Karachi Relief Trust & Architecture for Humanity (Karachi Chapter)

“The Children of Adam, created of the self-same clay, are members of one body. When one member suffers, all members suffer, likewise. O thou, who art indifferent to the suffering of the fellow, thou art unworthy to be called a man.” (13th Century Persian Poet Saadi)0


Text: KRT/AfH Volunteers (Karachi Chapter)
Photography: KRT/AfH Volunteers (Karachi and San Francisco Chapters)

Introduction In the summer of 2010, Pakistan was ravaged by a natural disaster of astounding proportions: it was hammered by the most catastrophic floods it had seen in 80 years, which resulted in a fifth (nearly 62,000 square miles) of the country becoming submerged. According to government’s estimates, 20 million people across the country were displaced by the crisis, with a death toll exceeding 1700 people. The people who were most adversely affected were small farmers in villages and unskilled laborers who were living below or just above the national poverty line. The damage to housing was most pronounced in the districts of Muzaffaragarh and Rajanpur in Punjab, Nowshera and D.I Khan in KPK, Jaffarabad, Jacobabad,
Shikarpur and Thatta in Sindh. According to the WFP Initial Vulnerability Assessment, the Sindh province incurred the highest damages (63%
completely destroyed, while 1% undamaged). As the waters finally receded, they left in their wake approximately 10.1 million people in dire need of
shelter and humanitarian assistance

Currently it is liaising with Architecture for Humanity Karachi Chapter to focus efforts on providing sustainable design solutions for the rehabilitation of flood affected areas in Pakistan. Architecture for Humanity was founded in 1999 in response to the need for immediate long-term shelter for returning refugees in Kosovo after the region’s violent conflict, and today provides pro-bono design and construction management services and funding for projects around the world. The rebuilding efforts begun with KRT/AfH conducting an extensive survey of Pakistan

KRT/AfH’s long-term strategy aims to implement a comprehensive program of assisting communities in building houses, supporting infrastructure and
water supply schemes.
To participate in the effort to rebuild, the Karachi Relief Trust (KRT), a Pakistan based NGO with prior experience in providing relief in earthquake and flood affected areas, partnered with the international organization Architecture for Humanity (AfH), Karachi Chapter. Karachi Relief Trust is a Disaster Management Voluntary Organization established in 2007, to provide short term and long term relief in disaster stricken areas across the country.

– from the first hit village near Munda Headworks to the evacuated villages of Sindh. A mission was chartered to assist 5,000 families rehabilitate and restore their lives by providing immediate relief, as well as long-term assistance with re-construction. A holistic rehabilitation program was devised, which incorporated the need to introduce an organic method by which Pakistanis can rebuild Pakistan

themselves in the most cost efficient and timely manner through the reuse of local resources.In Pakistan, research shows that a significant part – more than 60% – of the built heritage belongs to stone. In Sindh, the use of limestone and sandstone as a dimension stone dates back to the construction of Ranikot Fort.KRT/AfH’s long-term strategy aims to implement a comprehensive program of assisting communities in building houses, supporting infrastructure and water supply schemes. The site surveys of the villages have inspired the use of local motifs and use of local crafts and craftsmen in the rebuilding process. The focus is on building practical, low-cost, and environmentally sensitive housing units which will regenerate rural villages and alleviate the cycle of poverty. The KRT/AfH team strives for sustainability in the built environment, and has treated this flood relief and rehabilitation project no differently. The approach towards rebuilding has been very site specific, and hence 3 different types of housing modules (stone, brick and block) have been developed after factoring in the climatic and topographical variations between flood affected areas in different provinces of the country. The choice of materials was givencareful consideration because of each material’s unique qualities: hardness, texture, color and durability.

The housing units made of stone, in particular, have been designed bearing in mind the significance of stone-based architecture in this part of the world, and these designs have yielded some interesting observations. This narrative summarizes the sustainability aspects of design and construction that reflect this. Stone modules for the South In Pakistan, research shows that a significant part – more than 60% – of the built heritage belongs to stone. In Sindh, the use of limestone and sandstone as a dimension stone dates back to the construction of Ranikot Fort. The historical graveyards/monuments of Chaukundi, (29km east of Karachi), and Makli, in Thatta, are more modern examples of the use of dimension and cut stones. In the past 200 years, numerous buildings in Karachi, Hyderabad, Thano Bula Khan, Sari Singh and other parts of Sindh have been constructed using a variety of limestone and other rocks quarried locally. Other important examples of the use of stone in this country are the massive and beautiful buildings built by the Mughals and the British. The choice of building materials is a vitally important decision which affects the cost and duration of construction. Thus reusing indigenous materials and local masons and laborers expedites the process, making it cost effective, and provides employment to the locals.Furthermore,

in the disaster struck areas of Sindh, there was also a sense amongst the villagers that stone is valued positively and hence, the architects made the decision to utilize stone as the key structural material for housing units in this area. All materials used in the reconstruction
of village homes have been sourced from within Sindh. Stone for foundation and wall construction is blast extracted from a nearby mountain, while
cement and steel are sourced from neighboring cities of Thatta and the outskirts of Karachi (25 and 90 kms) away respectively. The transportation related carbon and energy embodied in these structures is therefore minimized, while local business is utilized. Reconstruction of modules using Stone
Prior to developing stone based housing designs for villages in the South, an initial survey was conducted by KRT/AfH to understand the lifestyle of the villagers. The existing houses comprised one or two rooms, a veranda made of reed and wood frame, and partition walls covered with adobe earth/straw mix. Some of the houses had sloping roofs with wood framing and reed matting, covered with thatch and earth. The foundation of these structures was not deep enough to sustain lateral force, and required frequent maintenance through the application of “ghara” (compacted earth finished with mud husk mortar).

