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ULI awards charity for Excellence in the Asia Pacific Region

The Urban Land Institute, has announced the architectural charity Article 25 as a winner of the 2009 ULI Annual International Awards for Excellence in the Asia Pacific Region. The ULI awards recognise achievement in architectural and engineering projects that exhibit outstanding design, construction and value for money. Article 25’s charitable project, completing nearly 100 new homes, was shortlisted for the final of the Asia Pacific region along with mixed-use regeneration initiatives in Beijing and Daegu, Korea, and Namba Parks - a 1.15 hectare park resting on an eight level retail development in Osaka, Japan.

The 31st annual Award for Excellence was presented to Article 25 CEO Dr Victoria Harris at the Real Estate Investment World Gala Dinner in Singapore on 24th June for earthquake resistant sustainable housing in rural areas of North West Pakistan. Pakistan was devastated by the earthquake of 8th October 2005, during which about 73,000 people lost their lives. Another 3 million people were left homeless after the collapse of 6,000 dwellings. The rural regions of Bagh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Jareed, North West Frontier Province, were particularly badly hit but remained isolated from many sources of aid, which are often targeted to more obvious urban centres. Following the initial devastation, homelessness and unemployment rose whilst the local economy struggled to recover.

Article 25 partnered with local charity Muslim Aid, a charity with close links in the local communities, to rebuild homes in these regions. The key to the design success was in part using sustainable methods and environment-friendly local materials. Local timber was considered to be the most suitable material to reduce transport costs and inject much needed investment into the disrupted local economy. Salvaged material was used wherever possible. At every stage the local community was encouraged to become involved in the build process. Article 25’s expertise and innovation in sustainable, low-cost buildings meant that the project budget went as far as possible and gave the greatest possible security to the people who would live in the new homes. Constant on site monitoring and adaptation helped save lives, one example being the use of an alternative type of reinforcement structural bar being designed into the housing; the cost savings purely from this adaptation enabled a series of retaining walls to be designed and built. If the region is hit by further earthquakes, the retaining walls can stop devastating landslides capable of wiping out lives and livelihoods.

The project involved participatory workshops with the local community whenever possible. Article 25 took the chance to hand over knowledge – and as they put it – “work ourselves out of a job”. The ethos of Article 25 is to empower with skills and provide “the fishing rod not the fish”. This project aimed not only to provide the community with safe housing but also to pass on the skills and knowledge required to continue building sustainable homes long into the future. The cost of Article 25’s involvement in a project benefitting nearly 1000 people was under £5000 due to the close attention to detail and concentration on traditional, local building methods. Article 25 trustee and CEO Dr. Victoria Harris was delighted to accept the award at the ceremony in Singapore: “We have a vision of a world where there is never a loss of livelihood or a life for the lack of a built solution that can serve or preserve it. Built environment professionals can save lives and give hope to the most vulnerable so that they can build and rebuild their lives. We are very grateful to the ULI jury for their recognition of both Article 25 and of the power of architecture to change the lives of the people who need it most.”

Article 25 are a UK registered charity who give construction and architectural expertise to charities and aid agencies worldwide in order to build better, more sustainable architectural solutions. Article 25 are the only charitable organisation in the UK providing such field expertise; the charity estimate that for every £1 donated, up to £10 of value can be put on the ground through the knowledge of their experienced professional team of volunteers. Since forming in 2006, 30 assignments have been completed worldwide.

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