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Universities: environmental performance

January 23, 2013

IN Pakistan, universities have no practice of creating building structures that aim at reducing energy consumption, increasing the use of renewable energy, and minimizing production of waste. The indoor air quality, generally, is not up to the mark. There is still a tendency in universities to go for conventional-type structures, which exert significant environmental impacts. They cause water pollution, air pollution, land pollution (solid-waste generation), heat island effects, noise, and odour.

A conventional building structure, typically, is responsible for over 40 per cent of carbon-dioxide emissions, which is the principal global warming gas; over 50 per cent of energy use, and nearly 90 per cent of electricity consumption when compared to structures constructed on green principles.

There is a major scope in our universities for the use of solar panels, energy savers and sensors, wind turbines, insulation or light-colour painting of roofs, and the use of plantations and trees. Taken together, all these measures can result in profound savings in the use of electricity and the carbon footprint of the buildings.

There are other advantages of saving electricity as well. Air pollutants, produced by the burning of fossil fuel, are nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen oxides are a component of smog. Particulates cause respiratory illness and also contribute to smog. Sulphur dioxide causes acid rain and carbon dioxide is a global-warming gas and is implicated in climate change. In other words, there will be significant reduction in the production of air pollutants if savings in the use of electricity is resorted to.

Toilets in most universities in Pakistan are simply pathetic. Besides odour problems, they are most unhygienic, having leaky fixtures, poor ventilation and light. Universities can do well by improving the condition of toilets and provide hand-washing facilities. Although, not a university, toilets of the Civic Centre in Karachi are as dirty and pathetic as they can be. In the absence of any legislation on sustainable building aspects, our universities should o for the type of structure that suits them. The HEC needs to step in by developing appropriate legislation, governing the university’s building design. On the technical side, the Sindh Building Control Authority can help by developing green-building by-laws.

F. H. MUGHAL Karachi