Monday, July 13, 2015

Meet the Away Team; Part 1.

Team Engineer, Greg Morgan

Greg Morgan works as an Engineer in Bellingham, WA. He heard about One Sherpa Home from a neighbor of mine. Greg was already looking for an opportunity to help the people of Nepal following the earth quakes of April 2015 and, being a hands-on guy, was intrigued with the notion of rebuilding a home. We met for a beer at Boundary Bay Brewery and talked through the mission of One Sherpa Home, it's challenges, and the areas where Greg's skills would prove valuable. He called me back a few weeks later, having obtained the support of family and approval of his employer, Amorterra. Greg was in!

Greg has spent time hiking, trekking, and climbing in moderate altitude. So he understands acclimation and should have no difficulty with the 13,000 ft elevation of Phortse.

Team Realtor, Ed Hanley
I can't make the case that One Sherpa Home needs a Realtor, even one as excellent as Ed Hanley. But we do need Ed. I have known him for almost 30 years and immediately thought of Ed when I started brainstorming who I would ask to join our Away Team. Fit, energetic, focused, and a generally great guy to hang out with, Ed seemed like a perfect team member for a mission that will require flexibility and an even temperament.

We met for a beer and talked through my proposition. I could tell Ed was already on board before I had finished. But he wisely sought the support of family before calling two days later to formally accept my invitation.

I will introduce other Away Team members in future entries. But in the mean time you should check out this wonderful short video featuring the life of a Sherpa Porter.
Just click here>>>>>>>>Sherpa Video

Donate to One Sherpa Home here.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Radio Interview with Dave Mauro of One Sherpa Home

Brad and John, the hosts of the morning show, invited me on yesterday to talk about mountain climbing, life, and One Sherpa Home. They're fun guys, and we had a good time telling the story. Here is the replay. 

Part 1

Part 2

Friday, July 3, 2015

Field Report by One Sherpa Home Architect

Dear Friends of One Sherpa Home: Please email me for the complete PDF (with pictures) of this field report if you wish.

