Mohammed Saquib and Hassam Ud-din, two Pakistani innovators, have won the Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge in energy efficiency and low carbon mobility categories, respectively. They will now receive a United Nations (UN) Environment grant worth US $10,000 each to support their efforts for promoting sustainable lifestyles.
The Asia-Pacific Low-Carbon Lifestyles Challenge, which took place earlier this year in Bangkok, Thailand, aims to mobilize and support young people with business ideas on how to foster energy-efficient, low-waste, and low-carbon lifestyles. The 12 winners of the competition will use their US$ 10,000 each grant to support business venture focusing on one of three different categories: mobility, plastic waste, and energy.
In a statement released on the occasion, Dechen Tsering, UN Environment’s director for the Asia-Pacific region, said, “Young innovators like Mohammed and Hassam are examples of the ingenuity we need to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.”
“I’m particularly excited to see that both of their solutions are geared toward helping some of the poorest among us. Improving lifestyles across Asia and the Pacific must be an inclusive endeavour, and Mohammed and Hassam are demonstrating how we can get it done,” she added.
According to the press release, Pakistan faces a housing shortage of up to 10 million units, and there is a large market for low-cost housing, including in refugee and displaced-persons camps.
Saquib’s startup, Modulus Tech, produces energy efficient, low-cost modular flat-pack housing built from recycled materials. These houses come with all electrical and plumbing utilities built-in and are meant to be assembled in as little as three hours.
Built from recyclable materials such as fibre cement composites and wood plastic composites, components have a 30-year lifespan and a carbon footprint up to 52 times lower than traditional concrete homes. The insulative material also makes the houses energy efficient. Saquib, the structural and architectural designer of the company’s flat-pack house, estimates that they are three times more energy efficient than alternatives in the market.
“We saw one of the worst refugee crises in the world hit its peak in 2016. Millions were displaced, and many were left homeless and exposed to extreme climate and social problems in makeshift camps and shelters,” said Saquib. “My team and I felt we could use our engineering knowledge to help. We realized an affordable, quick-to-assemble flat-pack shelter could greatly improve the lot of those displaced. I’m happy to use this UN Environment grant to bring our technology to more people who need it.”
Ud-din, a Silicon Valley-trained technology entrepreneur, aims to work for promoting affordable and efficient transport infrastructure.
Despite only 17 percent car ownership, Pakistan’s cities often face acute traffic jams and congestion, generating large amounts of air pollution. While higher vehicle ownership is not sustainable, many areas without a high volume of passengers and goods are bypassed altogether by transit lines. At the same time, most cars and trucks on the road operate at 30 percent capacity, leaving 70 percent capacity available.
Ud-din’s solution comes in the form of a mobile application called RASAI, which allows for peer-to-peer sharing of a vehicle’s extra space and seats, offering intercity ride sharing and freight-shipping capabilities. Freight transport vehicles can also use the application to provide spare cargo space at low cost, enabling small businesses like farmers to bring their goods to market at a lower cost and with higher convenience.
“It is often said that mobility is the single most important factor for an individual to escape poverty. I’ve seen people’s opportunities limited by the availability of transit routes that they can use,” said Ud-din.
“On the other hand, road congestion is horrendous. Millions of hours and billions of rupees worth of fuel are wasted sitting in traffic, while most vehicles only use 30 percent of their space capacity. If these inefficiencies can be removed, we could see unprecedented economic benefit for the developing world,” he added.
The other ten winners of the competition are from China, Bhutan, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Samoa, Sri Lanka and Thailand.