Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA, makes no bones about the steamy climate in Nausori, Fiji, where his firm, Studio Pali Fekete architects (SPF:a), is designing a pair of residential towers. “The temperature is always boiling there,” he says. Within this extreme environment, Culver City, Calif.-based Pali and his team created an evocative design that turns natural conditions to its advantage.

The 13- to 14-story project will use local materials and labor, which necessitated a simple, easy-to-build structure. Pali wants the buildings to work hand in hand with the area's abundant sun and moisture, so he plans to cover their concrete framework with terra-cotta planters. Not only will the planters supply a place for shade-providing vegetation, they'll also capture the region's near-daily rainfall. “In Fiji, water percolates through volcanic rock,” Pali explains. “We thought we could do the same thing.”

The design calls for water to filter through the planters into a central collector, then undergo more purification for reuse elsewhere in the building. The low-tech system welcomes the climate, instead of trying to shut it out. And, in contrast to the high-end resorts at the other end of Fiji's main island, the project will provide a full-time housing option for local residents. Part of a mixed-use complex called The Haven, the towers are tentatively scheduled to start construction in 2010 and to be completed in 2012.

project: The Haven, Nausori, Fiji

key green strategies: Vegetated walls, rainwater harvesting, natural ventilation, local materials, and mixed-use

architect: Studio Pali Fekete architects (SPF:a), Culver City, Calif.

developer: Executive Development Properties, Suva, Fiji

general contractor: To be determined (TBD)

project size: 800 square feet to 1,400 square feet per unit

site size: 19 acres

construction cost: TBD

rental price: TBD

units in project: 127