Solutions for people to erect affordable, stable and sustainable homes | Pakistan

“Earth Home Project” investigates the rising challenges Pakistanis in rural areas have to face. The focus is on trying to find applicable solutions for people to erect affordable, stable and sustainable homes. Architecture plays a crucial role in finding new ways of designing by incorporating local materials and building techniques, thereby minimizing not only the cost but most importantly the reliance on the economic situation. The project started in Pakistan in 2011, initiated by Irshad Balouch, as a direct response to the flood that devastated his country during the summer of 2010 and the lack of support people in rural areas where given following the loss of their land. For most it is strictly impossible to build their houses on their own; the inflation in the cost of basic building materials forcing those able to acquire a loan to take on life-long debts often resulting in the loss of their land. The goal of the project is to acquire, develop and spread the necessary know-how required to build stable constructions, by involving residents of flood affected areas into the process of rebuilding their houses, accompanied by skilled craftsmen, employed by the project, and neighbors, there on a voluntary basis. The project (thanks to donations) is able to cover the unavoidable expenses of some basic building materials such as concrete and burned bricks for strong foundations, wood for window and door frames as well as basic tools. Locally sourced materials such as earth, straw and bamboo, contribute to the sustainability of the design since they are highly accessible, do not require heavy machinery, and empower people by virtue of those materials being relatively easy to acquire and handle. Sustainability, understood as an environmentally as well as socially responsible answer therefor becomes the starting point for the type of architectural thinking at the heart of “Earth Home Project”. Architecture can do more than just provide blueprints for prepackaged products of consumption if it integrates the process of construction and the production of materials as an integral part of what defines it. The hope is that this will enable the community to be more prepared against future disasters resulting from climate change. They will be able to rely on their neighbors and their own abilities to build up their life despite the cruel and unjust conditions of the economy which is pushing many into desperation and towards the margins. So far the endeavor has been able to help raise 121 homes around the area of Multan, which had been very badly affected by the flood due to its position in the Indus river basin.

By: Amandin Richard

Sustainability of Buildings in Nuweiba Village, New & Ancient Building Techniques | Egypt

By: Mamdouh Sakr

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One of the project’s clusters after the external plastering (still under construction)

Introduction

Architecture students and architects in Egypt and elsewhere seldom have the opportunity to study and understand the various techniques of Earth Construction. The majority of the architectural educational systems ignores such a topic completely, and restricts it to anthropological studiesThis severe neglect of teaching the ancient yet sustainable building techniques is contemporaneous to a ruthless erosion of the Egyptian vernacular architecture, with all its architectural elements, decorative motifs and structural techniques.

Nowadays a number of projects are trying to benefit from the timeless building techniques and local materials to create sustainable, environment friendly and economical buildings.Most of these trials are a direct result of the efforts of Hassan Fathy, the late Egyptian architect who spent his entire career looking for and developing means of rebuilding communities that would allow people to live with self-respect despite their economic status.

The Project… The Idea

I was asked to design a touristic camp on a piece of land north of Nuweiba, which is a coastal town in the eastern part of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. An area, which is well known for its numerous “Bedouin-Style” camps, where tourists stay in cheap huts made of palm reeds and recycled plywood boards.

The “Bedouin- Style” hut seemed like a nice idea that has been abused by bad taste and limited budgets, and what started as an environment friendly, economical and aesthetically pleasing simple lodge turned to be an ugly ramshackle heap of different materials. After almost two decades of labeling the area as a “Hippie paradise”, things changed for a number of reasons and a camp composed of huts would never generate any income or even sustain the ownership of the plot. Sothe owners of the camps were obliged to build permanent rooms in addition to the simple huts.

The owner who was mesmerized by the beauty of the site wanted to respect the environment and create buildings that enhance the visitors’ experience of the sea, the desert and the mountains. The piece of land had a narrow frontage on the beach (90 meters), and this required a different design approach than the typical spreading of the rooms in rows parallel to the shoreline.Therefore the design gradually developed as a number of rooms clustered around courtyards that varied in size and form. These room clusters were placed organically in the natural desert landscape, ensuring natural lighting and ventilation to every unit.

Building Materials and Techniques

The use of natural materials and traditional building techniques was the main criterion, which influenced and guided the design of the camp. The available building materials in the site and the region were: stone shingles, silt, gravel and sand. Apart from these materials anything else had to be brought from the cities of the Nile Delta (almost 350 km away).

