The Druk Padma Karpo School (formerly Druk White Lotus School) in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India, began construction in 1998. Since that time this school has won multiple awards in areas such as education, architecture, sustainability and design.

Druk Padma Karpo School accepts children from nursery age up to age 16, offering a comprehensive education that preserves traditional Ladakhi culture while embracing the necessary changes of the modern world. The school is supported by the Craniosacral Therapy Educational Trust under the directorship of Michael Kern, providing a percentage of profits to the Drukpa Trust each year.

The school was constructed through a phased approach, opening the nursery school in 2001 and expanding from there. The school buildings were designed by Arup Associates, an international architecture firm, and the award-winning constructions embody the ethos of the school. More information about Arup Associates and the work of Arup Group can be found in the PDF attachment to this post.

Sustainable Design

Sustainability is a key feature of life at the Druk Padma Karpo School, and this is reflected in the design of the buildings, grounds and other infrastructure.

Some of the award-winning solutions to sustainability include ‘VIP Latrines’, whereby traditional dry latrines have been enhanced to work as composting toilets. These latrines have an integrated solar flue within a double-chamber system, allowing for operation without water and producing humus from the waste products which can then be used as fertiliser.

Heating comes from passive solar technology, utilising the sunlight (which is strong even in the cold winter) to heat teaching spaces year-round, and a special heat-absorbing material on the walls of the residences that can store heat during the day and conduct it into the dormitories during the night.

Water for both drinking and irrigation is provided through a snow-melt pump system via two reservoirs.

Carbon Offsetting

Druk Padma Karpo School uses solar energy to be energy self-sufficient. The Druk Padma Karpo solar energy scheme allows individuals to offset their own carbon usage from activities such as travelling by ground or by plane. Through this scheme, individuals can invest an appropriate amount into the self-sufficient school, at a value corresponding to the carbon produced.

This scheme has been independently accredited, approved and audited by Beyond Carbon, previously the Tourism Industry Carbon Offsetting Service. Travellers can therefore make a financial contribution to the solar energy system of the school each time they travel to neutralise their carbon footprint.

You can view the three key steps to carbon offsetting in the embedded short video.

Traditional Techniques, Modern Solutions

One of the key challenges for Arup Associates in the brief for designing the Druk Padma Karpo School was the requirement to create a sustainable campus using both traditional techniques and modern solutions.

Ladakh is an area of minimal natural resources, with little water and extreme temperatures to deal with. The design solutions of Arup Associates included as much use of local materials as possible, which have the least environmental impact.

Passive solar heating and natural ventilation were exploited, while water use was minimised throughout the structure. Energy emissions and usage were minimised, and modern solutions were provided through the adaptation and refinement of traditional Ladakhi building techniques.

Following a devastating mudslide in 2010 that killed many people in the region, the granite buildings of the school remained intact, unlike other local buildings made from mud bricks. However, wood rot has since affected many foundations of the school buildings and so a major refurbishment programme is in operation. Following the mudslide, construction began on a mudslide defence embankment and wall to prevent any re-occurrence. Consequently, another mudslide that took place in 2014 was diverted around the school with no ill effect.

Some of the awards that have been presented to the Druk Padma Karpo School over the years can be seen in the infographic attachment.