Sustainable Building Design: The larger Issues

1. Thank You for inviting me to speak on this very important subject. The papers that follow will deal with various aspects of sustainable building design.

2.  I have not prepared a paper as yet. But I have made out an outline from which I will present and subsequently I will turn it into a paper.

3. I will try in the time allocated to me to introduce the larger socio-economic, governance and planning issues that are relevant to the subject and which are seldom addressed by academia, professionals, NGOs and national and international development agencies.

4. The most important change in my experience that has taken place in the last 30 years is social. A number of studies have been carried out for Karachi, Dhaka, Bombay and Delhi which I will refer to in my paper.

5. My own work on Karachi, much of which has been published in journals and in book form, points to three major changes.

  • The emergence of a younger generation very different from its elders.
    • Age group 15-24: marriage age / literacy 1981-2006
    • Change in gender relations and family structures/nuclear families 1989 61%, 2006 89%
    • Women in higher education
    • Changes in use of public space
    • Need for culture, recreation, entertainment
    • Similar situation in other South Asian cities
    • Karachi more dramatic
  • Changes in informal settlements
    • Old leadership illiterate and old
    • New leadership educated and young. Uses new vocabulary
    • No longer exclusively working class settlements. Doctors, teachers, bank managers, IT professionals
    • An informal sector increasingly linked to formal sector industries
    • Formally working women in white-collar jobs, as entrepreneurs, running schools and beauty parlours
    • However, no change in approach to planning/upgrading
    • Similar changes noted in literature from India and Bangladesh
  •  The growing power of the bazaar
    • Development of associations and organisations of shopkeepers, market
      operators etc taking control of their development needs/investing in it
    • Guarding their gains and promoting their claims
    • Potential clients of architects and planners

6. Important physical changes. In my opinion these are three

  • Densification of existing low income settlements
    • Old low income settlements have acquired infrastructure. Their residents have higher literacy figures and incomes than 30 years ago
    • However, their environmental conditions are much worse because of densities of between 3 to 5 thousand persons per hectare
    • There is a need to understand the relationship of density with social and economic well-being, affordability of new homes both in terms of rentals and ownership, location and the informal mechanics of incremental growth. This is an important aspect for the design of sustainable built environment and landuse
    • Change in byelaws and zoning regulations
    • Studies of Meera Baphat and myself in collaboration with the Urban Design Research Cell at the NED University will be published a book soon
  • New low income settlements are no longer katchi abadis on government land
    • They are produced through the informal subdivision of agricultural land in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and have secure tenure
    • This process is these major supplier of housing for low income settlements
    • As land prices go up, the subdivisions for the poor become smaller and smaller
    • Number of studies on this phenomena identifying actors in the drama
    • Jumna Par in Delhi is perhaps the biggest informal agricultural subdivision location in South Asia
    • Our studies for Faisalabad show that formal sector produces only 600-750 units per year as opposed to informal agricultural land subdivisions which produce over 4,000 units
    • For the foreseeable future this is the paradigm. Can this be directed to become sustainable?
    • I think yes. But it needs to be understood first.
  • The impact of change on small towns
    • Small towns are loosing their political importance due to the migration of their elite, skilled and educated youth to the larger towns
    • Due to this they are becoming increasingly degraded in social and environmental terms
    • There is evidence to suggest that the vast majority of South Asians will be living in a million plus cities by 2020 (Amitabh Kundu, Reza Ali, Arif Hasan)
    • There is a need to support local commerce for these towns through infrastructure provision, credit and technical and managerial advice

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