New Campus Update from Our Sustainability Fellows

Thursday, December 18, 2014

by Luke Metcalf & Jamie MacDonald, Sustainability Fellows

Just a few days ago, we began preparing to pour the foundations for the Kopila Valley New Campus. The road to this point has not been quick and easy, but we find ourselves with a team and campus design that are stronger than we could have ever imagined.

This campus is going to be beautiful, exactly what we expected when we sought out famed Nepali architect Prabal Thapa to do the design work. Out of respect for the land that we are building on, we are trying to preserve the centuries-old terracing on the land, as well as model our classroom buildings off traditional Nepali architecture (anyone who has been to Durbar Square or Bhaktapur outside Kathmandu will understand).

Aside from just being beautiful, we’ve known for a long time that the campus needs to be a model of sustainability. Among the most exciting aspects of the campus is that we’re going to be building primarily with earth - thick, heavy walls that provide fantastic strength and a thermal mass to keep temperatures at an optimal level. This will be the first rammed earth campus in the world, and we have a contractor who has more experience with the material than almost anyone else in Nepal.

Hemendra

Contractor Hemendra Bohra

Hemendra Bohra’s house outside of Kathmandu is built from rammed earth, and as our general contractor he brings a ton of experience in construction and project management. His story is nothing short of remarkable - he grew up in a small village in western Nepal, and excelled so much in his regional standardized tests that he was selected for a scholarship for university, something no one else around him could even dream of. He ended up with a degree in Environmental Engineering from Harvard. Talk about a one-in-a-million story. We are lucky to have him and his team to bring our dream and Prabal’s design to a reality.

constructing wall

rammed earth wall

Rammed Earth Construction

 

Breaking ground on a project like this sometimes means the first shovelful of soil removed for a foundation. In reality, we have been working on this project for almost a year. But this time, we have a team in place, led by Hemendra, that has proved it can get the job done and done right - we’ll be seeing classroom foundations going in the ground within just a couple of weeks, and 3 weeks after that we’ll watch earthen walls climb up, like they’re growing from the soil. How can we possibly describe our excitement for the next 2 or so years of building, when Kopila Valley makes the transition from a temporary bamboo school to one of thick, natural walls and astounding Nepali design? We could not possibly do it justice with just these few words - so we’ll instead be posting regular photo, video, and blog updates about the growth of our campus. Please follow along with us!


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