Solution Overview & Team Lead Details

Our Organization

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

What is the name of your solution?

Carbon Neutral Mass Housing

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Social and ecological justice for Global South’s poorest with climate resilient bamboo, earth, lime structures and self building through technology.

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Due to climate change, increase in GHG emissions, increasing frequency of disasters and global pandemics such as COVID-19 , the increasing poverty levels and rising disparities have rendered millions shelter-less around the globe. UN systems estimate that at least 3 billion people will need safe, climate resilient shelter and basic infrastructure by 2030. It is also estimated by World Bank and World Economic Forum that within a couple of decades, 2.1 billion people are expected to be displaced in 19 vulnerable countries, or 25% of the world population will be displaced from their homes due to climate change and changing weather patterns.

As is known, housing is a right which is enshrined in several international covenants, and state parties around the world are signatories to many conventions

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25(1)) (1948); 1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living ….
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Article 5 (iii)); (1965): The right to housing ...
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 11(1)) (1966); The State Parties ---- recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing,...
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Article 14 (h)) (1979): To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications...
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 27 (1)) (1989): States Parties recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development...

However, governments in the Global South have not been able to provide housing to their extremely large marginalized populations. There are many reasons for not fulfilling the covenants, among the most critical being the high cost of conventional construction which also carries high carbon footprint because of use of cement and steel. It is estimated that at least 39% of energy consumption is due to the prevalent industrialized systems of construction. Even though climate change is a reality, little attention has been paid to the use of locally sourced sustainable materials for mass housing. The result is the use of ecologically damaging construction techniques when large scale housing for the disadvantaged is taken up. This is particularly true for post-disaster housing when hundreds of thousands of units are built, which instead of reducing the climate threat, increase GHG emissions. Although Global South carries many vernacular traditions for construction and use of low carbon materials, these have been entirely ignored while preference is given to materials such as cement concrete blocks, RCC elements, steel girders and burnt brick which all carry high carbon footprint.

What is your solution?

Mindful of the fact that Pakistan is 5th most vulnerable country in the face of climate threat, at the same time it has millions of extremely poor shelter-less households, for several years past, Heritage Foundation of Pakistan has worked on devising strategies for rights-based development to provide social and ecological justice to marginalized sections in the country.

To fulfill human rights requirements, Heritage Foundation of Pakistan has drawn from low carbon techniques found in Pakistan’s vernacular traditions and availability of locally sourced materials. Thus, several affordable carbon neutral, climate and disaster resilient construction techniques have been developed by us.  These are low tech, low impact methodologies with emphasis on self-building or co-building. Utilizing the tenets of Barefoot Social Architecture or BASA devised by Architect Yasmeen Lari, we have been able to reach out to hundreds of thousands of affected populations in Pakistan. However, the goal to reach the millions that are deprived of their basic right of housing is still to be achieved.

To accomplish this objective, we have placed good-practice techniques in step-by-step video tutorials and have uploaded them on 'Yasmeen Lari's Zero Carbon Channel' on YouTube in 2021, and have so far been able to provide guidance to hundreds of households to build themselves by following the open-source YouTube tutorials on their cell phones.

The resulting products of zero carbon one room houses, eco toilet and zero carbon earthen World Habitat Award winner Pakistan Chulah stove, has shown the efficacy of our techniques of building affordable and safe housing by the poor themselves. By learning the use of zero/low carbon materials consisting of bamboo, earth and lime has helped in promoting self-building through ‘Make Your Own House’ videos. If the techniques can be spread far and wide through use of technology, displacement and consequent economic loss will be avoided when the next disaster strikes since all such structures, in addition to being affordable and carbon neutral are also disaster risk resilient.

Thus, through the nexus of high-tech cell phones and high-speed internet, fostering requisite low impact sustainable green construction it would be possible to save the people from adverse living conditions as well as the resources of the planet. As women are the worst sufferers our strategies focus on women to enable them to lead such efforts, who although largely non literate, have proved to be extremely dynamic and keen to transform their lives through their own effort.

Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Out of Pakistan’s 220 million population at least 80% are counted among the poor. These high poverty levels constitute millions of shelter-less households both in rural and urban areas. Since there are insufficient funds available for the poor, nationally or internationally, by developing peoples own capacities, and by keeping women in the forefront, it would be possible for most families to achieve their basic needs and thus an improved lifestyle.

