If this is the situation for a development occurring within a park that is full of environmental researchers and park rangers, then what is the fate of other development that is occurring in absence of any environmental or climate change considerations.
By: Mamdouh Sakr
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 studies. This 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”?
By: Saori Ogura 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.
By: Jamie Pounds Stanton & Tom Stagg
This study in El Salvador aimed to determine the feasibility of strengthening and expanding a local resource management plan, the Plan Local de Aprovechamiento Sostenible (PLAS). The Bay of Jiquilisco and the surrounding mangrove ecosystem in the Bajo Lempa is a UNESCO-designated biosphere reserve and a Ramsar wetland valued both for being a large carbon sequestering ecosystem and rich in ecological variety. Further, the nearby communities rely directly on resources from this ecosystem for their livelihood. However, degradation of this ecosystem is threatening both the sustainability of the environment and the livelihood of residents.
Aiming to assess the broader social characteristics of this region, we identified four variables as important to the implementation of local environmental resource conservation policy: effective communication structures, community ownership of the policy, relative economic stability in the region and access to alternative markets and resources.
We conducted 76 household surveys and held over 10 hours of semi-structured interviews, the community leaders and citizens alike stressed the importance of sustainable regulation of their ecosystem. They value the mangrove ecosystem and know intimately that without proper conservation efforts, they cannot continue to survive as communities. Unfortunately, we also found that over 80% of community members in communities where the PLAS has been implemented are unaware of the regulations dictated by it. Additionally, 92% reported that there were no locations where they could acquire alternate materials to sustain their livelihoods. In addition, it was widely reported that enforcement, as well as monitoring and evaluation, was insufficient. Both the community leaders and the forest rangers expressed a need for increased resources, such as technical assistance and funding to train and employ more rangers, and for supplies as simple as uniforms.
We recommend supporting the expansion of the PLAS, but have identified key areas that need improvement where PLAS has already been implemented; if these issues are not addressed, they will also limit conservation efforts in new communities. Community education and investment in monitoring and evaluation are two areas where we are focusing our recommendations. A third recommendation underscores the need for support of established cooperatives in fishing, shrimping, and dairy production, among others. Our survey confirmed a very low level of income in the Bajo Lempa, with 62% of households surveyed stating they did not have dependable work, and 34% reporting a monthly income of $0. Improving the economic conditions in the region can relieve some of the burden of the mangrove ecosystem system as a provider of food and building materials.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
El Salvador is one of the most densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. It exhibits deforestation rates comparable to those of countries like Haiti. As with much of Latin America, historical land use patterns and ownership have favored large-scale, singular landholdings, for which regulations or management regimes were nearly nonexistent. Today, authorities are attempting to reform and implement a functioning environmental permitting system, even as new investments in sensitive coastal areas will substantially increase over the next five years. The discussion will outline the challenges facing countries like El Salvador with evolving institutions and rule of law concerns. It will consider the role civil society can play in forging real development compliance–no matter the country—and will highlight the work of a visionary Salvadoran community-based organization, La Coordinadora del Bajo Lempa, whose vision and practice of rural development stand in dramatic contrast to conventional ”know-how.”
The Mekong River is unique among the world’s great rivers in the size of the human population supported by its ecosystem. Approximately 60 million people derive their livelihoods from aquatic life in the river system. Largely unregulated through most of the 20th century, the Mekong River system is undergoing extensive dam construction throughout the basin for hydroelectric generation, with over 140 dams planned, under construction, or built. What will be the cumulative effects of these dams on the geomorphology, ecology, and human populations of the river and its delta? How will these changes interact with other changes such as deforestation in steep uplands, levees and channelization, and accelerated sea level rise?