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Buildings and clean energy

With high-rises popping up here and there, in total disregard to building bylaws and local environmental issues, it seems local architectures and city building regulatory authorities have no concerns with human lives and the eco system. All over the world, town planners and architects plan towns and buildings in a way to make the cities, buildings and houses livable and the environment sustainable. The Lahore Development Authority has taken up an ambitious plan to promote high-rises to, what it deems, meet Prime Minister Imran Khan’s agenda for more houses for the people. High-rises, of course, occupy less ground space and accommodate more building blocks but they are against the architectural basics of our environment. British architect Jason Pomeroy, an internationally acclaimed thought-leader on sustainable architecture, who is in Pakistan overseeing energy projects, is not pleased with the building culture of Pakistani cities. Starting with the history of local architecture, he says the buildings of the past, which have weathered many storms and are still intact, are environment- and human-friendly. The study of ancient architecture of the Indus Valley Civilisation shows that they respected environment and all trappings. Then came the British here, and they too continued with the tradition. Then struck globalisation, and soon steel-made skyscrapers and high-rises, consuming tons of cement and glass, became a fashion statement, looking down upon environmental concerns.
Now, all modern cities have become a jungle of glass, steel and concrete. These skyscrapers house host of problems, which are going to multiply with the passage of time. These power-guzzling buildings have made cities choked, water-challenged and traffic-wise troublesome. All is, however, not lost. He goes on, “However, fortunately this diagnosis is also a prescription: get back to the basics – use the natural endowments to keep buildings cool. Pakistan, with ambitious five million homes plan in next five years can make it a starting point to revert to its indigenous art of architectural design – using the sun direction to avoid heat and wind as heat carrier to keep its homes cool instead of mechanical air-conditioning and ventilation.”
The new housing scheme of the prime minister must keep the usage of clean energy its flagship point. Pakistan is an energy-water-and-air-starved country. The available natural resources and their effective usage can start an era of clean environment. Similarly, instead of planning more high-rises in already populous cities like Karachi and Lahore, housing schemes should be planned in small towns to make them attractive. But, only the construction of houses will not attract people to small cities. Development projects and industrial schemes are also a must.



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