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Our BatchGeo world MAP shows the locations of green architecture, green building and renewable energy projects featured on Solaripedia.

Project

Druk White Lotus School Scales Heights

Credits: ©2010 Druk White Lotus School

The Druk White Lotus School is a small Buddhist school under the patronage of the Dalai Lama, and founded by His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa in 1992 in Ladakh. Ladakh, India, is often described as ‘Little Tibet’ and is one of the few remaining mountain societies where a traditional Tibetan Buddhist way of life is practiced. It is sparsely populated and remote, and the only road that connects it to the plains to the south is frequently cut off for seven to eight months each year by snow. The Druk primary and secondary school sits high in the Indian Himalaya, enrolling about 500 local children. The school provides a modern education with Ladakhi language, culture, and tradition. It is situated on a campus of buildings made with local materials and labor, photovoltaics for power, waterless, composting toilets, passive design and other sustainable features.

 

Druk White Lotus School PVs

The Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, India, features photovoltaic panels to generate electricity from sunlight, commissioned October 2008. ©2010 Druk White Lotus School

By Design Share - The innovative architecture of the school has won several international design awards, including the 2002 World Architecture Awards for Best Education Building, Best Building in Asia, and joint winner for Best Green Building. Designed by international architects Arup Associates the buildings combine the best of traditional Ladakhi architecture with 21st century engineering excellence and act as a model for appropriate, cost effective and sustainable development.

Supporting the Educational Experience
Sophisticated environmental engineering analysis was used to optimize the efficiency of local traditional materials and building methods. Stylistic elements are based on designs found in local monasteries. The school’s innovative form stems in part from the presence of Arup designers on site each year, working closely alongside the local team. The spacious and light filled interior coupled with outdoor seating and teaching areas beside a tree planted courtyard offer a fresh take on traditional designs. Parachute silk awnings add the final touches.

Staff and pupils can now enjoy access to electric lighting, computers and other modern appliances. Classrooms have been fitted with electrical sockets, enabling teaching aids such as DVD and CD to be used as part of lessons. In addition, the school has recently been connected to broadband, which together with a dependable electricity supply is fundamental in strengthening educational and communication links with other schools worldwide.

Self-Sustaining Environmental Controls
The school has been designed to optimize use of natural resources such as solar radiation, shading, and natural ventilation. The facility its own energy and reduces local emissions by using solar panels that take maximum advantage of Ladakh’s high and consistent exposure to direct sunlight.

Water is a limited resource in a region with very little rainfall. The main source of water is snowmelt from the surrounding Himalayas. The water distribution system reuses water for irrigation and directs any rainfall to planted areas. Groundwater from the 105-foot (32-meter) deep water table is pumped by solar power to a 16,000-gallon (60,000 liter) tank at the surface. Drinking and irrigation water is then gravity fed to gardens and water faucets. When not driving the water pump, the solar panels feed batteries used to power the school’s computers. The school’s toilets use a “ventilated improved pit” system, considered an important and affordable breakthrough for improving sanitation in developing countries. The system uses no water but has a solar-driven flue to eliminate smells and insects.

The roofs need good insulation to minimize heat transfer in both winter and summer. The roof is made from a combination of mud and local wood. Rock wool and felt are used to insulate. On top of this they have added corrugated aluminum sheets and sand to cover the felt to prevent it from melting under the constant sunshine.

Key Sustainable Features

• Using locally-available materials, which have the least impact on the environment;

• Exploiting natural ventilation and passive solar heating;

• Minimizing energy use and emissions;

• Minimizing water use;

• Refining and adapting traditional techniques to provide modern solutions.

Seismic Design & Safety
The school is located in an area of considerable seismic activity and the methods used to ensure improved safety in the event of an earthquake needed to be easy to emulate for future structures. Druk White Lotus building structures use timber frames to resist seismic loads and ensure life safety in the event of an earthquake. The timber frames are independent of the walls, and steel connections and cross-bracing provide earthquake stability.

