World Architecture Festival Reveals Winner of GROHE Water Research Prize

Researchers from Techlab laboratory, based at Shiraz University in Iran, have won a £10,000 research prize to investigate how air humidity and rainfall can be used to aid indoor thermal comfort in arid regions, inspired by water absorption methods observed in the Namib desert beetle.

The Water Research prize is funded by GROHE and is part of the World Architecture Festival annual awards programme. This is the fourth time it has been awarded; other winners have included water filtration, generation and cooling systems in Peru, Brazil and Greece.
This year’s winning project, ‘Aquasorbant Façade’, was announced today (30 November) and Techlab laboratory presented the project as part of a virtual panel discussion on the Water Research Prize today at 13:00 – 14:00 (GMT) with panellists including Paul Finch, Director of World Architecture Festival, Jeremy Melvin, WAF Curator, Patrick Speck, Leader LIXIL Global Design, EMENA and Stefan Schmied, Leader, Business Unit Projects, LIXIL EMENA.
The winning project uses honeycomb-like modules with peaks and troughs to absorb and retain water molecules in the air, inspired by how air humidity is consumed by desert insects, flora and fauna through their ionic skin and body surfaces. The modules, also designed to best capture rainfall, will guide the water into vertical tanks embedded in the façade. Smart sensors, linked to the tanks, will monitor and record indoor temperature and humidity rates so water can be automatically distributed using cool-mist humidification systems when needed.

Researchers say the prize money will allow them to partner with other research divisions to research and experiment with the very latest digital fabrication methods, materials, and environmental sensors to progress the project. Although designed for regions where precipitation, underground water resources and running water supplies are hard to access, as water scarcity becomes a growing concern globally, its applications can extend to buildings in different climates around the world.
The judges praised the proposal for a variety of reasons:
‘All the judges appreciated the inspiration and application of this nanotechnology that could help solve the lack of water in stressed areas of the planet’ says Paul Finch, Director of World Architecture Festival.
‘This innovative project tackles water scarcity and I particularly loved the inspiration directly taken from nature’ says Stefan Schmied, Leader, Business Unit Projects, LIXIL EMENA.
The Water Research Prize links back to the original WAFX Manifesto, launched in 2017, which identified the key challenges architects will need to address over the coming decade, including climate, energy and carbon; ageing and health; re-use; smart city technology; building technology; cultural identity; ethics and values; power and justice; and virtual worlds.

Each entrant is asked to identify a new challenge or opportunity related to design and water, and in doing so advance an understanding of water in relation to the built environment. This year ‘Aquasorbant Façade’ was chosen from a shortlist of ten outstanding projects by a panel of expert judges.

The full shortlist for the WAF Water Research Prize 2021 is:

  • Architectural and Design Solution for Floating Recreational Facilities in the Volga Water Area by Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPbGASU)
  • Air Water by Saleqr
  • Crystalline Reckonings by TGGG Architectural Design Studio
  • REcoral by Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering, TiArch studio
  • Backup Water Supply Capacities by CODENG, LLC
  • Float Living Community by UArchitects
  • Tidal Urban Architecture: Water Induced Anthropogenic Ecology in Deep Bay by The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Water Supply in Beira by Techlab laboratory
  • Rain Harvesting Extension by Techlab laboratory

For more details on the WAF Awards and the festival please visit:




About Phoebe Train

Phoebe is a Marketing and Events Executive, who joined the BCFA as an English graduate in 2021. Working closely with designers and BCFA members, Phoebe has published an array of content for Design Insider.
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