits my house. During the winter the leaves fall off and I get direct sunlight through a sliding glass door. I do have a small air conditioner. We run it sometimes during the most humid days. But for the most part my trees do the job.