As the local volcanic and granite stones radiate large quantities of heat, they were unsuitable to build living spaces, but were easily used tobuildthe foundations. The presence of good-quality silt and sand encouraged the use of adobe, where only dry straw was needed to strengthen the mixture. So it was decided that adobe will be prepared in site, and used to build the walls, and the question was what will be used for the roofs. Unfortunately using reinforced concrete to create flat roofs became the norm in Egypt that most of the architects and clients do not even think of other options. I was trying to provide other environment friendly alternatives, however using wooden joists would not be that appropriate, as the materials, its preparing to withstand the harsh climate and the skilled labor involved would be extremely expensive. While I wanted to use adobe domes and vaults for environmental and aesthetic reasons, fortunately the owner accepted the idea because of its economical advantages and the overall ambiance, which would appeal and attract tourists visiting the camp. So we were simply using natural building materials and reusing Ancient Egyptian building techniques in the 21st century.

The Architect and the Mason

I can claim that earth building construction and traditional building techniques depend on the experience and ingenuity of the mason more than the creativity of the architect. The masons deliberately made some slight modifications, such as the sizes and location ofsome of the alcoves and a few decorative brick formations, where they felt that their modifications added a distinctive flair to the buildings.

I believe that such flexible relationship between the architect and the masons is peculiar to the earth building construction and is rarely present in the conventional building processes. This remark might raise an important question, whether these buildings are considered examples of “Vernacular” or“Neo-vernacular architecture?

Sustainability Challenges for the Indigenous Lepcha People Due to Land Use Change in Sikkim | India

By: Saori Ogura PastedGraphic-4PastedGraphic-1 PastedGraphic-2 The indigenous Lepcha people have lived in Sikkim, a world biodiversity-hotspot, for more than eight centuries. Their traditional agricultural practices, hunting and gathering, enabled them to be self-sustaining in the biodiverse forest. Cultivated agriculture began around 1900 with the introduction of wet rice and cardamom. In the 1970s, commercial cardamom got expanded. In 2000, cardamom production collapsed due to disease. My research involves case studies at three scales on land use changes in the Lepcha territory following the expansion of cardamom. The first is a coarse grained GIS study of land use change for the village from 1988 to 2102. The other two are fine-grained key informant interview studies—one on land use change, and the second on the persistence of traditional food crops. I found decline in crop diversity in the area devoted to the monocultural cardamom cash crop system, which regionally resulted in a forest cover increase after the crash of the cardamom, and the persistence of traditional food crops only in the most remote villages. PastedGraphic-3

Small-scale Farmers: Sources of “Buen Vivir” | Mexico

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With the premise that human Buen Vivir is holistic and includes individual, communitarian and environmental aspects. Ana and a group of small-scale agro-ecological farmers of a nested farmer’s market in Chiapas, Mexico have put together a series of qualitative indicators. These were used to assess how selling in a nested farmer’s market contributed to their Buen VivirThe Buen Vivir elements of the nested market were compared to other types of market outlets, such as conventional produce markets or door-to-door sales.

The results drawn from this research suggested that nested markets have more elements associated with Buen Vivir than conventional markets, such as emotional rewards and social recognition. Nevertheless, these markets also present challenges, such as low profits and discomforts related with social interaction. In the end, this research shows that the assessed nested markets have the potential to fulfill human necessities. social interaction. In the end, this research shows that the assessed nested markets have the potential to fulfill human necessities.

Strengthening nested markets can have beneficial impacts in the Buen Vivir of agroecological famers because they are sale outlets and they contribute to the sustainability of their agroecological production model.

Snippets from Nairobi | Kenya

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Nescafe Plan Farmers’ Nursery – Karatina, Central Kenya

One of the key factors for rural development is the sustainability of its farmers. Countries whose farmers have invested in education and technological knowhow have progressed at a much faster pace and as a result have grown economically stronger and sustainable. Having had the experience of working with rural/ farming communities across two continents – Asia and Africa, I can say with confidence that farmers in Africa, especially in Kenya are more conscious of improving their lot. In my extensive interactions with coffee farmers across central Kenya, ranging from small to medium sized farmers, all had one thing in common; all of them are educating their children. No doubt that there is strict implementation of Universal Primary Education across Kenya, which helps in ensuring that children acquire basic schooling. But when a struggling farmer proudly tells you that his daughter is studying in the Nairobi university for a degree in Agriculture sciences, you know that it requires a higher level of consciousness and vision. This reflects the hope of a nation that sees value in equipping its future generations with skills that will ensure a sustainable source of income generation.

Sustainability has many facets which play an equally important role in making our planet a better place to live in!

By: Unjela Kaleem