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a bio-material pathway to healthy forests and carbon positive cities
SUPPORTING A NATIONAL STRATEGY
The Kingdom of Bhutan, under the leadership of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, has called for the sustainable transformation of his country’s urban construction sector. The steady urbanization of the Thimphu Paro Capital region and its growing demand for housing and infrastructure has threatened both the natural ecosystems and national cultural heritage of its local landscapes.
The sector’s current reliance on extractive, mineral-based, and energy- and emissions intensive building materials, means, and methods, on poorly performing urban construction assemblies and structural/architectural typologies, and on outsourced construction labour, management, and finance by non-Bhutanese building developers and workforces, has made Bhutanese city building both unaffordable and unsustainable. If such practices continue, the building sector will be unable to meet demand nor provide for the health, well-being, and livelihood of its urban citizenry, while contributing only marginally to the country’s domestic economy. Moreover, the continuing operation and maintenance of building stock produced today will create ongoing technical and financial burdens only to serve as stranded assets in the foreseeable future.
Although Bhutan’s abundant forest cover and constitutionally mandated forest protections serve to make this small country a global model of national carbon neutrality, the Bhutanese construction sector creates a significant counterforce to the country’s perceived environmental health, its measurement of “gross national happiness” and His Majesty’s vision for a deeply sustainable society.
As a developing country, we have limited resources. We must manage our available resources wisely, minimize waste, and ensure that all our resources are directed at improving the well-being of the people, and in fulfilment of our national vision.
- His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck
Within the context of a nation experiencing exponential economic and population growth, the amount of forest cover in Bhutan is remarkable if not miraculous. These levels have not been maintained by chance but rather by a view of forests as a sacred cultural heritage and a legacy of a proud kingdom. They are kept standing due to the wisdom of a Royal Decree. The government agencies are their stewards and local communities their guardians. These same principles of respect for Bhutan’s forests must surely also be applied to what comes out of the forest!
Instead of telling the forest what we want, we need to ask the forest what it can sustainably offer us.
- Jamie Lawrence, CSFEP
Bauhaus Earth, ARUP, and CSFEP:
Scoping Mission Report and Project Proposal
To align building design and construction practice and to promote potential synergies between regenerative forestry, a robust building economy with minimal ecological impact, and the healthy growth and management of the country’s cityscapes, Bhutan’s Ministry of Works and Human Settlement convened in May of 2022 a working group comprised of both government representatives and visiting experts from forestry, industry, city planning, engineering and architecture. The result of the two-and-a-half week series of presentations, workshops, and study trips, was an interdisciplinary, system-wide analysis and sustainable operation of high performance urban building in Thimphu and urbanized settlements throughout Bhutan.
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