A recent CNN story showcased this year’s most innovative architectural concepts – they haven’t yet been built, but these designs are being lauded for addressing the biggest challenges facing architects in the next decade, including climate change and aging populations.

The inaugural WAFX Prizes, created in conjunction with the World Architecture Festival (WAF), honor concepts that address sustainability, smart cities, building technology and cultural identity. “Everything architects do is about the future, even if it’s a restoration project,” said WAF’s program director, Paul Finch.

The award winning architectural proposals include a wooden tower in Nigeria, a community food center in Hawaii and an industrial building in Norway repurposed into a greenhouse and social hub. The overall prize went to the US firm Paul Lukez Architecture for its proposed hydroelectric canal in Boston, which also won in the climate, energy and carbon category. Designed to protect Boston’s low-lying harbor area from flooding, the project would restore almost 25 million square feet of salt marshes to create a sustainable neighborhood. In the case of rising tides or storm surges, the canal system would channel water toward recreational parks which double as reservoirs. Hydroelectric turbines would also provide clean energy to residents.

The development would use tides and infrastructure to generate renewable energy — a new urban design that would make this area of Boston more resilient to climate change. The firm believes that their design concepts can be applied to other cities at risk from rising sea levels.

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