Women are the worst sufferers among climate change migrants and as part of disaster preparedness, Disaster Risk Reduction or DRR-compliant structures will help in avoiding displacement. To achieve this, Architect Yasmeen Lari has devised several low-cost methodologies which aim at disseminating techniques for building safe zero carbon structures. Lari’s video tutorials on YouTube’s Zero Carbon Channel are enabling many to follow step-by-step instructions for constructing low-cost safe bamboo and earth structures. Among essential elements to allow women to achieve a dignified lifestyle are the earthen Pakistan Chulah (low-cost stove), a prefabricated room for shelter and toilet for privacy.

The British Council and Heritage Foundation Pakistan are collaborating on a project around gender and sustainable architecture between the UK, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The project falls under British Council’s ‘Prototype City’ programme, an architecture exchange programme centring on international collaboration to test new ideas in cities around the world. This project is a new strand of the programme which supports our work in gender, sustainability and sharing global resources.

The project is piloting online resources in both Pakistan and Bangladesh which have similar climates and materials, engaging female architects and students, as well as villagers and the public to empower them to build zero carbon structures for living.

A number of Lari’s zero carbon structures have already been adapted for prototyping: earthen Chulah stove, a 12’x12’ prefabricated bamboo room and a prefab bamboo toilet, along with water conservation through an eco-toilet and low-cost water storage arrangements.

Workshops are being planned for engaging female architects and architecture university students from Pakistan and Bangladesh to help them learn about sustainable architecture and to share knowledge. Students of these workshops will then build zero carbon structures in Islamabad and Karachi. The workshops will be conducted in Pakistan and Bangladesh simultaneously, with live streaming and interaction between participants of both countries.

In addition to building zero carbon structures, a network of women architects will also be created to provide virtual humanitarian assistance. Women engaged in building zero carbon structures will demonstrate that they can perform as well engaged in building activities, which is normally considered the domain of men. After learning building skills, women will be able to begin building safe structures as not only shelter but also for toilets and community gatherings, which are mostly missing from their lives.

Partners of the project include INTBAU Pakistan (International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism, Pakistan), Heritage Foundation Pakistan, BRAC University Bangladesh, University of Glasgow, UK and British Council.