Some areas also comprised brick construction with local stone base/plinth. The kitchen was an outdoor space underneath a covered veranda, or completely open. Washrooms were almost nonexistent in most houses, while the untreated sewerage was disposed off in an open drain leading outside the village boundary. No piped water was available, though water storage facilities were provided for. Moreover, there was a great need to rebuild the damaged houses as more permanent structures. After careful consideration, the architects decided to use stone as the primary material in their reconstruction work in this area. This was done after taking into account its availability and durability, and its acceptability to the local people because of its cultural association with power, social status and religion. Culturally and socially sustainable design is as important as resource efficiency and environmental impact mitigation in any project. The impact a project has on the lives, customs and livelihood of all stakeholders involved can determine its acceptance, and therefore its short and long term success. The culture of rural Sindh was considered in both the design of the living units as well as in the reconstruction layout and Master plan. Families in rural Sindh are typically large (8-12 members are not uncommon) and traditionally live in gender segregated indoor environments. The housing units developed for this project therefore feature a simple design that upholds the tradition of multifamily environments along with extended family members. In order to preserve the simplicity of the language of rural design, the housing modules proposed by KRT/AfH have a basic plan comprising a veranda, kitchen, bathroom, 1 and 2 bedrooms (which can accommodate 3-4 beds), with thatched roofs (similar to the existing thatched huts in the province of Sindh). The estimated cost of 1 bedroom module is Rs 150,000 and the 2 bedroom module is Rs 225,000.Chikar (dressed stone)- which is regular in shape – is used for the walls, while Chiliya (undressed stone) is used in the plinth and foundation. In the foundation of the housing unit, the periphery is formed of stone, while the rubble (leftover from chipping the stone) is used in the center. Stone is also used in the plinth, utilizing blade cut and rough textures, with stone sizes varying between 6-16 inches. Single 8 inch thick walls rise above the plinth, with the exterior face of the stone weathering well, thus eliminating the need for constant maintenance (which includes refining and sealing). A layer of dpc is placed below the floor, while the material itself provides excellent thermal mass, together with good indoor air quality. Stone blocks are laid in rows of even courses or uneven height, and fixed in place with mortar, cement or lime mixture pasted between the stones. The lintel and sill are in RCC with ghara (mud husk) plaster. During the construction phase, the women are assisting in the finishes stage of the housing units: in the process of mud plastering ”ghara” in the court and the interior walls. The mud plastering has to be redone every six months, and acts as an insulator against the heat. This is carried out on the floor surface of the verandas, the external unit boundary wall and the shared courts. Moving on to the roof, it is in precast I section girders with precast slabs. The roof finishes consist of screed, polythene sheet (waterproofing), husk and ghara in layers. The outdoor veranda columns are with stone base, concrete precast members with ghara finish, while the veranda has a thatch roof, resting on wood and bamboo structure with two layers of thatch (locally produced chattais) in the Thatta district, and a layer of water proofing membrane (polythene sheet) in between. The doors and windows are transported from the metropolis of Karachi, approximately 90 km away from the construction site. These are easily produced in bulk quantity, keeping in mind that the wood and hardware appear conventional, specific to the areas. The doors and windows in solid wood have been treated with linseed oil (a natural material which through its moisture retards cracking, shrinking, and aids water repellency).Thus the modules are low maintenance. Fixtures for the kitchen and bathroom are also from Karachi. The masons and contractors hired for construction are local to the province of Sindh, and primarily from the greater Karachi Area. Additionally, the villagers themselves are being encouraged to get involved in assisting with construction which will garner in them a sense of pride and ownership, while also teaching them basic construction practices. This model targets the application of local knowledge and experience, while also maximizing the life of the homes through better maintenance performed by the empowered villagers themselves. Conclusion KRT/AfH has adopted 6 villages (each village ranging from 12 to over 100 houses) in Sindh: 5 in Sujawal (Thatta district), and 1 in Jhirik, reconstructing approximately 550 houses. Currently construction work is underway on approximately 200 houses in 4 of the Sujawal villages : Nodo Baran, Goth Angario Jati, Qadir Dino and Ket Jhakira. Reconstruction in these villages is community based, and owner-driven, with an objective to train the affectees to build their own homes and also to empower them with skills for their livelihood. Additionally, future intervention includes establishing village council committees which will organize and motivate the local population to participate in the rebuilding effort, by involving the locals (including women) in the decision making and reconstruction process. As part of the rural rehabilitation and reconstruction process, KRT/AfH intervention is not only limited to developing the housing modules and external development, but also rebuilding the social infrastructure such as mosques, schools, community centers , developing methods of waste management and rebuilding water supply systems in villages affected by the floods, providing potable water under the Pak Pani project. We are hoping that the envisioned KRT/AfH community development model will inspire residents to take ownership of shared spaces so that they take the initiative to maintain them by establishing councils/committees. The aim is to exit the program once these communities have been civically, socially and economically empowered. For further information on our work in progress please visit:

  • location: Southern flood affected areas of Pakistan.

Date: Summer 2010 onwards Client: Architecture for Humanity, Karachi Chapter/Karachi Relief Trust User client: Flood Affectees Description and number of beneficiaries/users: 6/7 persons per household Major funding: Karachi Relief Trust Other funding sources: AfH Concept/lead architects: Volunteers from AfH Karachi Chapter and Arcop Pvt Ltd Structural Engineers: Mushtaq and Bilal Electrical/Mechanical Engineers: YH Associates Supervision: KRT staff and Volunteers, AfH Karachi Chapter Volunteers. Contractor/Suppliers: Local and Houseowners

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