The state of shelter-less-ness affects women the most, as they are forced to spend their lives living in unprotected and unsafe environments. The provision of affordable climate-resilient housing based on rights-based development model devised by us through BASA, will not only provide dignity and privacy to women, it will help them to become more productive. We have witnessed the transformation of those suffering from apathy into confident and strong female members after accessing their basic needs through their own effort. Being most economical and low cost BASA methodologies may be the only alternative due to which countries such as Pakistan and others in South Asia and Sub Sahara Africa will be able to meet many of the SDGs.

The BASA tenets will impact them by improving their living conditions. BASA is akin to social engineering for bringing about social change incorporating environmental, cultural and technical dimensions, resulting in transformation of mindset from a cycle of dependency to a culture of pride and self-reliance.

1.  Maximizing the potential of existing ‘Barefoot Ecosystem’ - applying 3 Zeros: Zero Cost (to donor)/Zero Carbon/Zero Waste methodologies leading to Zero Poverty.

2.  Focus on social and ecological justice through humanistic architecture fostering pride, dignity and wellbeing, and preventing depletion of the planet’s resources.

3. Delivery of unmet needs through Barefoot Entrepreneurs or BEs with particular focus on women – using Barefoot Incubator for Social Good and Environmental Sustainability (BISGES) for training in affordable products for BOP.

4.  Low tech, low impact non-engineered structures for shrinking the ecological footprint in construction, using green skills and sustainable, locally sourced materials.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan is headed by Yasmeen Lari, a female, trained architect who practiced architecture for 36 years and co-founded the Foundation in 1980 to safeguard Pakistan’s heritage . After retiring, when the disastrous earthquake in 2005 hit Pakistan, the Foundation, established its humanitarian wing. Since 2005, the Foundation has been deeply engaged with working out humanitarian solutions based on heritage and vernacular traditions. From the beginning the focus of the organization has been on the engagement and involvement of women, who are largely ignored in countries such as Pakistan. In our humanitarian effort, women have led several initiatives with great success such as the construction of 70,000 zero carbon earthen stoves, known as the Pakistan Chulah which won World Habitat prize 2018. During 2006 women in earthquake affected areas, were trained to use bead craft to begin income generating activities in collaboration with Nokia cell phone company. In 2014, in collaboration with IOM, a Women-Centred Community Based Disaster Risk Management program (WCCBDRM) for disaster preparedness was conducted with great success in 7 villages of 100 households each. In our projects women have led other income generation activities such as the ancient craft of terracotta for which scores of women belonging to beggar communities at Makli World Heritage site were trained.

Lari’s zero carbon methodologies have been promoted for several years and as technical partners of IOM (International Organization for Migration), we trained large assemblies in scores of villages in building techniques using earth, lime and bamboo. From 2012-2014, under this program more than 40,000 DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction)-compliant one room houses were built.

WE have entrée into hundreds of villages in Pakistan and also slums in Karachi. We have designed and implemented the first eco enclave (heritage-centred, climate-smart Denso Hall Rahguzar Walking Street) in Karachi, which has also utilized many trained artisans in zero/low carbon techniques for terracotta cobbles and bamboo products for use in an urban setting to help in alleviating poverty in Pakistan’s rural areas, at the same time to create healthy living conditions in areas suffering from the worst of urban blight.

Our methodology is devised according to the tenets of BASA (Barefoot Social Architecture), mentioned above, which is well known as a means of empowerment and self-reliance for disadvantaged populations. The especially devised Incubator for Social Good and Environmental Sustainability aims at training and handholding of non-literate poor women, men and those with disabilities to be able to rise above adversity through green skills and crafts. The motto is Zero Cost (to donor), Zero Carbon, Zero Waste leading to Zero Poverty! 

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Enable mass production of inexpensive and low-carbon housing, including changes to design, materials, and construction methods.

Where our solution team is headquartered or located:

Karachi, Pakistan

Our solution's stage of development:


How many people does your solution currently serve?

From 2011 to 2018, 840,000 people were served through the use of BASA methodologies. Since then, the number of those served has risen substantially.

Why are you applying to Solve?

Although we are able to achieve a certain growth, and also our open-source video tutorials are helping to spread the knowledge in many parts of the world, however, we also know that what we have achieved is insufficient since the solution can be gainfully utilized on a much larger scale in the remotest regions of Pakistan as well as in many countries in South Asia and Sub Sahara Africa.

