• How Pakistan built back better after floods

    Magnus Wolfe Murray

In 2011, flooding destroyed 750,000 houses in Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh. After a call for proposals for projects to provide shelter, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development awarded two grants: one to an international agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and another to a local one, HANDS, which is based in Karachi.

IOM partnered with 22 local NGOs and worked with the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan for advice on design and training. HANDS linked up with Strawbuild, a UK-based natural building firm experienced with using lime. In both cases, local expertise was combined with input from an international organisation. All partners’ work carried on after the 2012 floods, when a further 390,000 houses were destroyed in areas that were also affected by major flooding in 2010.

This image gallery shows how the project used traditional materials and adapted vernacular design. Lime was a major ingredient: it is a cheap, local material that massively improves buildings’ water resistance. The project assisted over 107,000 families and saved around US$50 million, as well as 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, by replacing conventional brick and mortar construction.

This article is part of our Spotlight on Shelter crisis: Rebuilding after the storm.