Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Housing, Development, Culture and Infrastructure

by Norbert Pintsch, Ghayyor Obaid & Njini Victor Nkuh,
Institute for Planning + Consulting (IPC)

Housing and Development

The term "Housing" has already been discussed by us under different aspects. Looking at the developments and applications in the various regions, we realize that the housing solutions in the Open-System are similar, irrespective of whether we are looking at the new constructions after the Tsunami-catastrophe or the colonies for leprosy patients in Grasland, Cameroon.

Of course a lot of intelligent and interesting studies were carried out in the colonial period, which documented the most important aspects for consideration in the post-colonial period, an opportunity which was not taken or utilized. The reasons for this ignorance lie probably in the growth-oriented strategies and the blind euphoria about industrialization. This mistake later resulted in horrendous consequences. The situation is actually only comparable with the birth-control programs in the western nations. The western countries can hardly propogate a policy which led to stronger automobile sales while causing lower birth rates.

The current housing solutions are still based upon requirements of working parents with about two children and possibilities of living and sleeping as well as cooking and cleaning, while considering large spaces for using household appliances. This in times when productive work places are fast dissappearing due to higher machine efficiency. This development was followed in the urban areas through centralization of shopping centres. This development again was followed by many other growth oriented programmes. The infra-structure costs therefore became very high. Measures to finance the rising costs were taken by assuming that the rubnning costs would be financed through appropriate increase in the the taxation income.

Specially the developing regions like the persian gulf countries followed this pattern by constructing in masses according to the above principle. Apart from the missing flexibility of the plans and destruction of resources, alongwith the massive need for energy, these industrially manufactured housing solutions also require modernization at a later stage similar to the end of the "shelf-life" of the industrial goods. But this of course is of no interest to earlier investors of such programmes!

The product Apartment in the current form, as described above, has proven to be highly popular in regions, which are described as less developed. The political elite, for example in East Asia, embraced these concepts by developing a combination of models, without their being really aware of it. Visitors to these regions as well as attentive observers know the grandious constructions financed by investors. All in the hope, that additional work places will be created and the economy will further grow.

We have discussed the above terms in a number of previous articles. The housing has been compared by us with economics, the technology, and the philosophy. Further, through the term Culture, we have placed the current housing construction as an ineffective effort between the holistic and closed system; the construction takes place in an open system, the main characteristics of which are wastage of resources and the misuse of energy. We have also pointed out the fallout of this practiced model: rising infra-structure costs with sinking tax income and increasing productivity of the individual person and still the loss of the associated work places.
These characteristics lead to a change in the way of thinking and the way of living, whereby the traditional methods and solutions start fading away into oblivion without our realizing it. A change of methods is evident in the construction methods and materials, as well as in the areas of cooking and the wash room in the private area and as integrated production in the manufacturing sector. Interestingly, the environmental pollution is considered here as an additional resource. The undesired production of waste and metabolism products is understood in the private sphere as raw material.. In the transformation phase from open towards closed system, the zero-energy houses are gradually grabbing the attention of the interested public.
Housing and Infrastructure
The fast paced construction of huge office and residential blocks may fill the engineers and technocrats with enthusiasm. Whoever invests in these projects, also shares this enthusiasm. The problems that may occur at a later stage are not part of discussion. The factors resources protection, environmental protection, protection of traditional culture are addressed more or less only verbally in order to satisfy critical voices. A sensible and real discussion about these factors does not fit into the growth oriented approach, which has proven to be successful for so long that its functionality is not doubted any more.

Since industrial products are heavily integrated into these concepts, it may safely be assumed that they require maintenance or replacement after a certain period of time. In any case, a huge system of infra-structure is available, which will need to be replaced after a certain period. The adaptation of prevalent systems is quickly done in the technologically friendly and technocratic atmosphere. The future investor is already happy and looks forward to the profits in the future. The realization of the wrong doing do come at a later stage, but then the costs have risen enormously due to the wrong decisions taken earlier. The infra-structure has been integrated into the building plans and changes in the so-called facility are hardly possible any more. The chance to use environment friendly energy has already been lost. The electricity still comes from the electrical socket, the water from the valve and human waste is disposed off in an expensive manner ! One can say, the investment in innovation is zero.

The dis-inclination to innovation is evident right from in-house infra-structure to the urban infra-structure. The economic argument, that all action must be worth its economic value, are empty words not backed by an investigatio into the real causes. It is possible to calculate the costs of the wrongful investments as well as the un-considered relationship between the running costs, sinking tax income and the increasing infra-structure costs. The increase in the infra-structure costs is a direct result of the increase in the urbanization led by the -assumed- hope for a better life through a fixed work place.

Principal Statements and Summary
-Growing population in urban regions requires growing investments in the technical infra-structure, which is not possible to achieve due to falling number of productive work places and tax income. We would like to point out just one term; operational costs, which is starkly ignored in new projects.

-When everybody tries to do everything* and this is done on an international level, then it is not so that every body has more, rather everybody has lesser than what they already. have, not to speak of the mis-management of resources, nature and environment as well as the immaterial, among them cultural values.

-When public and private enterprises posess real (i.e. not virtual) money for investment into work places, they should of course use it; universities, ministries, hospitals, etc. But the fact is that they provide services without producing anything. Moreover, there is a lack of understanding for the importance of individualness* of the projects.

-The systems known as “holistic“ are completely ignored through mis-understanding of the decision makers with the result, that the migration into the urban regions is continuously increasing. The potential hidden in the holistic systems remains unutilized. Mud housing, for example, is taken as a sign of poverty.

-The systems known as “open“ including the design solution like Dubai, are innovation-less and overhauled, -the problem deferment is exhorbitant. Also the villas and great-looking constructions, like in the sub-continent, are only functional, when they are run de-centrally, e.g. with generators for electricity. No water supply, no air-conditioner without the electricity supply, etc. The infra-structure cannot even be properly maintained. The same is valid for bridges, tunnels and streets. Working and living in this system cannot be considered sensible. The industrial production considers the value of land as its central point and is mis-managed. This way of production is totally out of time.

-The systems known as “closed“ require a change of thinking in terms of property; an integrative production requires this in order to be able to centralize. However, the thinking within the housing unit must still be de-central in order to design in a more flexible way. New construction methods (Bio-Molecular and Poly-crystalline) and new construction materials (composite materials), as well as flexible design regarding the cooking, washing and WC-units as well as the natural and artificial lighting, the experiences from Plus-Energy-Buildings, arte changing the whole concepts of construction. Are we ready to recognize these changes!

Housing (incl. extreme housing) is not a technical problem. It should rather be considered as part of and together with the culture and with the economy, politics and society (which includes the education), -we are still very far away from this aim due to the growth-oriented approach.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:00 AM,


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