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Innovation

Traditional building methods help Pakistani school win regional Holcim Award

This year's top prize in the Asia Pacific region went to the renovation of a school for underprivileged rural girls in Jar Maulwi, Pakistan for its use of updated traditional construction methods.
Written by Beth Carter, Contributing Editor on

The regional winners of the Holcim Awards for sustainable construction were recently announced, automatically qualifying them for the global phase of the competition. In the Asia Pacific region, the three

The Holcim Awards is an international competition that recognizes innovative, forward-thinking projects. In total, $2 million USD is handed out in each three-year award cycle.

The competition is meant to encourage architects, planners, engineers and project owners to go beyond accepted practice in sustainable construction and design while taking into consideration the ecological, social and economic concerns of each project.

Projects are considered in the fields of buildings, civil engineering, landscape and urban design, to name a few, that demonstrate an ability to "stretch conventional notions about sustainable building and also balance environmental, social and economic performance – while also exemplifying architectural excellence and a high degree of transferability," according to the foundation.

This year's Asia Pacific region Gold prize ($100,000) went to a locally-manufactured cob and bamboo school building in Jar Maulwi, Pakistan.

The project updates a traditional building method with effective low-tech measures through good design and engineering. The Earthen School Tipu Sultan Merkez was designed by architect Eike Roswag of Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten from Ingenieure, Germany.

The building is constructed using a cob (a mixture of clay, sand, water and straw) bottom floor, combined with a second floor made of earth-stuffed bamboo walls. The architects figured out a way to significantly increase cob strength and durability, and laid a brick foundation to protect against moisture from the soil or rainwater.

The Tipu Sultan Merkez school, an existing school for underprivileged rural girls, will be extended by the project, providing seven new classrooms.

For heating and cooling, the high humidity absorption capacity and mass of the earth walls reduce interior temperatures by about eight degrees Celsius during the summer where temperatures in the region can reach over 40 degrees C, and south-oriented glazing is in place to produce solar gain during the winter month.

The school was chosen because its use of the adaptation of traditional and familiar building technology: the innovative use of bamboo shows a new potential in a material that grows quickly and widely available and counters deforestation. Additionally, all materials are locally sourced and can be processed using low amounts of energy.

This new approach demonstrates an affordable, high quality and durable way to build to the rural population, but the method can be easily translated to other regions around the world, particularly in developing areas.

The Silver award went to the conversion of a former textile factory into a 1.4 acre agricultural production site in Bangkok, and the Bronze was given to a 14-level commercial and retail building in Malaysia that use vegetation to actively reduce energy consumption, provide solar shading and create more comfortable space for humans.

The regional phase of the competition selects the three best projects in five world regions: Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa/Middle East and Asia Pacific, and the winners are selected by independent juries supported by the Holcim Foundation’s partner universities evaluate submissions on the basis of the “target issues” for sustainable construction. This year's global winners will be announced in the second quarter of 2012.

[Arch Daily]
Images: Holcim Foundation

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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