Press Release

World Architecture Awards - Arup’s education project is a triple award winner
Release date: 05/08/2002

At the recent World Architecture Awards in Berlin, Arup’s education project - Druk White Lotus School, Ladakh in Northern India won three awards including ‘best education building of the year’, ‘best green building of the year’ (joint winner) and ‘regional winner - Asia’.

Consulting engineers Arup together with Arup Associates used the latest environmental engineering analysis to optimise the efficiency of traditional materials and building methods. The Pema Karpo Institute/Druk White Lotus school aims to act as a model for building in a seismic area with limited natural resources and provide a prototype for future school developments both from a construction and educational point of view. The project is an initiative of the Drukpa and Kargyud Trust, a registered UK charity under the patronage of HH the Dalai Lama.

Set amongst the challenging surroundings of the Western Himalayas, the non-denominal school aims to blend a modern academic curriculum combined with an education based on traditional values and the practical needs of the community. The children are educated in the traditional Ladakhi language providing a unique educational opportunity for children who may suffer academically if not taught in their mother tongue. The first completed phase includes the Nursery & Infant school courtyard, a solar energy centre, and a water infrastructure for the larger ongoing construction programme.

The building project will continue to expand to cope with the yearly intake over the coming years eventually providing an education for 800 pupils from the ages of five to 18. The second stage of the project will include a junior school, residential courtyard, dining hall and kitchens and is currently under construction with a completion date for 2004.

The school complex is situated in the village of Shey where water is a scarce resource. Arup's engineers have designed a water distribution system that will reuse water for irrigation and directs the little rain that falls to planted areas. Water from the ground is pumped by solar power to a tank at the top of the site. Drinking and irrigation water is then gravity fed to gardens and water points. Health and sanitary conditions are also being improved in an affordable and low-tech way by the introduction of VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines which do not use water but rely on a solar driven flue to eliminate smells and insects.

One of the main challenges for Arup’s engineers is that Ladakh is in a highly seismic zone. Traditional buildings are not seismically engineered but with the application of simple structural principles and the use of timber frames to resist seismic loads, a huge improvement in earthquake safety for the school buildings has been achieved.

The school will also save electricity and reduce local emissions by using solar panels to take maximum advantage of Ladakh’s high and consistent exposure to direct sunlight and lack of rain. The solar panels will feed battery packs in an energy centre that provide the energy for lighting, powering water supply and even computers. The school has been designed and built using materials that optimise beneficial sunshine, shading, insulation, and natural ventilation for cooling and fresh air. Resident pupils will be kept warm during cold nights by trombe walls (ventilated cavity walls made of mud brick and glass) that store solar energy collected during the day, which is then radiated into the rooms at night.

A committed team of Arup engineers with rural development experience began the project in 1997 on a semi-voluntary basis believing that high-powered engineering software and the latest thinking in design can be applied just as easily to Ladakh as to a London office block.

Project Director Rory McGowan says:

“We had great ambitions when we began this project in 1997 and I’m really pleased with the result to date and more importantly the process of realisation.”

Project Engineer Jim Fleming adds:

“There were many dedicated people in Ladakh and London; the trust, engineers, architects, advisors, builders and the community involved in the success of the project. Good communication and the presence of the design team on site each year were key to this.”


Notes to Editors:

1. With our roots as consulting engineers, Arup is now a firm of designers in the broadest sense. From automobiles to infrastructure, structural engineering to communications consultancy, financial and socially led engineering; our constantly evolving skill base reflects the diversity and dynamism of both our clients and our staff. One of the key aims of Arup’s business is to provide sustainable design solutions that balance economic, social and environmental performance.

2. Teaching commenced in autumn 2001 to nursery aged children in a Montessori program of studies in the completed nursery and infant school.

Corporate Press Office

Sally Quigg
Arup, 13 Fitzroy Street, London, W1T 4BQ, UK

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