• Introduction
• KaravanGhar
• Buildings


The Karavan Programme for Indigenous Technology or KAPIT was devised immediately after the Great Earthquake 2005 that devastated large parts of Northern Pakistan on 8 October 2005.

KAPIT was initiated in mid-October 2005 for earthquake-stricken communities to build permanent shelters and the work was continued through the winter months of 2005-2006.

KAPIT envisioned the following:

Providing an architectural design solution that uses local materials and technology that can be built by communities themselves and incorporates earthquake-resistant measures; technical drawing sets and illustrations of the design have been distributed for free in a building manual and poster format

Involving volunteers who are building trade professionals (architects, engineers, construction managers, and advanced students) to guide the construction process on site; students and faculty from local universities (Department of Architecture, University of Engineering and Technology Abbottabad, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad, and University of Karachi) as well as international academies (American University at Sharjah, Glasgow University, U.K.) and individual architects and architectural students from Iran, Australia, Ireland and USA have been among the volunteers

Arranging for the provision of building materials and tools that are not available locally (lime, GI flyproofing mesh, chicken wire, GI roofing sheets, spades, axes, hand-trollies etc).

KAPIT also initiated research efforts to document local/traditional and international building practices in relation to earthquake-resistance.

              KaravanGhar poster.                                    Map of the Siran Valley.


The KaravanGhar programme was carried out from November 2005 to March 2006 as part of Emergency Phase Housing.

The work was organized through teams of volunteers to guide construction of self-built improved vernacular houses, popularly known as the KaravanGhar. Architects and student volunteers hailed from the American University at Sharjah (AUS), Glasgow School of Architecture in UK, LSU and Colombia University in USA, Iran Ireland and Australia internationally, and from Karachi U, UET Abbottabad, Hyderabad & NCA Lahore, nationally. The KaravanGhar was built by salvaging stone and wood from the debris while lime, steel mesh and g.i. sheets were provided through the generosity of individual and corporate donors and UNDP. The programme was carried out in 75 remote and dispersed villages of the Siran Valley, Mansehra, NWFP, completing almost 1200 units by March 2006, including 100 units sponsored by NOKIA. The KaravanGhar methodology was utilized by the Japanese NGO NICCO, who built another 300 units in Chikar, Azad Kashmir.    


                     Early KaravanGhar built between November 2005 and January 2006 by families.

Philosophical Basis of KaravanGhar

• Correspond to lifestyles, cultural norms and traditions of the      community
• Avoid imposition of culturally inappropriate interventions
• Avoid use of alien forms which negatively impact topographic environment
• Restore pride in vernacular construction techniques
• Maximize use of volunteers in rebuilding lives
• Utilise building activity for community regeneration

Salient Features of KaravanGhar

• Construction with salvaged materials
• Stable masonry foundations
• Improved stone masonry with bond stones
• Stabilized lime/mud/sand mortar
• Fly proof mesh for corner strengthening and wooden bracing at cill, lintol, roof levels
• Wooden posts for foundation-wall-roof connectivity
• Mud/sand plaster on chicken wire mesh


A prototype school building was designed in order to utilize local labour and materials. The structural design was developed by M/s Amin Tariq & Associates, who had also worked on the structure of the KaravanGhar. Being an institutional building certain additional safeguards were built into the structural design. Since insufficient experimentation has been carried out to test the performance of traditional construction techniques, it was considered prudent to add R.C.C. beams at plinth and roof level, strengthen the corners with steel angles and ensure that the whole structure was tied together by using steel plates and angles at all wood junctions.

 Early sketch done by Sameeta. 

                                 Sectional drawing rendered by Zulfi.                                        

The salient features of the building for seismic resistance are as follows”
a. Maximum use of local materials. Mostly stone is used; though brick has also been used in a couple of buildings to accelerate progress
b. Stone masonry in walls laid with bondstones in stabilized lime/sand mortar
c. Use of g.i. fly proof mesh and vertical steel angles to strengthen corners
d. Use of wooden bracing (in the form of ladder) at cill and lintol level
e. Use of wooden posts and steel vertical angles for foundation-wall-roof connectivity
f. Use of wooden trusses and light galvanized iron sheet roofing
g. M.s. angles and plates to tie all joints of trusses, posts and trusses, posts and battens etc.
h. Reinforced concrete beams at plinth and roof level 

                    Plan showing classroom layout, rendered by Zulfi.

All possible efforts have been to have the buildings well finished along with ease of maintenance. At the same time most of the structural elements have been exposed to portray the different elements and principles underlying an earthquake resistant structure, endowing it with structural integrity

Because of the importance of fulfilling seismic requirements, the steel plates and angles initially posed difficulties. Due to lack of skills and equipment and the remote nature of the sites, it took some time to organize this work. However, through an apprenticeship programme two young people have been trained in the use of grinders and welding equipment for cutting and welding various kinds of m.s. plates and angles. The use of reinforced concrete has also posed considerable difficulties in view of the carriage costs, erection of formwork and pouring without adequate equipment e.g. mechanical mixers and vibrators etc. Since the use of r.c.c. beams was a precondition by ERRA, it has been followed to provide additional safety factor; however, further research needs to be done in order to minimize the use of reinforced concrete.

The stone masonry and woodwork was carried out by local labour, however, specialized help was brought to the sites for concrete and steel work. The introduction of r.c.c. beams and steel corner angles added to the cost considerably. In the process training of the local skilled and unskilled labour was also carried out.

Since the staff is now familiar with the construction principles required for the structure, the same basic structure is being utilized for construction of the Heritage Museum, Basic Health Unit as well as community/research centre.