The Swiss/Canadian charity "Himalayan Life" has been working with street children in Nepal for over a decade, with homes, vocational training intitiatives, and a plastic recycling plant on Pokhara. After the 2015 earthquakes they decided to widen the scope of their work to include reconstruction. As the home of one of Himalayan Life's leading collaborators the Yangri Valley, about 60 km NE of Kathmandu and just east of Helambu was chosen as an area that was small enough to make a difference.
This year a small local school in one of the outlying villages has been completed roughly to allow school to continue, the micro hydro plant has been repaired, with a building to protect the equipment. Powerlines to outlying villages have also been repaired. But the main project is a boarding school in the main village for those children that come from places as far as 1000 m higher. Construction is scheduled to start in winter 2016/7.
The Yangri Valley has been particularly hard hit by the 2015 earthquakes. One year after the event fear of aftershocks and lack of money released by the government has kept the local population from commencing any substantial reconstruction other than using metal roofing to make temporary shelters.
It is an ethnically diverse area with Tamang people in lower places, and Sherpa villages above 2000m elevation. Those few who started rebuilding used traditional dry stone masonry, but made the walls even lower and windows even smaller than before, fearing they would weaken the structures.
The material of choice for seismic performance is wood. It is Himalayan Pine that grows thick and straight above 2,400m elevation. It is initially still cut in pit saws and carried on the backs of people down to the main village. However, building a ropeway to get the timber to a small sawmill powered by the micro hydro plant is planned as a next step. We hope it will grow into a cottage size industry and provide modest economic development beyond the immediate village!
North American style timber framing must of course be highly modified for local conditions and available materials. For example, plywood as sheathing material is not available and we are experimenting with corrugated metal as structural sheathing. Gypsum wallboard is also not available, and resourcefulness will be needed to find a solution for interior wall sheathing. We're working on it.
Wood framing also allows large window openings. Daylight is not only important for the wellbeing of children and adults alike: at 27 degree northern latitude and its dry and sunny winters the area also has an enormous potential for passive solar performance! Right now school is taking place outside in many similar communities, because it is too cold in dark rooms with stone walls. Here again resourcefulness and experimentation are needed, as glass is expensive and difficult to transport. We are experimenting with high strength,, clear, UV-resistant plastic as roll good that can be stretched on wood frames and tightened with heat. We'll see if that works!