Monday, January 01, 2007

Innovative building technology for better environment

Innovative building technology for better environment
With growing population, the construction sector is booming in the urban and semi-urban areas of Nepal. However, production of building materials is an energy consuming process, which is is also expensive.

Even with high costs, the prevailing construction techniques and building material production sectors are not utilising efficient, economic techniques. Taking these concerns into consideration, Skat (Swiss Resource Centre and Consultancies for Development) has come up with an innovative approach to reduce energy and cost required in the construction sector through the introduction of the CESEF methodology, which aims to introduce and consolidate sustainable building practices.
CESEF stands for — Cost Effective (as it is affordable to all), Social Friendly (as it creates job), Environment Friendly (as it saves energy and preserves environment).
Implemented under VSBK Clean Building Technologies, Nepal, the programme is funded by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) and is working in collaboration with DCSI (Department of Cottage and Small Industry). Taking in account the considerable amount of cement used, which is a high energy consuming raw material and equally expensive, CESEF track has been promoting cement-based building materials with CESEF criteria.

The main challenge for the programme is the reduction of embodied energy (consumption of energy) without compromising on the quality of the product and building structure including the generation of livelihood, social uplift of workers, development of new skill, increment in entrepreneurs' profit, and boost to the local economy, thus touching every concerned part of socio-techno aspect.

"The expected result of phase-I of the CESEF programme is to provide access to field-tested building technology packages that confirm to CESEF criteria for small/medium enterprises (SMEs)," said Heini Muller, senior technical advisor of CESEF Programme. "CESEF cement-based building materials like hollow blocks, pre-cast concrete door/window frames, MCR tiles and other fundamental designs and brick bonding concepts in the building helps save 20 per cent of energy and cost if produced and applied through best practices in the construction sector."

The CESEF track strategies are directed by the principle of the 'Sustainability Manadala', which takes into account four fields namely — environment, social, economic and institutions in a balanced manner. It contributes to equity through improvement of livelihood of workers, involvement of SMEs, business approach for economical sustainability, influences the legal framework and anchors better know-how and skills within the existing organisations/institutions.

The CESEF programme is strengthening the existing system of construction sector's key stakeholders to commercially disseminate and implement building materials and techniques that confirm to CESEF-principles.

"For this, the programme team has been providing training and technical support to stakeholders, creating public awareness at local level and established partnership with SMEs," said Jenish Joshi, CESEF coordinator at VSBK Programme. "It works with a participatory approach to promote entrepreneurs through applied research and development, optimising the production technologies and practices."

Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts were selected as an intervention areas during the introduction stage of this programme mainly because entrepreneurs over there showed keen interest in new technology and were ready to try it out. The other associated factors were availability of raw materials in abundance and also a potential market for innovative building materials/techniques.

"Nepal has a huge potential to improve on existing and introduce new, regionally proven construction technologies/materials mainly because the necessary raw materials are locally available. The production and application skills are easy to learn, and most importantly, there is a huge demand for affordable building material and technology," said Muller.

Nevertheless, the potential for job opportunities and affordability in these building materials and technologies must be well-planned and implemented. The related stakeholders and entrepreneurs should give special emphasis on quality and its application for marketing and its wider acceptance. The only requirement is to establish it through proper know how, best practices and demonstration.

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