People & Sustainability


Two contrasting urban fabrics in Cairo, Egypt

People shape their cities in many ways and on many scales. Describe how socioeconomic factors can shaped the built environment from the entire city to the single public space.  Discuss the most relevant example from the class/reading material and bring your own example from your own experience and observations

(Sustainable Development in Cities, USP 514 Class Discussion)


Evolution of Urbanization & Sustainable Development Concept


When: January 1, 1942, Who: representatives of 26 nations   |   Where:  Washington DC  |  Action: Signing the Declaration of the United Nations   |   Official Declaration: 24 October 1945

In the urbanization process through human history, sustainable development is a concept that was introduced recently. Write your own definition/understanding of the concept and why the current definition by the UN (our common future report) may be insufficient. And then mention the top milestones in the evolution of urbanization process and why do you think these are the ones that influenced the development process more.

(Sustainable Development in Cities, USP 514 Class Discussion)


Delineating the Coast of Salalah Using Remote Sensing | Oman

By: Amna Alruheili


This study focuses on quantifying shoreline change through the use of remote sensing techniques, multi-temporal Landsat images, on the southern region of Oman’s coast (Dhofar, Salalah). The coastal shoreline of Dhofar Governance witnessed a major cyclone in 2002. As a result, morphological changes including the accretion and erosion of the coastline along Salalah took place.

In this study, coastline changes were researched using radiometrically and geometrically corrected multitemporal and multi-spectral data from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) dated 1984 and 1998, Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) 2002, and Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) dated 2015. In the image processing steps, band rationing (B4/B2) and digitizing were used to carry out coastline extraction, and the Digital Shoreline Analysis System was used to calculate the rate of coastline changes. In some parts of the research area, remarkable coastline changes of more than 56.4 m withdrawal and -0.9 m/year erosion were observed in 2002.



Malawi Vernacular Architecture or African Vernacular Architecture | Malawi


Architecture is a part of countries culture as much as art, language, music and other components. In many countries, vernacular architecture is disappearing. Eventhough this is true in developed countries, such as the UK, it is especially evident in developing nations, including countries in Africa. Vernacular architecture utilizes materials that are found locally and uses construction techniques that have passed from generation to generation. Changes in techniques have evolved over time but materials stay constant. The main materials used in Malawi vernacular architecture is mud and thatch. Walls are constructed with mud in one form or another. Examples of just mud, clumped on top of each other was documented. More common was mud applied to a frame, either made of reeds, bamboo or wood. The most common method was using mud to create bricks, the bricks either being sun dried or burnt in kilns. The last method of constructing walls is rammed earth, which does not use any wood for the construction, and is the most sustainable. People believe that because thatch has to be replaced, it is temporary. Much of this depends on the thickness of the thatch roof. A proper thatched roof can last up to 70 years, with the ridge being replaced every 20 years. Safari lodges are constructed in this fashion. The average person cannot build a roof to this standard, so a roof is thatched based on what can be afforded.

In Malawi, thatch is both difficult and expensive to obtain. Because of this, not only are thatched roofs thin, but a layer of plastic is placed below the thatch to prevent leaking. Mud and thatch are both viable and sustainable materials. The issue is that people build what they can afford and in many cases it is the bare minimum. Many people have the perception that vernacular architecture is sub standard, temporary, for the poor. If constructed properly this is not the case. Take a look at safari lodges which are built with vernacular materials. In fact these structures are built for tourists, who want to experience the “real Africa”. The problem is that the perception of a mud hut is the one of the dilapidated structure and not of the possibility of what these vernacular materials are capable of. This perception continues because there is very little information on line for people to actually view. African vernacular architecture needs to be documented, not only because it is vanishing, but more importantly to educate about it’s beauty and it’s place as a real and sustainable building technique.

By: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Problems of the Urban Environment | Egypt

Addressing environmental problems is a concern for several international development organizations. The definition of “environmental” problems has been one of the obstacles to proper handling of the problem and allocating appropriate funding. Although this is true to a large extent, it is valid to argue that international aid is also bound by geopolitical forces and interest of the donating agency. Providing funding to address environmental problems is usually part of a larger cooperation agreement between governments or international agencies and therefore is derived by the interest and the agenda of the donor agency.

The definition is indeed a problem and this wide range (broad Vs narrow) of understanding plays a role in identifying and measuring the success of the program.

From previous experience, the following are some examples:

(1) Decision by central government is taken far from the location context and with absence of good knowledge of the context.

— The central government in Egypt developed a prototype for housing for the poor and named it (Taweteen). Spreading it out to remote areas of the country makes it extremely irrelevant and not suitable for the local tribes in the southern border near Sudan. This is because the lack of suitable design and absent of knowledge of the local conditions in such a remote area.

(2) Broad definitions is a problem, especially that most f the environmental and health issues are related to lack of infrastructures (i.e. water & sanitation).

— The environmental component of upgrading project end up of being a construction project instead of looking at the real environmental issues and resolve it. Again the absence of (appropriate technology) sometimes lead environmental improvement programs to be limited to installing pipes and provide urban utilities without proper needs assessment.

(3) Stand alone initiatives Vs Main stream: This paper argues that main stream is more important. Although this seem to be valid to a large extent. It is important not to ignore specific conditions where stand alone initiatives can also be equally important. Especially in initiatives that are newly introduced and can not be part of the original development framework. A good example is the initiatives of developing green stars for tourism establishments that consider all sustainability elements. It would not be a successful one if addressed as a continuation of the existing rating system.

(4) Pressure from Northern environmentalist.

— Either it is a blind copy of the developed world or a post colonial influence or looking forward to implementing good environmental practices from the North, the gap remains wide between the targeted and the achievable practices. A good step forward to transfer the good practices within the same region before looking forward to importing what might not work well from the North.

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.