For this purpose, we need partnerships with those organizations who can develop tech support solutions for remote trainings and monitoring especially when the model is scaled up in various parts of Pakistan and elsewhere in the Global South.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design, data analysis, etc.)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Architect Yasmeen Lari

More About Your Solution

What makes your solution innovative?

The solution is innovative for the following reasons:

  • Most of the time when implementing humanitarian solutions, the emphasis is either on social aspects or climate resilience. However, alternatives developed by us use BASA (Barefoot Social Architecture)tenets thus providing both social and ecological justice to vast marginalized sections in the Global South that also ensures rights-based development.
  • Based on zero carbon materials and low impact techniques our solutions are designed for making strong and resilient structures which will withstand disasters, thus avoiding displacement, which usually results in enormous economic loss and emotional suffering for families especially women and children.
  • The solution is based on traditional techniques and forms and utilizes locally sourced materials which help in ease of construction for economical structures that resonate with communities who are able to build themselves, leading to fostering pride and stake in their own products.
  • The BASA tenets discourage the use of colonial western charity model that provides handouts to target communities treating them as victims. In contrast, our methodology treats communities as partners and relies on skill trainings and knowledge transfer to foster self-reliance and self-respect among downtrodden communities.
  • Promotion of self-building as well as training, guidance and monitoring through digital means. In order to scale up, in our view, by utilizing internet and live streaming we are able to provide training to remote areas within Pakistan, and even conducted sessions in Bangladesh (which has been implemented in partnership with British Council), while students in Milan are able to build models and in Malawi an orphanage is under construction. However, for scaling up a technology-based solution is needed which would ensure training as well as monitoring on a much-extended scale.

What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?

Although so far banks were unwilling to provide micro loans for housing to the poor, as they felt it was not possible for them to manage loans worth $300 which is all that is needed to provide self-building of one room shelter and a toilet to marginalized sections; however, in a recent development The Bank of Punjab has agreed to provide loans to 100 families in Pono village in Pakistan. As a break from usual procedures, the loan is in the name of four committees titled Mothers Help Committees, where women are taking the responsibility of paying back through their savings program.

Although for the time being it is only 100 families, but it is a breakthrough and the Bank has agreed to launch a special program for the poor which will provide loans on a regular basis. In addition, there are several NGOs engaged in building a couple of hundred units each by getting artisans trained for guiding others and providing grants for purchase of materials. We believe that it should be possible to scale up (without reliance on charity) to at least 2,000 in the first year. However, as more banks come on board, and more awareness develops regarding the open-source availability of video tutorials to make your own house, there would be an exponential rise and the target in 5 years would be 40,000 to 50,000.

As we are encouraging arrangement of loans rather than grants, and as more loans become available through banking channels or impact investments, the financial component will be taken care of. The only other hitch would be for tech solutions for conducting a much larger number of training sessions and extended monitoring through tech means, for which we are seeking assistance.

How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

It is difficult to provide figures for the last two years which were blocked because of COVID 19 pandemic and lockdowns.

In 2019, 70% of 230 beggars (10/ family), after training in green skills and crafts rose above poverty line though sales of low-cost affordable products for use by surrounding communities. Another 100 artisans (10/family) were employed on products for eco enclave in Karachi during 2021 and thus have had assured livelihoods.

Approximately 15,000 zero carbon Pakistan Chulah stoves were built in 2020 to 2022 that provided health benefits to women and their families.

In all cases the use of zero/low carbon materials and focus on vegetation and trees have helped to achieve certain SDGs. The following SDGs were achieved in target communities:

Goal No. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12,13, 17. 

Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

The success of our model is due to a combination of the use of traditional techniques and indigenous forms as well as traditional capabilities of design and crafts by women, that has been recently combined with the use of technology and digital platform for training and monitoring, which together are expected to improve the quality of life for a large number of disadvantaged communities.

