As part of a new series of blogs we will be talking to some of our ex students about what they’re doing now. This week Magnus Murray tells us about how his MSc in Architecture and Advanced, Environmental and Energy studies brought a new dimension to his humanitarian and international development work.
I was part of the 2006 – 2008 AEES course, full time at CAT, it was great and I learned so much. Since then I returned to my former world of humanitarian aid and international development. I was recruited by the British Government’s Department for International Development soon after the devastating floods of 2010 in Pakistan, to act as an advisor on shelter and water-sanitation projects.
Very soon I realised how few people in donors, NGOs and local Government were familiar with the issues we had become so fluent with: climate change, environmental design and renewable energy. The entire country is a like a really inefficient oil boiler! In cities people heat water with gas despite the vast solar potential, in rural areas cooking is still done with wood using the most inefficient and smokey fires. So much to do – and I quickly recognised how the time at CAT had filled my quiver with new tools and concepts and my address book was now full of very smart and techie people! Now we are into our third flood response in so many years, and we are supporting over 45,000 families rebuild their homes using lime based technology and people’s own vernacular designs, at about one fifth the cost of other, conventional construction.
This is great value for money and so much more appropriate for the communities but it requires loads of hands on training in the affected villages. We’re also trying to introduce ways to manage sewage from camps and communities using constructed wetlands or reed-bed technology, at low cost, to avoid the current practice of allowing sewage to run into the local waterways and pollute drinking water sources.
Lastly, I managed to persuade the humanitarian community here that solar PV and LEDs on 12v rock (make sense) and we should promote them – especially for people living in temporary settlements after they’ve had to leave their homes during the floods. Surrounded by water and wild animals, especially snakes seeking refuge from the waters, people are so unprotected at night. We have now distributed over 100,000 solar lights, costing around 5 pounds each, saving people over $10m overall, allowing over 600,000 people to see a little better at night. I like that. And it’s great that CAT and the AEES got me to see the world with a new green, solar powered lens.