Promote Sustainability for architecture education in developing countries – Challenges from individual experience
I had many challenges in spreading sustainable knowledge for my students in the architecture school that I work in one of developing countries, which is – Iraq. As a faculty teaching staff that finished my architecture education in UK with a specialty in sustainability, I was optimized and had a great hope to transfer that knowledge to them and spread sustainable culture in general. However, I found that it is a difficult to get these students to the track due to several reasons as I will explain below.
First of all, architecture students in developing countries had a mistake mentality about sustainability. Many of them think a green roof equals sustainability and that is all. One of them once said I do not want to integrate sustainability concepts to my project because I do not like green roofs. Therefore, lots of hard work is needed for trying to reach them to certain amount of knowledge that is good to kick off your project and think about sustainability as a core idea of your project in an era of: COP21 climate change conference in Paris
Secondly, by showing them PowerPoint presentations and videos on some case studies, you cannot transfer the idea perfectly. You have to see these projects in real life by yourself and feel it through your five senses. You should feel how clean air is due to site habitats and greenery, or touch a reclaimed waste material on facades, put your coats off indoors in coldly winter day and feel comfort while there is no mechanical air-conditioning, and then realize it is due to double façade ventilation system and so on.
Thirdly, to make the second point fulfilled you have to TRAVEL. Travelling is much needed in order to expand horizons and experiences. But in most of these developing countries -like Iraq – you cannot travel to the most of the developed world! There are lots of travelling restrictions. For example, a leading sustainable country like UK do not give tourist visas to Iraqi citizens at all, or getting a Schengen visa to enter EU zone are very hard , same issues with USA, Australia and others.
Iraqis can travel easily to handful of countries like Qatar, UAE (including Dubai) and turkey. Unfortunately, these countries are not a model to learn from and experience sustainability. Sometimes it gives them a bad mentality about architecture that is hard to convince them it is wrong. The projects that ranging from non-humanitarian to posh
projects across these countries that just built to show off for how rich we are; things like longest skyscrapers in the world. Most of these which built without attention to how detrimental this is to environment, or whether these projects are actually needed by local communities and overall society! Or does it improve human wellbeing while save resources to future generations!
It should be noted that this individual experience cannot be generalized to all developing countries. Things that I encounter in my home country may be different from others. For example, regarding travelling, students in other developing countries may do not own a proper amount of money to travel to these countries even if it is possible to get a visa entry…
Finally, these challenges should not make us stop, but it should foster us to find solutions to overcome these challenges. And with the low level oil prices that largely affected economy of Middle East countries, hopefully all of these countries implement comprehensive sustainable strategies- including architecture- for a brighter future that it will be a good model for future architects in the region.
By: Polla Dilshad Ibrahim – MSc Sustainable Architecture, Architecture Engineering Department, Salahaddin University, Iraq
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