Eight of the world’s most remarkable homes

“Passive home” design is all about low-energy building made to exploit passive solar energy and establish a comfortable indoor temperature with a low-energy requirement for heating or cooling. It’s a recurring theme in the shortlisted architects of the World Architectural Festival. Programme director Paul Finch tells BBC Culture that he has seen “a far greater concern for sustainability, reflected also in the use of environmentally-friendly materials and adoption of passive house design principles”.

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Held annually over three days, the festival and its sister event Inside World Festival of Interiors offer a global survey of developments in architecture and interior design respectively. Around 550 shortlisted architects present their projects to a panel of judges, from architects and interior designers to engineers. The events’ judging process is unusually transparent, as festival-goers witness it, too.

The festival takes place in cities around the world – the last one was held at the exhibition centre at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. On the final day, shortlisted architects present their projects to another jury and compete for the following gongs: World Building of the Year, Landscape of the Year, Future Project of the Year and Interior of the Year. “Many shortlisted houses and villas took an imaginative approach to sites and their various constraints, turning difficulties into opportunities. They frequently incorporated potential landscape elements and capitalised on natural light,” says Finch.

“There is a greater interest in knowing how much energy is expended when manufacturing materials,” adds Finch. “Wood has become increasingly popular because of its carbon-absorbing credentials. Architects also often favour retro-fitted projects now rather than ones involving demolition and new-builds.” Moreover, changing demographics, the pandemic and climate change are influencing residential architecture, he adds: “Greater life expectancy, intergenerational living and late-life medical and care treatment have pushed health and wellbeing, previously confined to health-sector buildings, such as hospitals, up the agenda.”

Future lockdowns can’t be ruled out, Finch points out. Some architects are factoring in more balconies and other external spaces. They are also including spaces for working from home.

BBC Culture looks at eight projects showcased by WAF and Inside.

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