Setting an Example for the Future
The project is moving into its second phase with planned expansion aiming to eventually provide education facilities for up to 800 pupils, aged 3 to 18, from poor and remote areas. On completion, facilities will include a health clinic, library, open-air temple, computer and science lab, vocational workshops, dining hall and residential accommodation for pupils and staff. As a self-sustainable construct and a lesson in design for pupils, engineers, and designers alike, the school successfully achieves a balance between community and environment while remaining true to its cultural context.

PV installation at the Druk White Lotus school
From World Architecture News

The Druk White Lotus School is located in harsh and arid terrain. It draws its 500 students from the area surrounding the village of Shey, Ladakh, in a remote region of the Himalayas in Northern India. The school is a modest yet outstanding example of truly sustainable design conceived under the patronage of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

In contrast to conventional ways of working, the project was established to reflect traditional values and culture at a time when the community is under tremendous pressure to change. Working on site with the local committee for almost 15 years, Arup Associates and Arup have generated an architecture that retains the primacy of local formal and material traditions while integrating a setting for learning drawn from a modern transcultural experience.

This is an environment of extremes. At 3,500 metres above sea level, it is a high-altitude desert landscape. In this severe and fragile ecological context the development incorporates every available strategy to reduce resource consumption. Traditional materials are used; locally excavated stone, mud bricks, timber and grass. Walls contain outer leaves of hand-crafted granite blocks set in mud mortar. Traditional mud brick masonry is used internally, the whole providing increased thermal performance and durability in comparison to the local rendered mud brick equivalent.

The solidly earthquake resistant buildings rely on principles of natural ventilation, appropriate orientation and – for the residential buildings – trombe wall passive solar heating construction. The school provides a safe, sustainable and pleasant learning environment to standards previously unavailable in Ladakh, and responds to the specific cultural needs of local people.

Arup Associates have funded 60 percent of the £50,000 PV installation costs as part of a voluntary agreement with Drukpa Trust.

Other Features:

Ventilation Improved Pit Latrines:

Traditional dry latrines have been enhanced to ‘VIP latrines’. These eliminate fly and odour problems and – most importantly in a desert environment - do not require water. A double chamber system with an integrated solar flue allows their operation as composting toilets and produces humus that can be used as fertilizer.

Passive Solar Heating:

Ladakh is hot in summer and very cold in winter. But even in winter, there is often intense sunlight and the teaching spaces heat quickly thanks to their optimal 30 degrees south-east orientation, combined with fully-glazed solar façades that gather the sun’s energy and store heat in high thermal mass walls.

The Residences are oriented due south, and use Trombe walls, which are coated externally with dark, heat-absorbing material and are faced with a double layer of glass. Heat is stored in the wall and conducted inwards to the dormitories at night-time.

Gravity Feed Water System:

Water is a scarce resource in Ladakh. The system pumps snow-melt water from a depth of about 30m to reservoirs near the top of the site. One reservoir provides drinking water under gravity feed to the school, while the other reservoir provides irrigation water. Water availability is a key aspect of the hygiene promotion programme that forms an important part of the education.

Seismic Design & Safety The major October 2005 earthquake in adjacent Pakistan was a ‘wake-up call’ concerning such risks in Ladakh. Druk White Lotus building structures use timber frames to resist seismic loads and ensure life safety in the event of an earthquake. The timber frames are independent of the walls, and steel connections and cross-bracing provide earthquake stability.

Relevant books:
Living with the Desert: Working Buildings on the Iranian Plateau
Photovoltaics: Design and Installation Manual


Documents

  Druk White Lotus School PBS Essay (535 kb)

  Druk White Lotus School Case Study (507 kb)

  Druk White Lotus School Composting Toilet Comics (1,188 kb)


Resources

Arup

Druk White Lotus School E2 Video

Druk White Lotus School PBS Video Link

Druk White Lotus School (India)