skip to primary navigationskip to content

MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Victoria Hickman

The Implementation of Building Technologies in Ladakh, India - A Case Study

This research dissertation is an investigation into the effectiveness of introducing building and renewable energy technologies in poor and remote communities, using the Druk White Lotus School, Shey village, as a case study.  The award winning building developed by Arup Associates and Arup has provided an informative case to study the effects of a foreign construction consultancy’s building design on sustainable development in the Himalayan community.

Developed from a vision of Ladakh’s spiritual leader, Lama Thuksay Rinpochey - His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, of ‘A model for appropriate modernisation’; the school seeks to preserve Ladakhi culture and Tibetan Buddhism while providing children with an education to equip them for life in modern India.  Situated in a remote village in a region that feels it is under threat of losing its cultural identity and traditional values due to the impact of tourism and political & territorial disputes between India, Pakistan and China.

With the infant and junior schools completed and offering day and boarding education to over 300 children, the building is still under construction for future phases of the school.  The project is managed by the Drukpa Trust, a UK based charity, also responsible for fundraising to cover the costs of construction and running of child sponsorship schemes to cover fees for the lesser off children.  Due to personal contacts between individuals from the Drukpa Trust and a British architect the project was taken on by Arup, whose employees provided the expertise virtually free of cost and in their own time.

The building design integrates various ‘building technologies’ not common in Ladakh (Solar powered pump for water supply; Solar powered electricity supply, Trombe walls – passive heating strategy; Ventilated Pit Latrines) aiming to provide a self-sufficient building in the harsh Himalayan cold desert climate.

The study assesses the appropriateness of the building design and raises questions for the impact of foreign involvement on sustainability, operation and maintenance issues in the context and assesses the project in terms of economical, social and environmental sustainability.

The research includes a series of semi-structured interviews of stakeholders involved with the Druk White Lotus School Project and contextual investigations into the implementation of energy technologies, design strategies and development of the built environment in Ladakh.  The study combines ethnographic participation in the field with cultural studies and qualitative interviews to build a picture of the circumstances around the case study.

The study indicates that the design and delivery of a model project demonstrating building technologies and novel architecture in a poor and remote community is a positive driver towards sustainable development. The research identifies various issues and suggests methods by which the process of design and foreign involvement could be improved for sustainable development.