By Rubab Aamir
Tue, 09, 23

In dire times such as these where the climate crisis leads to natural disasters like floods, sustainable architecture is one of the ways in which impact of floods can be made less severe. You! takes a look…


sustainable architecture

Sustainable Architecture is a term that has been popping up more and more, especially in the context of the rapidly changing climate that has led to an increase in natural disasters.

Pakistan is no different. The country has suffered horrifically from the impact of natural disasters, with floods and heavy rain bringing the most destruction. In 2022, thousands of Pakistanis lost their lives due to the floods with over 801,633 houses being annihilated and 1.2 million acquiring partial damage.

Thousands of people were left without homes, living in government-provided tents and dependent on charity for basic necessities such as food and clothes. In such a dire context, the need for sustainable architecture in Pakistan is higher than ever.

While defining sustainable architecture, Fizza Touseef, a 3rd-year Architecture student at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, says, “It can mean architecture that sustains as well as architecture that survives the test of time.”

However, that doesn’t mean that all sustainable architecture is meant to survive for decades or centuries. Another one of the architects’ goals is to create structures that dissolve with time, and that do so without leaving a significant carbon footprint.

In the context of a third-world country such as Pakistan, sustainable architecture is the optimal use of available resources to create structures that will survive through thick and thin.

One of the most relevant examples of sustainable architecture in Pakistan is the Mahmud Hussain Library and the surrounding buildings at the University of Karachi which were designed by the French architect Michel Écochard, who was the contemporary of the iconic Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. Écochard was commissioned in the 1950s by the Government of Pakistan to design the masterplan for the university and its campus buildings. “We are now moving back towards the older architectural structures in Pakistan,” observes Fizza.

Moving towards building sustainable structures proves to have issues of its own, with the scarcity of sustainable materials being the primary one. The most accessible and cheap material found in stores is concrete, which is not only terrible in terms of the longevity of the buildings but is also detrimental to the environment.

Another problem is the hesitance of the contractors in designing structures that are more sustainable as it may require more time and thought in the planning process. Not just that, their clients show a terrifying lack of concern for the streets and environment being damaged due to their selection of cheap materials.

But how do architects focus on creating sustainable structures while minimising the damage from natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods? “Although, on a micro-level, we should be focusing on individual buildings and how they’re made, the primary focus needs to be on city planning, how the cities are laid out,” suggests Fizza. She also emphasises on the connection between communities at times of major disasters: “Disasters are temporary and so is management. Communities need to be able to have a connection and a way to communicate at times of crisis. Not just metaphorically, but also physically. There needs to be a physical line of connection that allows communities to remain in touch in difficult times,” she adds.

All in all, in dire times such as these where the climate crisis serves as an unavoidable and terrifying threat, architects have to focus on doing everything they can to minimise the impact of modern structures on the environment. Pakistan is a tragic example of how this crisis is affecting communities and destroying lives, and sustainable architecture is one of the ways in which this impact can be made less severe.

The author is a student at University of Karachi. She can be reached at