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


The Adaptive Reuse as a Sustainable Solution for Heritage Buildings in Historic Cairo | Egypt

By: Waleed Shehata

___Picture1Historic Cairo contains possibly the finest and best surviving collection of more than 600 listed building, as well as its preserved urban fabric. Sorrowfully, sixty or more years ago, Cairo’s historic quarters have started facing deterioration symptoms. The long government neglect resulted in squatter settlements, diluted infrastructure and informal industries. This situation together with poor public awareness toward the value of heritage contributed to severe deterioration conditions for years. Despite dedicating a huge financial resources from the local government and international organizations the preservation, restoration and protection of historic Cairo’s monuments extend far beyond saving, or even restoring bricks and mortar for tourists. With conservation of the authentic fabric in mind, the adaptive reuse of Cairo’s heritage buildings is a recommended strategy for integrative revitalization and urban development of the historic city.

In architectural heritage conservation, adaptive reuse refers to the appropriate functional conversions of heritage buildings to suit the existing use or a proposed use. “The fact is that the best of all ways of preserving a building is to find a use for it, and then to satisfy so well the needs dictated by that use…”  Viollet-le-Duc, 1854. The function is the most obvious change, but other alterations may be made to the building itself. Adapting a valuable building for reuse can include intensive exterior and interior modifications that are purely aesthetic and/or functional; such as the circulation route, the orientation, and spatio-physical relationships. In some cases the process of adaptive reuse may exceed the boundaries of the existing structure, or it may even necessitate the construction of an annex building depending on the peculiarities of the project. In other words, adaptive reuse includes any intervention to adjust, upgrade, introduce new services and uses to suit desired functional requirements, while safeguarding the place. The process itself should be applied to the building while retaining its structure, character, original identity and general authentic significance for future generations.

Thus, adaptive reuse of heritage buildings does not only step up the maintenance of the structure and delay its decay, but it also allows the functioning building to get involved in the living context it lies within, unlike buildings that are deserted and disused.

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

By: Mamdouh Sakr


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


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?

A Systems Science Approach to Building Sustainable Low-Carbon Economies


A very clear scientific message has emerged from the work over the past decade on climate science and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions: reduce the environmental burden by roughly 90% in 3 – 4 decades. This target requires a complete ‘reboot’ of how energy and economic systems are envisioned and implemented. Beyond a needed tighter relationship between life-cycle energy costs and benefits, and beyond an also necessary true integration of social science and behavioral research,  the social and environmental impacts of energy systems must become the crux of the development and deployment process.  To do this, working examples at all scales will be needed.  In this talk, we explore viable, transformative examples of this reconfiguration from household to national and regional scale.

Sustainable Design, Case Study – SmartCity Kochi | India


SmartCity Kochi is a project of TECOM investments (SmartCity Dubai) in association with the State Government of Kerala in India. The project marks the next step in the evolution of an international brand of IT Campus projects focused on creating high-quality workplaces for international knowledge industries.

In Kochi, Smart City is located on a one square kilometer riverfront site with some extreme topography and some extreme environmental challenges. By definition, sustainable design is a central theme in the planning and design of the site, in keeping with the brand name “SmartCity”, and its international profile and appeal. Robert Marshall, Global Director of Planning & Landscape for B+H Architects, has been leading the design and planning of the SmartCity Kochi project and will discuss some of the challenges, issues and opportunities associated with the design of a sustainable high-tech campus in southwest India

How Buildings That Imitate Earth’s Creatures Could Save Us From Ourselves | Haiti


Ultimately, the goal is to shift our designers’ perspectives from self to place. HOK’s team used this approach while working with biologists at Biomimicry 3.8 on an urban commercial center in Brazil. This project had a glass building facade outfitted with slanted blades offering shade from the sun. We wanted to develop a system that, like the Brazilian rainforest, would reject heat while returning water to the atmosphere. When we realized that changing the horizontal blades to spirals would atomize cascading water, sending it back into the surrounding environment, it dawned on me: the building could reject heat and conserve water. This multifunctional capability is ever-present in nature but often ignored or even rejected in our compartmentalized world.

Conflicting Visions of Sustainable Development: Struggles over the Production of Eco-Cities in Dakar | Senegal


The concept of sustainability has been invoked to advocate a wide variety of environmental and economic development projects. Most recently, calls for the ‘sustainable development’ of urban centers in the global South have sought to address environmental and social problems associated with informal housing settlements. This presentation examines debates –among a variety of public and private actors- over how to counteract the proliferation of informal housing settlements and manage natural resources in Senegal’s rapidly urbanizing Dakar Region. In doing so, I draw from ethnographic research and textual analysis to examine conflicts that have developed over how sustainable development should be practiced in urban Dakar. Through an examination of several conflicts that have developed from recent efforts to plan and construct ‘eco-cities’, I argue that actors are struggling over a/how to best preserve urban farmland and floodplains and b/the extent to which middle-class and elite housing estates should be integrated into urban development strategies. In addressing the outcomes of these struggles over sustainable urban development, I contend that these conflicts are reconfiguring Dakar’s urban landscape and increasing urban poverty and inequality.