Appropriate Building Design for Uch and Other Cities of Southern Punjab

1. Preamble

The Conservation and Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) Lahore, was commissioned by the UNDP (Islamabad office) for carrying out a number of activities related to the preparation of Appropriate Building Design for Uch and Other Cities of Southern Punjab. These activities were carried out since 22 May 2001 and are still continuing.  Under the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the project, the CRC was supposed to carry out the following.

  1. Preparation of design solutions for energy efficient, climatically appropriate architecture for southern Punjab through the study of traditional and contemporary architecture.
  2. Market survey of materials, construction techniques/mechanics and their cost for proposals of improvement of construction design, and enhanced cost efficiency.
  3. Laying down broad guidelines regarding quality control during the construction process.
  4. Orientation/training of architects, engineers and end users.
  5. Preparation of a technical manual, the aim of which is:
    • Improve building design and construction details.
    • Clearly define the role of all parties involved in building construction, from inception to completion.
    • Improve understanding of all engaged in the building process.
    • Provide documents to smoothen the snags in the current linkages between architects, owners, material suppliers and contractors.
  6. Advocacy and awareness raising of the above amongst the NGOs, government agencies, architecture schools, young architects, engineers, para-professionals and  contractors.
  7. To carry out participatory research and develop building designs which are climatically friendly and cost efficient. Survey and documentation of at least three traditional and two contemporary existing buildings, which are today more suitable for the region’s climatic conditions and the socio-cultural realities of this specific area.
  8. To apply the findings of the research and actualizing it into the design of two community facilities in the region.
  9. To disseminate the information and experience gathered through the publication of a technical manual. CRC would request extra funds for the printing cost of the manual, when it is ready for printing.

The CRC has not only completed what was required of it under the TOR but has gone way beyond it. The design of one of the community buildings is complete and the other is in the process. I have been in touch with the CRC regarding the project since the very beginning and have periodically reviewed its raw data and finished drawings and documentation. My review, given below is based on this association, a desk review of its final documents and designs, and on the basis of having participated in its Bahawalpur Workshop in March 2004.

2. The Process

 2.1 Persons Involved

The process that the CRC followed was important. It consisted of establishing a cell in its Lahore office and involving its staff in Uch with the Project. The Uch and Lahore office interacted constantly and worked together. Members of the Lahore office visited Uch regularly and stayed overnight at the Uch office hostel for purposes of physical and social surveys. The Uch office consists of Tahir Maqbool, a diploma holder from a technical school and a resident of Uch. Tahir Maqbool is supported by a team of two persons and is the only technical person designing houses in Uch. He and his team have been responsible for the implementation of the CRC-Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute’s community financed and community managed sanitation programme. As such, he has close links both with local communities and local government. One of the members of Lahore office is Jam Ayyaz, who is an architect trained at the National College of Arts (NCA) Lahore and is also a resident of Uch. The involvement of these two Uch residents and their connections has been as asset for the Project.

The other professionals associated with the project consist of senior architects; teaching faculty at the National College of Arts Lahore; visiting Pakistani architect and CRC Board member from MIT, USA; visiting Pakistani architects doing their PhD’s abroad; well-known mid-level professionals; fresh architecture graduates trained on the project; engineers and environmentalists. In addition, architects from southern Punjab and teachers from the Technical College Bahawalpur have helped in the organisation of the workshops and participated in them along with local contractors and officials from the government of the Punjab and local government organisations. The knowledge generated by the project has benefited all of them since this knowledge has been shared through contineues in-house meetings and later through workshops. This knowledge has gone back to the academic institutions whose teachers were a part of the process. However, it is necessary to take steps so that this knowledge does not get fossilised and formally becomes teaching material. (For a list of architects, professionals and para-professionals who have been involved with the project, see Appendix – 1)

2.2 Documentation Of Houses In Uch And Their Analysis

The CRC was to survey and document a limited number of traditional and contemporary houses and to analyse them in terms of climate, building materials and costs so that appropriate design and building technology could be developed for southern Punjab. However, the CRC has documented 56 traditional and 19 contemporary houses in Uch. Climatic data relating to humidity and temperature within these houses has been recorded in all seasons three times a day through a hydrometer. This data was evaluated for selection of the most climatically friendly and culturally appropriate houses for in-depth surveys. Five such houses were identified and surveyed.

