A Sheppard Robson architect has returned to Manchester after helping to build a new home for a family made homeless by last year’s earthquakes in Nepal – and is now working on a school badly affected by the disaster.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake and the 6.7 magnitude aftershock three weeks later killed more than 9,000 people and injured over 23,000.
Nepal’s Department of Urban Development and Building Construction has since released figures confirming the destruction of at least 600,000 homes, 960 medical facilities and 8,500 schools; with a further 285,000 homes within the region also badly damaged.
Charles Wood, 29, travelled to the South East Asia country with university friend and independent architect Chris Mulholland. The pair, with voluntary input from Hunter Lyden, a structural engineer working at Arup Group, aimed to design and build an affordable earthquake resistant house for the Bk family – who lost theirs in 2015 – using locally available materials.
The project, located in the village of Thade in the Rasuwa region of Nepal, seeks to improve on current local housing standards and provide a secure environment where the Bk family can raise their four children.
Charles, who lives in the Ancoats area of Manchester, said: “Rural areas in Nepal are some of the most beautiful places on the planet, but sadly many villages there, where the majority of buildings use dry stone wall construction, were particularly badly hit during the earthquakes.
“We were drawn to try to help in any way possible after seeing what had happened there last year.
“This aims to be the first house of many if we can make the numbers and the funding model work.”
Charles said language barriers, availability of materials and skilled tradesmen, access to sites, bureaucracy, hygiene and funding were all challenges associated with the project.
He also said Sheppard Robson donated £5,000 of resource towards developing proposals for the rebuild and expansion of the school Highland Boarding School in Dhunche – which sits on the Pasang Lhamu Highway connecting Nepal to Tibet and China.
He added: “Following an initial visit to the school back in June 2015, I returned to pitch the potential project to Sheppard Robson’s directors who agreed that this was something that the company wanted to help with.
“The school provides education to over 500 children, many of its places being funded by the Dolma Foundation, which raises funds in the UK and internationally to sponsor children from some of the poorest communities in Nepal.
“Much of the charity’s work seeks to get girls into school, as poverty and local cultural norms have resulted in many families favouring the education of male children.
“Unfortunately this often means that girls remain uneducated and are as such restricted to manual labour, often working the land.”
Charles, a keen traveller, cyclist and photographer, said the school is not yet under construction, but that the aim was to help steer the charity and school towards redeveloping the site, allowing for an expansion of both its day pupil and boarding numbers.
“I’m very happy with the results of both projects as many people within these communities lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones last year’s disasters.”
He added: “Sheppard Robson has a great deal of experience within the UK’s education sector. This gave us the opportunity to use this knowledge, learned through developing designs here, in a way that makes a real difference for generations to come in Dhunche.”
Chairman of Dolma Foundation Tim Gocher said: “Dolma Foundation is delighted with the plan produced by Sheppard Robson for the Highland Boarding School.
“On a steep Himalayan hillside, and with no available adjoining land, student expansion was thought impossible before the earthquake.
“Sheppard Robson’s plan has turned disaster and destruction into an opportunity where, with the help of sponsors, we can give an education and a brighter future to more marginalised children.”
Prashun Raj Gurung, Managing Director, Highland Boarding School, added: “Highland Boarding School faced constant struggle managing an efficient learning environment, boarding and recreational space for its 500 students from remote villages.
“A detailed master-plan design was developed by Sheppard Robson to address the infrastructural needs of the school. Sheppard Robson went the extra mile to increase playing area for the children and green spaces around the school property. This will most definitely play an integral role in providing a safer environment and brighter future for our children.”