Sustainability: the path ahead

By Zakeriya Ali
Fri, 09, 23

Necessity is the mother of “innovation”. To some extent, innovation is regarded as a powerhouse that enabled human race to thrive and elevate its standard of living....

Sustainability: the path ahead


Necessity is the mother of “innovation”. To some extent, innovation is regarded as a powerhouse that enabled human race to thrive and elevate its standard of living. Myriad innovations encompassing novel products and services did cater to the requirements of the public at large but the rendering of these services has had a detrimental effect on the environment. The invention and mass-production of diversified commodities like automobiles harnessing the energy from fossil fuels had an insurmountable implication on the overall stability of the environment and consequently displayed dire hostility towards billions of sapiens who were obliged to harness the power and facility that the product offered.

In order to flourish in this dynamic atomic age, sustainable development is utterly discarded, although it is deemed by experts as a pivotal cornerstone upon which the industries and ultimately our societal development depend upon. In one way or another, our future and present are undoubtedly intertwined with agility. Global trends across the globe have showcased a paradigm shift and the modern-day consumer is equally concerned about the hazardous effects of a product, or service on the environment.

The construction industry is categorized as one of the unsustainable and stained sectors that regardless of its grave implications on the environment is an economic driving force across the economic spectrum through out the world. Cement, one of the basic amenities that is utilized extensively in the sector, has multitudinous effects on the environment and the process associated with its manufacturing has a cataclysmic effect on environment and jets up the emission of greenhouse gases: eight percent of carbon dioxide emitted per anum is attributed to the cement manufacturing procedure. Refineries involved in the manufacturing of cement churn out volumes of greenhouse gasses and the emission of these gasses accelerates the environmental degradation process. An ecological alternative to cement is the by-product of plastic from landfills, waste management sites, and the rubble from demolished infrastructure. This approach has attained popularity in a host of countries associated with the European Union and the process of bestowing a second life to cement obtained from demolished infrastructure has evolved into a new norm.

Sustainability: the path ahead

However, the second-generation by-products obtained from the aforementioned utility are mandated and regulated to be deployed at a limited scale in the construction industry. The by-products obtained are primarily used to manufacture thermally sensitive panes and tiles that upon being installed within the premises of a commercial or residential infrastructure can improve the efficiency of central heating or cooling system. The recycled cement or concrete can also be used in the public infrastructure development projects i.e. erection of first-rate, durable highways that serve the purpose of bridging the colossal stretch of distances that exist across several urban and rural areas and can regulate intra and inter-regional motion. The recycled concrete has withstood the rigorous testing procedure devised by industry insiders and experts and to some extent is far more durable as compared to the first-generation concrete manufactured from organic materials. However, the hunt is still on for a cost-effective procedure that is capable of spurring out tons of durable, substantial second generation cement that can be utilized extensively in the construction industry. CDA, a civic agency based in Islamabad in collaboration with a beverage conglomerate, undertook an initiative in 2021 to construct a 1km long road near the heart of the city of Islamabad and vowed to utilize plastic from the landfills as a catalyst and construction material. The successful conclusion of the project validated Pakistan’s commitment to pave the path toward fulfilling sustainable development goals framed by well-renowned global bodies.

Sustainability: the path ahead

It is a universal fact that competent authorities and the overall bureaucracy machinery tends to forsake the overwhelming implications of antiqued policies intertwined with the sustainability sector to cash in short-term rewards. Developing countries like Pakistan, and other conflict-torn countries display an array of megacities that can barely sustain the development of urbanities. Cities like Karachi are a source of disgrace for Pakistanis due to deteriorating infrastructure that is seldomly overhauled to provide a much needed respite to its 23 million citizens. On the other hand, cities like Singapore, Kaula Lumpur, Beijing, Abu-Dhabi, London, New York, and Paris are considered by pundits highly enchanting and sustainable. A striking affinity among these cities is that the majority of them display an accelerating trend in the construction and development of sky-rises, or in layman’s terms, skyscrapers. Skyscrapers possess a unique characteristic to provide housing and commercial facilities to hundreds of thousands of urban dwellers, while simultaneously having virtually negligible impact on the dreaded phenomenon of urban sprawl. Skyscrapers can house thousands of tenants while occupying a limited portion of now-perishing real-estate patches.

