By Jody McCutcheon
Having the lowest average ground level in the world means The Maldives are extremely susceptible to rising sea levels. What better place, then, in which to achieve carbon neutrality—both to help reduce global warming (thereby slowing the melting of ice caps, and thus the rising of sea levels), and also to inspire sustainable development in larger countries? Welcome to Finolhu Villas, also known as the world’s first fully solar-powered, five-star resort.
Located on a thirteen-acre island of Kaafu Atoll, part of the Maldivian administrative division, the luxurious, over-water resort is a breathtaking product of international cooperation. New York City–based Yuji Yamazaki Architecture teamed with Maldivian firm Design 2000 and Italian engineering company T&D Water Technologies to bring the project to life. Having recently opened to the public, the Club Med–sponsored resort accommodates up to one hundred guests year-round, and includes a central restaurant and bar, pool area, gym and spa.
Finolhu Villas is powered by 67,000 square feet of solar panels—visibly integrated into the resort’s design—with a storage battery that generates about a megawatt of electricity on a sunny day. That’s enough energy to support a hundred guests and a hundred staff at any one time, with surplus energy being stored for cloudy days. The upfront cost of solar infrastructure should pay for itself in about eight years—a far better investment than regular payments to import diesel fuel!
Fifty-two villas jut vertebral-like from a central jetty. Each villa boasts three rooms, twelve-foot ceilings, a private beach and pool and a sunrise or sunset view. Each one also employs passive energy principles to minimize energy consumption. Most are designed with operable windows strategically placed to optimize ventilation that’s further enhanced by island winds. Wood shade screens adorn two sides of each villa to cut off direct sun from exterior walls and patio, maintaining low interior temperatures. Additionally, the island utilizes a desalination tank to allow for water self-sufficiency, waste-management efficiency and erosion-minimizing landscaping.
The villas’ architectural design incorporates gently curving roofs in homage to the island’s natural geometries, like those found in ocean waves and sea turtles. In the words of principal architect Yamazaki, “The design of the surroundings takes inspiration from what was there before… When you have a beautiful and unique site like this, you just want to preserve it.”
Looking for a stunning, beachfront vacation destination where you needn’t worry about leaving a heavy eco-footprint? Welcome to Finolhu Villas, the future of sustainable luxury resorts.