Simple solutions for extreme conditions

Soluciones simples para condiciones extremasWith winters at 30 Celsius below cero and hot summers, the northern Pakistan area is one of the most hostile places to live. The Agha Kahn Planning and Building Service, AKPBS, is committed to develop and promote appropriate and economic solutions for the housing problems in this region.
Paul Moreno, representative of the EcoSouth network for Ecuador, visited this region where the highest mountain ranges of the world meet and people work for the same basic necessities as in the whole world.

Study visit in northern Pakistan
After an impressive two-hour helicopter trip from the capital, Islamabad, we arrived at Gilgit, the capital of northern Pakistan. Gilgit is one of the principal places to start expeditions to the Karakoram and Himalaya mountains. Our hosts of the improvement and construction program of the AKPBS, BACIP, had planed several visits to the various housing, water, small entrepreneurs and community entrepreneur programs.

pakistan_003 The impressive mountains of more than 8000 meters of altitude, other than their beauty, don't contribute to the work of the land. The rocky geographic situation makes it hard to work, seed, fertilize and harvest the land. Needless to mention that the principal building material in this region is rock: houses, contention walls, cultivation terraces, and path borders, all this is built out of stones.

The traditional northern house has stonewalls with small window and door openings to avoid the loss of warmth in winter, it is usually a one room design with a dept in the middle where they cook and eat. In the sides of the room the family members sleep and live together. The roof has an opening in the middle of the surface to provide light, ventilation and the evacuation of the gases produced by the cooking oven. The Pakistani oven is a low stove of two cooking possibilities and is fired with wood.

pakistan_006 BACIP has introduced small improvements to the typical houses of the northern region during the last eight years of their work. This are small innovations that have lead to a smaller wood consumption, better comfort of the living situation, empowerment of the women, alleviate lots of respiratory health problems and in general to elevate the living level of the people.

One of these innovations is a window in the upper part of the house. This window has threads that make it easy to open and close. It permits the gases of the kitchen to evacuate and prevents the loss of warmth in winter and that dust, snow and leafs enter the house.

For the kitchen they have designed a chimney with a weather vane that makes the gases go with the wind. The stove has a system to heat up water that besides of providing hot water also functions as a radiator to heat up the house.

pakistan_007 Lots of this "innovations" are used in Europe since long times, but in the studied area it is the first time they are put in practice, for example windows with to glasses have been installed to keep the heat in the house.

To complete the circuit, BACIP has capacitated lots of carpenters and metalworkers to build this elements and others, so the community can buy them locally, with a small income for the entrepreneur, they are also sold in other places that have heard of this products and knows of its advantages.

The program of water extension and saneamiento of the AKPBS, WASEP, that work together with BACIP, has provided secure water, education in hygiene and saneamiento de agua and dry toilets in all of the northern region, this way complementing the work of BACIP.

More than 60 products have been developed in this program: appropriate stoves, double glass windows, hinges for thick walls, insulation for walls and floors to maintain the temperature, drinking water, hot water, schools, roof windows, light weight concrete roofs over zinc sheets, dry toilets, seismic resistant construction, training and capacitating, technical support, wire nets for horizontal reinforcement, chairs and furniture for schools, solar kitchens...

pakistan_008There are lots of results of this projects that cant be contabilized, neither be taken into statistics or auditors. The strengthening of the organization, the emerge of new leaders, the transformation of the lives in the homes, the proudnes of showing a clean and sturdy house, healthy child's, all these are tings that go further than the cost of inversion.

Pakistan is like lots of Nations in development. It has lots of problems and contradictions, but over all a wonderful capital human, capable to produce significant changes in their ambient with the organization and mutual collaboration.

Paul Moreno 

Special thanks to Diane Deacon and the collaborators of BSHF and Qayum Ali Sha, administrator of the BACIP/WASEP program and all the companions of the AKPBS of northern Pakistan, superb hosts and unforgettable friends!


You are here: Home Past editions Edition 26 - July 2007 Simple solutions for extreme conditions


Fernando Martirena
Civil Engineer, PhD. Professor.
Spanish, English, German.
Research and investigation of materials, specifically alternative cement and cement products.


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