The procedure associated with the construction of high-rise infrastructures is an embodiment and manifestation of the phrase “sky is the limit”. Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan has an area of 906 square km, that is also regarded as one of the most vibrant and lavish cities in terms of residence and expense index, encompasses 11 sky-scrapers, a figure that seems like a piece of grain in a desert as the universal analogy and regulation that determines the status of a high-rise is quite stringent and display’s ambiguity simultaneously. Singapore features 159,932 buildings presumably highrise buildings while astonishingly it is spread over a dimension equivalent to 719.1 square km, equivalent to that of Islamabad.

The growth of numerous residential buildings apart from highrises that are categorized by commercial activities and usually house malls and office buildings, is also increasing at an exponential rate on a global scale. The facts speak for themselves and it’s no wonder why Pakistan still lags in the sustainable infrastructure development sector.

A predicament associated with the maintenance of highrise buildings is servicing of thousands of window panes mounted onto the interface of buildings. Usually, laborers are hired and they embark upon a treacherous journey on a regular basis to service thousands of panels. A remedy to the above-stated issue lies in a novel windowpane that employs the “lotus effect” phenomenon. The glass used in the pane is quite thin and its surface prevents the accumulation of dirt particles as the material absorbs sunlight and disintegrates the accumulated organic particles that can be swept away by a fresh spring of rain. The coating of nanomaterial i.e. titanium dioxide is primarily responsible for the self-cleaning mechanism that the panes display.

The aspect of renewable energy production and storage is also included in the ambit of the “sustainability concept”. Currently, a fraction of energy is being harnessed from renewable energy resources i.e. thermal, solar, and from natural or artificial water bodies. As of 2019, global energy consumption rose to an astounding figure of 18TW. However, this factor and figure were overshadowed by the potential of renewable energy sources in terms of energy generation. Currently, electromagnetic waves from the powerhouse that illuminate the whole solar system are sufficient enough to generate electricity correlating with a sky-high figure of 86000TW. The energy obtained from wind trails behind i.e. 870TW, from water bodies is 7.2 TW while energy that can be obtained from geothermal sources is 32TW. The world must shed off its dependence on non-renewable energy sources and harness the untapped potential being offered by renewable energy sources.

Sustainability: the path ahead

Energy production is one facet of the energy management industry. Energy conservation and storage supplements the former and warrants uninterrupted utility supply to billions of consumers. Currently, batteries and various other energy storage mega-devices are utilized by energy production and distribution entities that deliver uninterrupted power to millions of consumers. However, the majority of the batteries are terribly inefficient and a major chunk of electrical power is dissipated due to incapacitation of the material present in the units. Currently, a wide range of dynamic and innovative proposals have been propelled by scientists that have garnered traction and fundings alike.

An alternative to Lithium-ion batteries is Graphene battery. Graphene is an isotope of Carbon and naturally depicts a multi-layered structure. Bewildering as it may sound, Graphene possesses unrivaled conduction characteristics and is an ideal material when it comes to the concept of charging and discharging batteries. However, Graphene lacks the capability to store a high concentration of electrical power and the power delivered by it may run out promptly.

A blend of materials upon being utilized can resolve the woes of millions of consumers. Magnesium can store twice as much power as restrained by Lithium-based batteries and is reckoned to end the dominance of limited influence of Lithium-ion batteries. A complete package enveloping Magnesium as an energy storage unit and Graphene that can enable and unlock the potential that the fast charging concept entails can ultimately change the dynamics of the energy management sector. Numerous European countries have initiated a program to recycle millions of automobile batteries that have served their sentence and have inducted them in the energy storage and management sector by utilizing them to store the energy produced by various units.

Sustainability: the path ahead

The future belongs to the youth who can devise methods and frame regulations that can play a pivotal role in the conversation of the environment. Unfortunately, leadership positions are occupied by power brokers who have no regard for the daunting effects a specific piece of legislation or policy can have on the environment.

In Pakistan, in the 1990s, successive administrations in order to resolve the woes of the public associated with the energy crisis developed an inefficient policy to promote the generation of electrical power by means of furnace oil-powered plants. The policy managed to attain short-term gains but ultimately the country of 22 million is currently reeling from the ill-conceived policy framed three decades ago.

Our youth must keep itself in the loop with the emerging global trends the future prospects of diversified industries, and the dynamic innovations in order to frame policies that comply with environmental conversation procedures. I am positive that the future of Pakistan will be very bright if the youth is given an equal footing and its ideology regarding renewability is appreciated at a larger scale.