Of the houses surveyed, three historic houses were analysed in detail in terms of material, construction technique and method of construction. Similar documentation for three contemporary houses was also undertaken and a comparison was made. A list of traditional terms for residential spaces was also prepared.

The Process Followed Above Established Not Only The Design And Construction Techniques Of Traditional Houses But Also Their Relationship To The Larger Social, Economic And Climatic Context. A Comparison Of The Two (Traditional And Modern) Has Led To The Identification Of The Constraints And Potential In Adapting And/Or Using Traditional Building Materials And Technologies To Contemporary Requirements And Aspirations.

2.3 Climatic Data And Analysis

Climatic data was acquired from Bahawalpur, Multan and Bahawalnagar districts from the Metrology Department and saved on computer. In addition, a literature research for understanding climatic effect and control was carried out and relevant publications and books were purchased along with equipment such as hydrometer and ultrasound measurement instrument. Climatic data for southern Punjab and for all the surveyed houses was developed and analysed and a criteria for thermal comfort as a co-relation of level of humidity and temperature was developed. As a result, it became possible to identify a thermal comfort zone for Bahawalpur, Multan and Bahawalnagar districts.

Available metrological data for the districts was analysed (along with issues related to solar penetration and wind movement) by computer software to assess climate change. As a result, changes in the climate of southern Punjab over the last century were clearly identified. These changes relate to humidity and temperature. The reasons for these changes were also identified. This data and its analysis results are a major addition to our knowledge regarding climate change and its application to comfort zones for buildings in southern Punjab.

2.4 Understanding The Building Process And Its Actors

For understanding the building process and the relationship between the various actors involved in it, the CRC carried out in-depth interviews and surveys of: i) house owners to understand their attitude towards traditional and contemporary house designs and to determine their aspirations and living conditions; ii) para-professionals and contractors who design houses in Uch and southern Punjab. This was done to assess their technical skills, the constraints that they face, the relationship they have with their clients and building material suppliers and the economics of construction. iii) Building material suppliers for evaluating the price of materials, source of supply and possible cheaper alternatives. iv) Kiln owners for checking the quality of bricks, the constraints they have in manufacturing quality bricks, the constraints their clients have in making payments for good quality material, and their view on how their businesses can be improved. And v) Secretary union council for assessing the technical capacity and capability of the union council and the constraints that it is likely to face in adopting climatically appropriate designs for its buildings.

Through An Analysis Of These Interviews, The CRC Was Able To Understand And Document The Sociology, Economics And Technology Of The Current Housing Processes In Southern Punjab And To Identify The Changes That Would Be Required To Improve Them And To Make Them Compatible With The Introduction Of Appropriate Building Designs And Technologies.

2.5 Development Of Proposals/Suggestions

On the basis of an inter-related analysis of items covered in 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 above, the CRC formalised proposals for site planning, building plans, architectural features, construction details and use of materials that would create a climatically suitable neighbourhood and energy efficient buildings. Along with this an understanding of costs and improvements in social relationships between the various actors in the building drama were identified along with inputs required to improve quality of building materials and construction mechanisms. Forms of agreements between contractors and owners have been developed along with contracts that envisage the involvement of NGOs in the building process. These contracts seek to remove the areas of conflict and misunderstanding between contractors, owners, suppliers of material and skilled labour which are one of the major causes for bad and/or incomplete and expensive building work.


  1. Fatima Mir

    respected sir,
    im a student of nca and im currently working on a project based in the vicinity of uch sharif it would be immense help if you could kindly send me the analysis of the buildings around and the materials used mainly.

    Posted November 15, 2013 at 7:04 pm | PermalinkReply
  2. Zobia

    sir i am doing work on traditional ancient architecture of multan residences.
    ca u guide me in this regard.

    Posted March 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm | PermalinkReply

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