From August 9 - 27, 2015, a joint team of Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund members and experts representing the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) travelled to the Thame Valley to observe and learn about local construction methods, assess reconstruction needs, identify priority projects, and impart improved knowledge of earthquake-safe reconstruction.

Dr. Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa led the initial observation and analysis phase. Visiting earthquake engineer Dr. Marc Veletzos of Merrimack College performed on-site assessments of earthquake damage and local terrain. The team consulted with individuals who were rebuilding homes, and visiting architect Varun Amar Kaushik documented traditional and new building techniques. This was followed by a knowledge-sharing phase, in which the TSHF team hosted workshops and group discussion with community members from every ward in the Thame Valley.

In the workshops, Dr. Veletzos led discussion on earthquakes, followed by hands-on demonstrations of safer building techniques for the type of stone masonry prevalent in the Thame Valley. Dr. Lhakpa shared data collected on earthquake damage in the community and moderated group discussion. Participants received picture-based construction manuals from TSHF Advisory Council member Jitendra Bothara’s leading research on Himalayan earthquake engineering. This was a lively and engaging community event, with much laughter, exchange, and probing questions.

The workshop was followed by a discussion among key community stakeholders (including members of the School Management Committee, the Thame and Kyarok Monastery committees, local Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone committees, and representatives of the Thame Valley Youth Group) to identify reconstruction priorities that span the entire Thame Valley community. The list of suggestions from the community were narrowed down to: the local school; the hostel accommodation, including for monks at the Thame monastery; reconstruction of the Dolma statue structure on the Thame ridge; an old age care facility; and a community centre that combines the functions of the destroyed Dumji festival building and the badly damaged Khumbu Mountain Center.

The team then followed up on these suggestions with more in-depth meetings with the committees and individuals responsible for these structures, and received formal requests for these to be included as part of the TSHF reconstruction project.

Moving forward, the Thame Sherpa Heritage Fund and ETH Zurich partnership is selecting buildings to design and reconstruct with improved earthquake-safe techniques, and with sustainable architectural design that combines the best features of traditional indigenous construction with incremental modifications to counter the harshness of Thame Valley’s environment. These buildings will be selected to serve the maximum number of community members possible, as well as providing model learning opportunities for techniques that can be implemented in private homes.

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