Architecture firm ECOnsult has put cooling at the heart of Egypt’s plans to transform its villages and small towns, bridging the gap between leaders and citizens with practical advice and bold new perspectives.
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ECOnsult is sustainability partner in the Hayat Karima project – a 24 billion GBP Egyptian government initiative to transform more than 4,500 of the country’s rural settlements, with new and upgraded homes and infrastructure.
The ambitious initiative aims to provide a decent life for all Egyptians. But this will not be possible without action to tackle the danger of indoor heat stress. Rising indoor temperatures threaten Egyptians’ physical and mental health – and their ability to study or earn a living.
Across the country, even a modest rise in average temperatures by 2030 could lead to a loss of working hours equivalent to 134,000 jobs. Women, most likely to work or spend time at home, are most affected by domestic heat stress.
To make sure cooling and other sustainability issues are tackled effectively and inclusively, ECOnsult has created guides and toolkits that will be used throughout the initiative, as well as the standards that individual projects must reach.
Dr Sherifa Sherif is Director of the National Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. She says: “Core to the Hayat Karima project is building affordable homes that are energy efficient and abide by green guidelines. ECOnsult’s valuable support and efforts in this project, and in raising awareness and putting guidelines in place, will ensure that homes are resilient to the changing climate. Making a difference is what ECOnsult is all about.”
Ashden’s Fair Cooling Fund has supported this work, which has the potential to touch millions of lives. The fund has also backed ECOnsult’s wider efforts to raise awareness of effective cooling solutions as a pathway to climate justice.
Founder-chairwoman Sarah El Battouty says: “Hayat Karima is a ‘mega project’ – but it is made up of millions of tiny projects. We encourage the government to consider things at a household level. To really listen to people, to understand their needs. When people think at a smaller scale, then policy shifts happen.”
This means engaging deeply with communities and diverse voices, prioritising the issues that communities most want to see tackled, and offering solutions tailored to the local environment.
ECOnsult has also emphasised drawing on traditional and indigenous knowledge – such as how to use shading, vegetation and building orientation to keep temperatures down. Individual solutions are presented accessibly in the organisation’s Green Guidelines [Link to this if publicly available?], for use by the Hayat Karima project’s many stakeholders.
ECOnsult built relationships across government departments before finding a partner that shared its vision to radically boost sustainability in Egypt’s towns and villages – the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. It has used the full range of arguments for investment, from social development and community resilience to economic growth, to win support from officials
Sarah says: “Our ability to speak in different ‘languages’ to different audiences is a key quality of ECOnsult, and something that helps us bring people and organisations together around a common goal.”
Also important is the organisation’s emphasis on tested and practical solutions. ECOnsult has overseen pioneering developments including a carbon-neutral residential village for an organic tea supplier company that operates without the need for energy-intensive air conditioning units – while its publications and guides share inspiring case studies.
Sarah explains: “When you show people a proven solution, they can no longer say ‘why do this?’ – the question becomes ‘why not?’”
ECOnsult is also making a mark outside of government, engaging with civil society and the private sector in Egypt and beyond to create change. In 2021 it partnered with influential organisations including the Hayah Karima Foundation, National Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, UNDP Egypt, CIB, and HSBC, and appeared on multiple panels at the COP26 climate summit. The organisation has a rising profile as an expert on cooling and sustainability.
ECOnsult is now working with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development on a sustainable village prototype – this project is currently in the design stage.
In November 2022, the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh will host COP27 – a unique opportunity to show how local climate action is creating a fairer, better world. ECOnsult will use its expertise, increasing visibility and strong links with the Egyptian government to push for an inclusive summit showcasing effective climate solutions that benefit those at greatest risk.
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