Impressions of “International Seminar on Theorizing

In the backdrop of NCA-...
underlined some of these apprehensions in his presentation on “Renewable
Energy Resources in Sustainable Building Design”....
access to the work spaces in informal areas were some of the human and social
dimensions wherein the building, as a system...
inexpensive, user-friendly, quick and versatile option is truly a ‘sustainable’
option. While detailed analysis using comp...
construction with the mainstream architecture design to provide comprehensive
coverage on sustainability.

In his presenta...
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Microsoft Word International Seminar On Theorizi


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Second report of the conference written by Prof. Virendra Kr. Paul, Department of Building Engineering & Management, School of Planning and Architecture.

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Microsoft Word International Seminar On Theorizi

  1. 1. Impressions of “International Seminar on Theorizing Sustainability” In the backdrop of NCA-Edge Hill partnership, developed for evolving specialized program on sustainability, the theme was chosen to build an academic framework for teaching and learning of sustainability concepts in the built environment. Topics for presentations and deliberations focused upon concepts of academic interest relevant to application and pragmatic thinking. Challenge before sustainability….. Presentation by Dr. Nigel Richardson (Edge Hill University) on “Climate Change and Built Environment” set the tone for the seminar. In fact the issues of sustainability flow from the irreversible changes that have been caused by ‘anthropogenic forcings’. Current positive interventions leading to mitigation of the present accelerated climate change crisis would begin to show results only after 2040. Thus, the magnitude of inertia already set in and the consequences on built environment need radical innovations. Dr. Richardson identified specific areas of built environment that are likely to be impacted to the level of being crippled. Change in weather pattern, flooding making drainage systems ineffective, frequent heat waves, strengthening of urban heat island effect, deterioration of air quality leading to health problems, increased frequency and intensity of rainfall are some of the impacts that would need to be addressed by academics, research community and professionals. The presentation, thus laid the context for sustainability. Dr. Magda Sibley (University of Liverpool) in her presentation on “Sustainable Building Design: Some Contemporary Thoughts”, too highlighted the issues of climate change with specific reference to architecture. One could see a subtle message of disconnect with traditional wisdom in built environment and the consequent global climate crisis. Mr. Muhammad Ali Tirmizi (National College of Arts, Lahore), addressed the issues pertaining to green architecture and sustainability in the context of Pakistan in his presentation on “Sustainable Building Design Strategies for Pakistan”. At 10% consumption in embodied energy and 43% in operational energy in building sector in Pakistan, there is an opportunity to make substantial energy savings. Attributing over consumption to inefficient build design and construction practices, Mr. Tirmizi expressed his optimism to save 20-50% operational energy. The challenge for Pakistan is the alarming rate of depletion of natural resources due to demand for building materials. While underlining sustainable options, Mr. Tirmizi, reminded of traditional wisdom in architecture, which needs to be re-discovered in the present day context. Availability of effective renewable technologies is a major concern, especially for the developing economies. Are there enough efforts made to research and develop affordable effective renewable energy technologies for sustainable development? Mr. Shiraj Mahmood,(a practicing architect /planner in London),
  2. 2. underlined some of these apprehensions in his presentation on “Renewable Energy Resources in Sustainable Building Design”. Together, Dr. Richardson, Dr. Sibley, Mr. Tirmizi and Mr. Mahmood, presented the perspective of sustainability discussion embracing specific challenges arising out of climate change, the need to research contemporary solutions around traditional wisdom and a possibly situational disadvantage created by inadequate interests and policy initiatives for clean energy. Sustainability dimensions… Architecture, planning and engineering are known to play a major role in creating sustainable built environment although it is also well recognized that sustainability encompasses economic, social and environmental aspects. Key- note presentation by Dr. Tasleem Shakur (Edge Hill University) convincingly argued the significance of human geography in meeting the objectives of sustainability through his key note paper entitled “Theorizing Sustainable Design Through Human Geographies”. According to Dr. Shakur, needs and limits are intrinsic to the definitions of sustainability. Whether it is ‘north south dialogue between industrial and non-industrial countries on demand and supply of international trade’ or basic concepts of sustainability, the issue of ‘needs and limits’ is the key determinant. This in turn, relates to human and social dimensions. Therefore, could there be sustainable development without comprehensive social and human perspective? Dr. Shakur identified and illustrated emerging contemporary principles as; understanding place; connecting with nature and natural processes; understanding environmental impact; embracing co-operating design; and, understanding people. Thus, it can be seen that the ‘contemporary principles’ are aimed at creating a ‘humane’ foundation for the sustainable built environment. Essence of Dr. Shakur’s emphasis on human and social issues could also be seen in the activities of COMTECHSA (a Liverpool based community technical /architectural service center), presented by Ms. Rosie Jolly (COMTECHSA, Liverpool)and the case study presentation of a ‘green building’ of Health Faculty of Edge Hill University by Ms. Catherine Murrey, Mr. David Oldham and Mr. Andrew Brown (project Architect). The site visit to Academy of St. Francis of Assisi, Liverpool demonstrated the human and social interplay in a sustainable built environment in practice. The approach of COMTECHSA to work with local communities and evolve solutions relevant to their needs is modeled on technical validity as well as social dimensions of sustainability. ‘Green building’ case study of Health Faculty of Edge Hill University was an excellent example of a technical solution to the functional needs of a built facility. Truly, an ‘RICS award-winning’ building. However, what this prima facie appreciation misses is the context that Dr. Shakur referred to. The quality of work-life of the occupants, as expressed by them during the visit, social integration of faculty and student community groups through spatial planning,
