Society for the Promotion of Art and Culture

Appropriate Housing

Owais Mughal

This post is about alternative, cheaper and earthquake resistant housing for Pakistan. At ATP we’ve covered alternative building styles before when S A J Shirazi wrote about using mud to build homes. A couple of my friends recently pointed out to me an earthquake resistant straw bale housing style that was practised in Pakistan (and also other countries) after the devastating earthquake of 2005. This project was started in Pakistan by a non-profit group called Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate building (PAKSBAB). In the aftermath of 2005 earthquake of Pakistan PAKSBAB built these houses for poor by using straw, an agricultural by-product, compressed and tied into bales, as building blocks.

Following photo shows a straw-bale house under construction in Pakistan in the aftermath of 2005 earthquake. Photo credits: PAKSBAB.

This technique makes the structures earthquake resistant. The project’s founder is Darcey Dononvan who is a mechanical engineer by profession. The reason for us sharing this post here is to provide food for thought for alternate housing styles in earthquake zones - and Pakistan has quite a few of them. I also want to thank PAKSBAB for carrying out this project in Pakistan.

I found following video by University of Nevada, Reno at youtube where Darcey is explaining her project in Pakistan as well as it shows the results of earthquake simulation.

February 5, 2010’s Science Magazine also mentioned this project. An excerpt from there goes like this:

Some engineers want to rethink the basic materials used in developing countries. Darcey Donovan advocates replacing concrete walls with load-bearing straw bales. Her nonprofit group, PakistanStraw Bale and Appropriate Building, erects 7.3-m-by-7.3- m houses in northwest Pakistan, which was ravaged by an earthquake in 2005. The bales are stacked and bound together top to bottom with a fishnet, which keeps them from slipping apart during shaking, then plastered over. Her team has built 11 houses so far, with six more coming. The design recently survived, with minimal damage, a violent test on a shake table, a large platform that simulates earthquakes. Because the tough, fibrous plants used for straw are ubiquitous, Donovan believes the bale design could easily be exported, and her team is discussing traveling to Haiti.


1. Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building (PAKSBAB)
2. Science Magazine
3. University of Nevada, Reno - Earthquake Engineering Simulation

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:56 AM,


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