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A cob and bamboo building made in a village in Sheikhupura district has won the prestigious first award for Asia-Pacific that is aimed at promoting innovative architecture focused on sustainable infrastructure for communities.

Commissioned by a Germany-based Pakistani family from Sheikhupura’s Jher Moulvi area, the project has been designed by architect Eike Roswag and his German team. The award-winning project that upgrades a traditional building method with effective low-tech measures through engineering and design won the top prize of $100,000 in Asia-Pacific of the Holcim Foundation.

The Earthen School Tipu Sultan Merkez in a small village near Lahore provides seven new classrooms in a school for underprivileged girls. The building is constructed from a locally-sourced cob (clay, sand, water and straw) lower-floor combined with an upper floor made of earth-filled bamboo walls. Intense research on cob construction resulted in a significant increase in strength and durability, and extended maintenance intervals compared to traditional approaches.

At the award ceremony in Singapore, Wowo Ding, head of jury and dean of architecture at Nanjing University, China, praised the project for propagating the use of new construction methods by the agrarian population and improving the local economic situation. “The new construction approach shows the rural community an affordable, high quality and durable alternative compared to widely-used but higher cost and less environmentally-compatible construction materials,” she said.

Tipu Sultan Merkez, which had started the school project in this remote village in Sheikhupura, was founded by Asaf Jah, a Pakistani expatriate living in Germany. His social activity is supported by his family in Germany: his German wife and his three children. His two sons, Karim Jah and Akim Jah, who attended the award ceremony, said over the years they developed long bindings with Pakistan through extensive journeys and stays in the country. Knowing the difficult reality of the people in the rural areas of Pakistan, they have committed themselves to continuous support to the project in different ways. “We want to help develop the region, give people fair chances for access to education and empower women. Basic and advanced school education and the possibility of learning a profession are essential for a self determined life. The Holcim Award will help us further develop the project and we feel encouraged to continue our efforts.”

On Wednesday the Jah brothers along with the award-winning architect will participate in a symposium in Lahore to present details of their concept of sustainable development in rural Pakistan.

The second award of the competition went to a Thai project team for the conversion of a former textile factory and adjacent land into a 1.4ha agricultural production site and retail outlet. The third prize was awarded to an ecologically-designed retail and commercial building in Malaysia.

Switzerland-based Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction conducts the Holcim Awards competition to promote sustainable responses to contemporary technological, environmental, socioeconomic and cultural issues affecting building and construction at national, regional and global levels. More than 6,000 submissions for projects located in 146 countries entered the competition with a total prize sum of $2 million per three-year cycle.

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