  3. 3. access to the work spaces in informal areas were some of the human and social dimensions wherein the building, as a system really excelled. Thus, it is the social dimension that makes the ‘built environment’ of a building meaningfully sustainable and allows the community to embrace the facility. Academy of St. Francis of Assisi, Liverpool is a school building with a difference. Building is clearly a demonstration of energy efficient technologies employed for the functional needs. A text book solution on building orientation, use of ‘thermal wall’ (concrete), high solar radiation heat gain during winters and the opposite during summer by appropriately inclined transparent double-membrane glazing, daylight accessed spaces, use of photovoltaic’s etc. What is beyond these technological solutions is the very objective of the school, which includes educating and sensitizing the students towards environmental concerns through the built spaces as well as the curriculum. Thus, the school is not only a low resource, carbon sensitive building but it creates social interventions by transforming communities to be responsible towards environment. It presents a sustainability model wherein there is convergence of interests in the guiding principles of physical elements of the building and the societal purpose of the facility. Looking from the Dr. Shakur’s perspective, the Academy of St. Francis of Assisi performs well on his suggested ‘contemporary principles’ of sustainability. Sustainability dimension expanded by Dr. Shakur alters the perspective one very often has based on the physical appreciation of the built environment. Human geography, would have to be an important component of development sustainable built environment. Carrying the argument further, Dr. Nigel Simons’s (Edge Hill University) remarks in the concluding presentation re-emphasized the need for human geography interventions. Aptly said by Dr. Nigel Simons, ‘sustainability calls for multidisciplinary approach’. Analysis tools and techniques… Sustainable planning and development needs tools and techniques for validation of proposals. While one would look for accurate and reliable methods for assessment, the need for simple yet reliable options cannot be overlooked. There is certainly a need for research to embed such tools and techniques in the sustainable built environment planning process. Two very significant assessment options were presented to emphasize the need for quantitative analysis. While Ms. Sarah Khan (a practicing architect based in London) presented an innovative “Sun Shade Calculator for Lahore”, Mr. Rusdy Hartungi and Ms. Elisavet Dimitrokali (Unviersity of Central Lancashire) underlined the importance of life cycle assessment (LCA) approach of sustainable proposals in their presentations on “LCC Application in Sustainable Building Design” and “Life Cycle Assessment: A Fundamental Tool in Assessing Sustainability in Built Environment” respectively. Simple though, the relevance of a calculator for calculating sun shade using worksheet during design development stage is well argued considering heat load contribution of 48% through the windows in a building in Lahore. A reliable,
  4. 4. inexpensive, user-friendly, quick and versatile option is truly a ‘sustainable’ option. While detailed analysis using computer programs is still necessary for any application, the role of calculators, especially for specific applications, is significant. For developing countries such options are most suited. Deliberations concluded that further research and extending the scope to other locations could be undertaken through academics. Mr. Hartungi and Ms. Dimitrokali stressed the importance of LCA as a basis for decision-making. In fact, from the presentations it appears that the LCA is perhaps the most significant assessment and analysis tool. For practical application though, the academic research still needs to focus on the databases for inputs on cost centers. While it may be relatively easier for the costs of building systems to be built in, there are major issues with regards to cost benefits that need to be resolved. For a meaningful education in sustainability, development of simpler tools and techniques for analysis would be an essential academic research agenda. Practice….. Complexity of sustainability is only appreciated when applied in practice. Validity of concepts, methods and analytical tools is understood when applied on a project. In regeneration project of “Sustainable Regeneration of Historic Urban Centers”, Mr. Syed Faizal Sajjad (National College of Arts, Lahore) brought out multidimensional issues, including social and heritage value that needed to be balanced for a sustainable proposal. Although analysis and strong theoretical framework for practical proposal seemed diffused, the complexity to integrate analysis and theorizing the proposal is also an issue for process introspection which is inherently evolutionary. This re-enforces the belief that the sustainability calls for a systematic ‘case based learning’ as mentioned by Dr. Jammie Halsall (University of Huddersfield) in his presentation on “Curriculum Design for Sustainable Architectural /studies”. Education and pedagogy….. A multidisciplinary domain, sustainability is as much a challenge for practicing professionals as for the academics to groom future professionals and research community. While de-novo curriculum focused at sustainability is a rather recent approach being contemplated, the need to dovetail sustainability concerns in the existing programs in architecture, planning and project management is equally relevant. Prof. Virendra Kumar Paul (School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi) presented one such effort being made at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA) New Delhi as a part of project management specialization in his presentation on “Issues of Sustainable Built Environment: Context, Evolution and Pedagogical Dimensions”. The approach at SPA was to infuse sustainability to make it holistic. While recommending approach to mitigate the negative impacts of design and construction practices, Mr. Tirmizi emphasized the need for pedagogy to address the issue of dovetailing traditional knowledge of building design and
  5. 5. construction with the mainstream architecture design to provide comprehensive coverage on sustainability. In his presentation, Mr. Halsall underlined the need for providing students with transferable and vocational skills. Building on theoretical background of sustainability and curriculum development, Halsall identified traditionalism, social reconstructionism and progressivism. The approach of SPA presented by Prof. Paul and the conceptual issues mentioned by Jamie merit consideration for pedagogy in sustainability. Conclusion….. Seminar, though aimed to theorize sustainability, expanded the discussion further. Education and pedagogy would have to look further into the challenges and dimensions underlined during expert presentations. Academic research agenda would have to be reviewed comprehensively to cover all dimensions of sustainability. Seminar outcome has a potential to be a road map for academia for meaningful contribution in development of sustainable built environment. Prof. Virendra Kr. Paul Department of Building Engineering & Management, School of Planning and Architecture,