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


October 18, 2013

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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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

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.


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

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

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 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.

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

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!

Bob Shock

There are centuries old passively cooled houses in the city of Yazd in southwestern Iran that give you a chill in temperatures over 100!

אראש יאן חלמון

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!


yes those only cost about 2 million each wle

Larry English

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.


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!

Jerry Peavy

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

Jay Finke

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.

Bryan Haslett

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

MoraigandBenjamin Klenner

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.


These houses are nice but unobtainium,when will the builders get away from this bogus green mindset? Most of the "green" concepts around here are just a gimmick,my "green" builder friend a local contractor,opened up my eyes to what a joke a lot of this is,some of the stress now should be on low energy input,sustainiability and heirloom quality,its a shame the maintenance our common building practice homes require,it reminds of the Guy who was bragging on how much money wood heating was saving Him,when He acess to woodland and thousands of dollars worth of equipment to obtain the wood with. I honestly believe its time to step back and consider what our population and lifestyle costs the environment,not to mention these jokers that fly around the world in a private jet and try to preach a "green" lifestyle.Maybe the true "village" lifestyle has a few lessons on its own about sustainability,now if we can get away from our might makes right mindset-Kevin

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