Arup Community Engagement


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Arup Community Engagement

Project overview

Project overview

  • Sustainable school that caters for 730 pupils from nursery age to 16 years old.
  • Conceived as a model for sustainable development in the Ladakh region with leading edge environmental design.
  • Self-sufficient in terms of energy with solar pumps for water, photo-voltaic panels for electricity and natural lighting.

Perched in the Northern Indian Himalayas, the Druk White Lotus School project demonstrates the latest environmental engineering analysis methods that optimise the efficiency of local traditional materials and building methods with the use of daylighting, natural ventilation and solar energy. Arup’s efficient design for the school using sustainable local materials and traditional construction techniques along with leading-edge environmental design helps the school withstand extreme temperatures and earthquakes.

The solar panels power the lighting and water supply. Water is sparingly used for irrigation using a drip feed system. The design is built to be self-regulating in terms of water cycle and waste management. The materials used are mostly indigenous to Ladakh and are used with careful auditing of the sustainable resources.

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 high 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 as well as the Architecture in Stone Award in 2013 and the Best Sustainable Development of the Year for 2012 award from the LEAF Awards.

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.

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.

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 complete in 2016.

In 2010 the school was affected by a mudslide, creating no loss of life or structural damage to the buildings, but badly impacting on external works and some internal finishes. A stone wall enclosure and earth bund has since been constructed to help protect the school against any future event. Such events are becoming more commonplace with global warming.

Drukpa UK is a UK-based spiritual and charitable organization dedicated to preserving the traditions of the 800-year old Drukpa Lineage, supporting and facilitating the study of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and providing facilities for the devoted practitioners of the Drukpa Lineage and promoting and organizing Tibetan Buddhist teachings and pilgrimages for Buddhists and non-Buddhists, both in UK and abroad. The charity also supports ‘Live To Love’, the global humanitarian and charitable initiative founded by His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, which provides services from education, health and environment to heritage, aid and relief to disaster affected communities.

Through their commitment and enthusiasm they have brought on board and excellent team of dedicated volunteer architects and engineers.
Annie Smith, Drukpa Trust, Ladakh, India



19 September, 2012
Best Sustainable Development 2012 by Leaf awards

The Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, with architecture development by Arup Associates, won the prestigious Leaf Awards for the Best Sustainable Development 2012.

12 August, 2010
Flashflood and mudslide hit Druk White Lotus School but the buildings designed by Arup and Arup associates withstood the mudslide upto 1.5m

The Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh was hit by mudslides in the early hours of Friday 6 August. But the buildings, designed by Arup and Arup Associates, withstood the mudslide which was up to 1.5m deep in places.


25 June, 2009
Druk White Lotus School wins BCSE Award in the UK

Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, India, won an award for ‘Inspiring design’ in the ‘International’ category at the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) Awards on 24 June.

2 September, 2001
First phase of construction complete with Nursery and Infant School

The nursery and infant school provides three large teaching/play studios for Nursery and Kindergarten years, two further classrooms for Year 1 children and a small suite of rooms for the Head of School and administration.


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