Once complete, the Druk White Lotus School will create an educational community in a remote part of India. Conceived as a model for sustainable development in the Ladakh region, it will cater for 750 pupils from nursery age to 18 years old.
Perched in the Indian Himalayas, the school has to withstand extreme temperatures and earthquakes. Arup’s design for the school combines sustainable local materials and traditional construction techniques with leading-edge environmental design.
A team of architects and engineers from Arup and Arup Associates has worked on the project since 1997 and is responsible for the masterplan, concept, and detailed designs of each phase of construction. The first phase, the nursery and infant courtyard, opened in September 2001, to be followed by the junior school in 2005. The final phase, the senior secondary school, will be completed by 2013.
The project is the brainchild of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa and is executed by Drukpa Trust, a UK-registered charity. To support the school, each year, Arup gives an engineer or architect from the design team unpaid leave to work on site. They act as ambassadors for the Trust and help the local construction team.
Award-winning environment for learning and teaching
The school's buildings are flexible and provide an excellent learning environment. All this is achieved using local sustainable materials and building techniques.
Solid granite blocks used for the outer wall come from stone found on or adjacent to the site. Inner walls are made from local mud brick, forming cavity walls for significantly improved insulation and high durability. The roof is of a traditional Ladakhi mud construction, including poplar and willow from local monastery plantations, and provides good protection from the cold.
By supporting the heavy roof on a structure that is independent of the walls, Arup's design team made sure that the school was built to the Indian seismic code. The location also has many advantages. At an altitude of 3,500m, the school is ideally placed to use solar energy.
In October 2008, the first phase of the Druk White Lotus School 42 kWp photo-voltaic system was completed, providing reliable power to the whole site. It uses an initial installation of 9 kWp of PV panels, which also act as external shading devices for three of the school buildings. The pv installation was 60% funded by Arup Associates, who used this project to offset their carbon footprint for 2007. Previously, electricity was only available intermittently from the local grid or by operating the school’s diesel generator. The system includes batteries to provide electricity in hours of darkness, which can also be charged from local mains electricity or the site generator.
The school provides a quality teaching environment, previously unavailable in Ladakh, and will respond to the specific cultural needs of the people. The project has received a number of World Architecture Awards: Best Green Building, Best Education Building and Best Asian Building in 2002.