sustainable architecture - sunshine coast

Featured in Vision for the Future, Times Journal of Construction and Design, January 2006

After completing the design of the Siddhartha School as part of university studies in 1995, Andrew Webb stayed in Ladakh to begin the design of the Manjushri School and returned for the following two construction seasons, as no construction can occur during the Himalayan winters.

The project was a grass-roots initiative of the community lead by lama Urgain Tsering of Tak Thog Gonpa (monastery) in response to the very poor quality of education and facilites provided by State education. Tour guide and travel writer, Jutta Mattaush, set up a charity in her native Germany to raise funds for construction of the school, development of new teaching resources and teacher training. Andrew designed and managed construction of the school and teacher's accommodation; the latter is necessary to be able to attract and keep good teachers in this remote village.

The school is passive solar designed and therefore is warm in winter. This enabled the school year to be altered to allow children to help their families during the critical planting and harvesting periods learning important skills outside of school. They attend school through the winter and thus spend that very cold period in a warm and healthy environment as opposed to the typically cold or smoky houses.

Plants in the classroom planter beds increase the humidity of the internal air which reduces instances of pneumonia amongst the children. Coupled with the changed school year, this has made a dramatic improvement in children's health in the village.

Demonstrated practical and effective passive solar design has had flow-on effects, with some villagers modifying their houses to provide healthy internal temperatures and air quality, following the example set by the school building.

The school is built from granite which was hewn on site, air-dried mud bricks, earth render and floors, and local poplar and willow timbers forming the built-up adobe construction. It also has a reinforced concrete frame to guard against earthquakes and rock-falls.