The setting up of women’s centers in villages, equipped with a monitor and a laptop computer along with internet connectivity, is facilitating access into many communities. If this model is pursued, we believe it will help in scaling up the project and expanding it into improved living environment for entire village. In our experience once the basic needs have been achieved, the community is ready to improve the village environmental conditions through their own efforts. By keeping in touch through technological means, cell phones, or zoom sessions, it is possible to provide guidance to women’s committees to separate the livestock for better health, disaster preparedness in the form of ditches and wells to minimize the affect of floods or by making zero carbon gabions to prevent land sliding, planting community forests and promoting kitchen gardens as well as organic compost and organic soap. All these become essential as the second tier of resilience and placing communities on the path of self-reliance and achieving SDGs at a very low cost.

We believe in utilizing traditional natural methods of ventilation, passive cooling through earth walls, zero energy water cooling methodologies in order to reduce GHG emissions. With our vast reservoir of documentation of vernacular techniques and practices, and studies of barefoot systems utilized by the poor to survive with minimum resources and recycled materials, are lessons that we are able to build into development through BASA or Barefoot Social Architecture.

At the same time, it becomes essential to harness available technological advances for helping those living on the borders to implement sustainable methodologies to achieve their rights and an improved quality of life for themselves and for their future generations.

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new application of an existing technology

Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals

In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Pakistan

In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Bangladesh
  • Pakistan
  • South Africa
Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?


How many people work on your solution team?

Full-time staff: 8, Part-time staff: 0, Trained artisan (working independently): 30

How long have you been working on your solution?

Since 2005 DRR-compliant sustainable building techniques drawn from heritage and tradition. Since 2009 DRR-compliant zero carbon green construction.

What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?

We are mindful of gender equality, equity & diversity in our workforce.

Many a times preference is given to female leads. Because of high levels of disabilities among the poor our workforce includes a substantial percentage of those who suffer from disabilities.

Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

For several years we provided facilities to target communities with grants that were provided for construction of one room shelters or water and sanitation. The funding was made available through international organizations such as IOM, UNESCO, ILO, UK AID etc. However, for the last several years we have worked without giving grants to local population. Since our humanitarian work is driven by the barefoot eco system or the poorest of the poor, for the last few years we seek grants only for providing training in green skills and crafts which promotes livelihood opportunities and leads to self-reliance. The effort is to make all products safe but low cost and affordable which can be made by the communities themselves after they have been provided training.

For example, the earthen stove is a no cost product as it is funded and built by the housewife herself. After we had trained a few teams in making the zero-carbon earthen stove, 70,000 housewives have built them themselves by paying a meagre $1.2 to the barefoot entrepreneur who has been trained by us, and then herself investing another $12-15 and building her own stove which has provided enormous benefits to her including dignity and respect within her community.

The aim is to use design and low cost locally sourced materials for making affordable products which could be funded by many among marginalized sections themselves. Fostering self-building according to laid down methodology also helps to keep costs extremely low.

Many of the video tutorials launched in 2021 were sponsored and paid for the cost of preparation. Since majority of the work is done in house, we are able to keep our costs very low.

By utilizing a lean team, and economical productions, we are able to execute major works at extremely low costs.    

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?

Now that all systems are in place and we are clear that we need to empower communities by training, we have developed very strong training programs. Since the advent of COVID 19, we have decided to conduct majority of trainings through digital means. Recently a major effort was to train female students of architecture in Pakistan and Bangladesh was taken up through a grant from British Council and funds raised from private sector, which covered the cost of entire training and live streaming in the two countries.

These are comparatively low-cost solutions. We find that we are able to raise sufficient funds to cover the cost of our personnel for providing training and monitoring. As the CEO works on pro bono basis, and the experienced staff of master trainers is limited, the cost of conducting trainings and monitoring has been controlled and can be raised without difficulty.

Also, since the office and studio space in Karachi, the camp offices Zero Carbon Campus in the South and PIATR in the north are gifts from the founders, there is no liability of rents etc. which provide relief and all the grants received can be used to carry out testing, develop expertise and provide trainings.

The Foundation is financially stable and the mechanism that has been adopted provides sustainability.

Share some examples of how your plan to achieve financial sustainability has been successful so far.

We find that we are able to provide training at a very low cost.

A grant received by Heritage Foundation in 2019 was from British Council of Rs. 5,000,000 or $41,500.00

The amount was utilized to train 230 persons: 50 disabilities, 110 women and 70 men.

At the cost of Rs. 21,739 or $180 per trainee or $15 per month training and hand holding was provided for 12 months when 161 were able to rise above the poverty line and the remaining also became self-reliant without having to resort to begging.  

Solution Team

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