The Urgent Need for Climate-Smart, Affordable Housing in Pakistan
The recent devastating floods in a Pakistan remind us of the urgent need to facilitate the development of quality affordable, climate-smart housing in Pakistan.
The 2022 Flooding and Impact of Climate Change in Pakistan
Pakistan is ranked among the top 7 countries that are most severely impacted by climate change in the world. On average, Pakistan suffers an annual loss of $ 3.8 billion due to climate impacts. With the increase in global heating these impacts are expected to exacerbate unless necessary measures are taken in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
Pakistan is subject to several climate- and weather-related hazards, such as recurring heatwaves, droughts, flash floods, riverine flooding, and tropical cyclones. This is demonstrated by the floods which devastated Pakistan in 2022. The Government of Pakistan has estimated that around 33 million people across the country were affected by the rains, floods and consequent impacts such as landslides, while more than 421,000 people were displaced in calamity-declared districts.
The humanitarian situation has been compounded by severe impacts to infrastructure. Damage to nearly 3,500 km of roads and 149 bridges has impeded the ability of people to flee to safer areas, as well as compromising the delivery of aid to people in need. Meanwhile, there has been significant damage to the housing stock in the country. In Sindh and Balochistan, a total of 484,093 homes have sustained partial damage, while 514,283 homes have likely been completely destroyed. With 99 percent of the entire housing stock impacted, Sindh province has sustained the vast majority of housing stock damage.
The Affordable Housing Gap
Even prior to the flooding, Pakistan has been experiencing a nationwide housing crisis. Between the 1998 and 2017 national censuses, the country’s population increased by 57%, while the increase in urban population was 75.6%. This increase has created an urban housing demand of up to 350,000 houses per annum, 87% of which is from lower-middle income groups. In contrast, the supply of urban housing is restricted to only 150,000 houses per annum, creating a shortfall of 200,000 per annum that gets further compounded year-on-year, leading severe inflationary pressure on property prices.
Even before the floods there was an estimated gap of more than 10 million homes, and this is expected to rise beyond 13 million by 2025. With demand increasing at a far higher rate than supply, over 40% of the urban population continue to reside in slums, informal settlements or inadequate dwellings. In order to bridge this gap, more needs to be done to ensure that this demand is met and that the houses which are built not only mitigate, but adapt to and build resilience against the ongoing impacts of climate change.
Building Back Better
Following the floods, there is an urgent need to seize the opportunity to ensure that more is done to bridge the housing gap with affordable, climate-smart housing. As with the 2010 floods, and 2005 earthquake, the central ambition must be to build back better so that the outcome of the reconstruction is not just a replacement of what the floods have washed away, but that every opportunity is taken to improve upon and make good the deficiencies that existed before the disaster. This would require policy change and investments which focus on sustainable and resilient development by incentivising the construction of climate smart houses and the use of innovations such as the use of raised plinth reinforced foundations which will make Pakistan’s housing stock more resilient for the future.
There are a number of housing developers working in Pakistan who are working hard to make this a reality, through investments in climate-smart construction which aim to both mitigate and adapts to the impact of climate change in Pakistan. These include some of the following developers:
Modulus Tech Pakistan
ModulusTech is both a developer and supplier working to completely disrupt and revolutionise Pakistan’s housing sector. Before operationalisation, it engaged in extensive research and development on climate-smart homes and materials to ensure that its product offerings were suitable for Pakistan’s climate-related vulnerability and sensitive to the needs of target consumers.
ModulusTech uses unique construction technologies that have not previously been utilised in low-income housing in Pakistan. Their offerings include affordable, prefabricated/flat-pack carbon-neutral housing, as well as tiny houses/backyard homes and climate-friendly tourist chalets targeted at higher-income households. Its flat-packed homes can be erected in one to three days, are relocatable, fire and earthquake safe, conform with international building codes, and are fully autonomous and self-sustaining due to the incorporation of solar systems. They are easy to extend due to their adherence to modular design principles, and most significantly of all, are either carbon neutral or incorporate significant savings (up to 95%) across energy and water consumption and embodied carbon.
All ModulusTech homes aim to be energy efficient by incorporating both passive and active design techniques. Unique construction materials are used rather than the traditional clay brick and mortar home, and the roofs and exterior walls of each home are painted white to reflect light and heat. All windows are north-facing, all structures are air-tight, and large overhangs are placed over each window to deflect glare from the sun. In terms of active design techniques, homes are constructed without labour- or resource-intensive materials, are highly insulated, and are offered to end-users with solar systems that are incorporated into the sale price.
Ansaar Management Company Pakistan
AMC is a social enterprise founded in 2008. Its mission is to bring real change to Pakistan’s housing sector by making affordable, quality housing accessible to the average Pakistani.
Headquartered in Lahore, the company has housing projects across Punjab, Sindh, and KP. To date, AMC has built 1,250 housing units for lower- and middle-income families in Peshawar, Faisalabad, Kot Addu, Lahore, Multan, Kasur, Muzaffargarh, and Mirpur Khas. It works in larger cities due to the critical housing shortage in these localities, particularly of affordable housing.
While AMC’s major focus has been affordable homes, it has recently started to develop affordable, climate-smart housing. For example, AMC’s Safiya Homes project, located on Sue-e-Asal road in Lahore, has achieved Level-1 EDGE certification and is marketed as Pakistan’s first EDGE-certified housing project. Each housing unit possesses 34% energy savings, 42% water savings, and 35% less embodied energy in materials. These savings have been generated through adherence to passive design principles, as well as the utilisation of energy-saving fixtures throughout each housing unit.
Entertainment Pakistan Limited
EPL is a developer engaged in commercial, residential, and affordable housing in Pakistan. Its affordable housing project, Roshan Homes, is a vertical (apartment building) development. While the Roshan Homes project does not incorporate climate-smart innovations, it does boast lesser use of heavily embodied materials like clay bricks, concrete, and steel, as compared to the proportions in which these materials are used in higher-end developments.
EPL has been exploring climate-smart innovations for use in future projects. One cost-effective innovation that EPL is in the process of exploring is fly-ash bricks. Fly-ash bricks are highly favourable construction materials precisely because they possess a range of features that allow cost reductions. They have lesser thermal conductivity, possess more compressive strength and are less porous. As a result, using fly-ash bricks in construction could result in a building or home that is more durable and able to withstand environmental pressures, reducing spending on insulation.
If there is a scale up investment in these kinds of innovations, there is a significant opportunity to not only plug the gap in the availability of affordable housing, but also to provide homes which both mitigate and can adapt to the future impacts of climate change in Pakistan.