Sustainable Design
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
I am a final year architecture student at Visual Studies Karachi University. My thesis topic is Energy conservation/effiiciency in buildings in Karachi.

The project that I chose initially was a multi-storey office building for multiple users, i.e. the space would be rented out by the building owners. I chose this because this is the type that is mushrooming all over the city and any energy conservation drive would only have the most impact through such buildings. Most of such buildings are built by developers and builders/contractors etc.

Could anyone please give some input on this idea? One of my teachers doesn't agree with the project proposal, saying it doesn't match with the strong environmental concerns that appear in my thesis idea. He says that it doesn't match because I should go for a completely non-AC low height building. My point is that will that have as much impact on the building industry and mindset here?

Please respond, as I am quite confused.
Sheherbano Mehboob
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
Well Sheherbano,

My response would be, what is your scope of work?
By scope I mean you haven't mentioned the overall height in stories, number of offices, number of expected occupents etc., so that one can imagine the enviromental impact.

As for now, all I can say for the begining is, why not go for some different energy efficient materials currently used in energy efficient buildings?

Did you know that now there is a photocell for solar energy, which is in abundance in Karachi, which can be used as a glass panel in curtain walls that are effectively used to generate over 40% of the entire energy consumption on many highrise buildings in developed countries?

And now, by using fibre optics ,concrete is made translucent which can refract 60% of light, which can be used to further cut down the power consumed by artificial lighting during the day.

Furthermore, the idea for a non AC building is just an idea in the context of Karachi, it is a status symbol more than a need. How can you convince the owner to go for a non AC building, because it will have a negative impact on his per-office prices and rents.
Aleem Khan Afridi
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
Dear Sheher Bano,

You have done a great job of choosing the subject that is currently most pressing in metrocities these days.
Never underestimate the power of one, let the builders mint money. We strive for a better world. Good luck,
Gul Ameen
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
Dear Aleem Khan,

I am interested in knowing more about the fibre optics in concrete- I just googled it and did't find any information.

I would be interested in knowing more about it.
Kiran Aryan
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
The only energy conservation project I've seen being implemented would be the one by Szabist on the outskirts of Karachi, going towards the waterpark.

And these days, it's pretty hot there, therefore A/C would be a necessity.
Osama Rashid
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
Both products are on the '100 most useful new materials' list for 2005 in Architectural Record.

As for Sherbano, I will give you the details of a feasibility report being done recently by my firm's charted accountant about a low cost wind power generation unit for an average sized house.

Furthermore, as far as my opinion is concerned, don't get caught up into the debate of lowtech vs. hightech.

Like the introduction of power savers in place of ordinary bulbs and the introduction of hybrid, CNG and ethanol-consuming cars in place of fossil fuel consuming cars, there are ever-growing numbers of new materials are introduced into the market which can increase building's self reliance.

Just focus on your building's self-reliance, i.e., lessen its dependence on public infrastructure.
Aleem Khan Afridi
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
Thank you for the responses on the topic. No, I was definitely not aware of the materials that you have talked about, and I'm grateful for your input.

My buildup to this thesis idea has been powered by the context of Karachi. I totally agree that a debate of low-tech versus hi-tech would be pointless, as I am looking for a reconciliation of the local situation with modern technology.

Once again, thanks for the input.

And Mr. Gul Ameen, I was just writing an essay for an English language test, on "The Power of the People," and what you said about never underestimating the power of one reminded me of something I had quoted in that essay.

Helen Keller once said "I am only one, but I am one!"
Sheherbano Mehboob
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
You could study the Indian buildings by architect Sangeet Sharma.
Aavesh Prashar
Thesis: Energy conservation in Karachi
This response may be a little late. However, here are my comments.

The use of energy in buildings is bound to increase in an emerging economy like in Pakistan's. So it would be wise to use all means to curb energy use in buildings where you can get maximum benefit with the building design, materials and available technology.

While your teacher has a valid point (non-ac building) it may not be realistic. During previous times in Karachi, only certain buildings were with a/c (like cinema houses, diplomatic buildings, etc.)

The situation now is that we are accustomed to having acc in our houses, cars and offices.

The important point I'm making is that the human body then had a higher tolerance of thermal comfort (temperature and humidity) but today, that thermal comfort is lower due to more of the current generation of urban population growing up in an "a/c induced environment."

In my opinion, and as your teacher has said, that we could strive to make the building as though no a/c is to be used, and this will help in terms of a reduced energy use in the building in the event the desired comfort levels are higher (as in an a/c building).

In my research thesis during my course of study in Masters in Solar Architecture and Energy Technology in Arizona, USA, my subject was on energy-efficiency in buildings in Karachi's hot and humid climate, recognizing the fact that more energy usage will be a fact. And I could dwell on this subject further but time and space restricts me.

Recently, I had helped a student online at the Indus Valley School in her thesis on energy conservation in buildings in Karachi, and could gladly link you with her if need be.

If you have any specific or general questions, you could e-mail me at or or at

Good luck with your work!

M. Afzal Ebrahim, NCARB
Registered Architect
Environmental Architecture, Inc.
Gilbert, Arizona, USA
Afzal Ebrahim


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