-Dave Mauro

One Sherpa Home
Field Report 1.0.0
Prepared by Principal Architect Trevor Mauro 6/9/15
2 3
1.1.0 Field Observations
1.1.1 Initial Relief
1.1.2 Masonry Construction
1.1.3 Concrete Construction
1.1.4 Collapse Terminology
1.1.5 Standing Buildings
1.1.6 Wood Construction
1.1.7 Earthbag Construction
1.1.8 Improper Construction Details
1.1.9 Proper Construction Details
1.2.0 Materials and Labor
1.3.0 Site Observations
1.3.1 Permitting
1.3.2 Site Conditions
1.3.3 Mingma’s Current Home
1.3.4 Mingma’s Land & Adjacencies
1.3.5 Damage to the Home
1.4.0 Design Development
1.4.1 Initial Concept
1.4.2 Mingma’s Preferences
1.4.3 Ideas from the Field
1.5.0 Secondary Inquiries
1.5.1 Hillary School
1.5.2 Phinjo Sherpa Home
1.5.3 Status of Phortse Village
1.5.4 Facebook Employee Campaign
4 5
In architecture there is perhaps nothing more
exciting than finally reaching the site of your study
or structure. Unfortunately my excitment was met
with grave concern over the state of affairs in the
Khumbu Valley Region of Nepal following the recent
earthquakes. This field report will contain notes on
my initial observations and suggestions, however it
should be noted that life is suprisingly normal at this
time. The immeadiate health and safety of everyone
here is fine, so there is no need for alarm. Although
the structures are unsound the daily routine for most
people has not changed. It may be noted that Mingma
is in a particularly tough position as his job depends
on outside contractors providing tourists for the
expeditions he guides. These expeditions have all been
cancelled, although the Everest base camp is open and
operational for visiting trekkers.
1.1.1 Initial Relief
Initial observation would suggest that about
half of those structures which remain standing
require some form of rehabilitation. Of these, about
half are still being inhabited despite their obvious
dangers. This is most likely because there is no where
else to inhabit, as aid in the region has been limited.
However, most structures remain standing. Facade
collapse is most common, followed by partial and total
collapse. The latter two which may require demolition
and new construction is fairly limited. That type of
damage is most commonly found in villages which
operate within the regions agricultural economy.
Here the soil is much more fine, soft, and less rocky
making it more vulnerable to earthquake activity. The
land is also flat and/or terraced to create small fields
for potatoes, buckwheat, garlic, and onion. Imagine
a cookie sheet filled with sand, when shaken all the
tall things fall over. Namche by comparison is very
rocky and the soil very tough. It is also more arid than
Phortse, which is situated in a very wet microclimate.
The vegetation on the trek between the two changes
By my count there appears to have been about
one dozen tents distributed by the German Red Cross,
stretching from sites just outside of Lukla to sites in
Phortse. These were given to a Nepali government
1.1.0 Field Observations
agency which then distributed them in a manner
unknown to the Sherpa people I have interviewed.
More tents would be very useful, many families are
struggling to fit their belongings, kitchens, and beds
into a makeshift tarp-tent or small camping tent. The
camping tents have usually been fortified with tarps to
protect against the ensuing monsoon. By comparison,
the relief tents from the Red Cross are standing height
and almost the size of a one car garage.
Unless immeadiate action is taken to raise
these tents off the ground and mitigate the stormwater
runoff these will all be completely saturated at their
base. The tents sit in the flat areas of villages which
are terraced for farming under normal circumstances.
This sloped terrain adds to the probabilty that
stormwater runoff will find its way into the tents just
as I have observed after rainfall in Phortse. Many
people have camped near small creeks or streams
which provide drinking water, electricity, sanitation,
and other daily needs but these small waterways will
swell with the ensuing rainfall and further endanger
the tent sites.
1.1.2 Masonry Construction
Availabilty: widespread in Khumbu
Cost: unknown
At first glance, villages such as Namche
appear to be in good condition. But the problems are
widespread. The evidence of this is in the constant
noise of construction which fills the ampitheaterlike
setting during all daylight hours. However, more
conclusive evidence is in the details. Traditional
structures are built of dry stacked stone 24” thick with
windows framed out of lumber. The running bond
created by the stacked stone is relatively sturdy while
maintaining a degree of flexibility. In some newer
structures concrete has been added as a replacement
for mortar between stones. And furthermore, in some
structures the irregular size and shape of the stones
has also been replaced with rectangular stones (these
are still chisled by hand and represent a dramatic
increase in cost). The walls work well because of their
thickness and running bond. This is the traditional
building method in the Khumbu and the most
common type of construction you will see. Most of
these survived the earthquake.
Over time, Nepali people from the low land
have migrated upward to escape the rising cost of
living outside Kathmandu. These settlers are not
educated in the danger earthquakes present, and have
began building their homes in a similar manner to
the homes they left back in the lowland. Most of the
facade collapse I have witnessed is probably due to
the emaciation of traditional wall systems, with some
as thin as 8”. The dry stacked stone once used for its
structural and insulating properties then becomes
a fragile facade treatment of loose stone infill and
nothing more.
Once you interrupt the running bond, the
stone walls lose their structural integrity. In traditional
homes the ground floor contains minimal aperature
and the upper floor windows and doors are often
framed with wood but not connected by a structural
wood frame. Many collapsed homes were built with a
wood frame, or the frames of the windows and doors
are touching, interrupting the running bond of the
stone. By creating any kind of wood frame which
interrupts the stone, you are creating a building akin
to bubble wrap. There are lots of little pockets of
stone held together by nothing more than the visual
appearance of their massing.
After the earthquake, the walls which did not
entirely collapse revealed this property by bulging
outward from their frame to various degrees. None
of these walls were tied directly back to the frame,
Field Observations
Fig. 001 : A tent from the German Red Cross Fig. 002 : A store and home rests on remaining framing
Fig. 003 : Dry stack stone infill collapse where no long span running bond exists
Fig. 004 : Dry stack stone bulges outward from the structural wood frame
6 7
although some wood frames included small shelves
meant to introduce a bond between the two that was
unsuccesful. In the developed world we often use
metal tiebacks that hold a masonry facade to the wood
frame behind it. Although a stack of brick may hold
its own weight, any give in the structure would pop
them off the side of the building just as the masonry
has done following the earthquakes here. In summary,
the bubbles in the bubble wrap popped.
This is the most noticable problem among
the multi-story structures found in the Khumbu. A
proper facade would include at least a 50/50 ratio of
solid to void on any given wall from base to roofline.
It would also inlcude a concrete foundation and collar
at every story at the height of the lintel. This collar is
most effective when it is actually the lintel for doors
and windows, allowing a generous stretch of solid wall
between that and the height of the next window sill.
In an ideal world, metal tiebacks would also be used
in any wall less than 24” thick which has a masonry
facade. However, I haven’t seen any in the Khumbu
and I would venture a guess that because a masonry
facade isn’t common in Kathmandu, they aren’t easily
found in Nepal.
1.1.3 Concrete Construction
Availabilty: must be shipped from Kathmandu
Cost: unknown
Because Namche in particular is heavily visited
by trekkers and climbers due to its central seat in the
region, there is a plethora of rudimentary hotels which
have been built up to as many as five stories. The
construction here differs slightly from the one and two
story structures found elsewhere. Concrete structures
are employed with column bays of 12 to 18 feet and
then infilled with stone. This allows them to appear
in line with traditional masonary aesthetic. However,
they again employ improper technique.
Many of the floor plates are severely
undersized despite and perhaps, in spite of, their rebar
insertions. These are brittle chunks of concrete which
lost their extremities during the earthquake (Fig. 006).
A concrete plate should be at least 4” thick with the
rebar placed in its exact center. If you can see rebar
1.1.4 Collapse Terminology 1.1.5 Standing Buildings
on the exterior of a concrete pour, you are in touble.
Rebar should allow concrete to withstand tension, but
if it is bisecting a pour than the concrete will crack
when extreme tension is applied at a thickness of 3” or
These floor plates do not have any concrete
beams spanning between the structural conrete
girders. We often take this for granted in the
developed world, however a floor plate which is
already too thin is especially in need of additional
support. If it doesn’t entirely break in an earthquake,
it is destined to sag over its lifespan. This effect is
evident in most high rise construction built in the
U.S. during the 60’s and 70’s. As the sag occurs, the
structure becomes weaker in compression and more
likely to fail in a major earthquake.
Although we will most likely use wood floor
plates in Mingma’s home, it is important to note
that the issue of improper concrete construction is a
danger to Sherpas and Foreigners alike. The likelihood
of westerners staying overnight in a sherpa home are
slim, but there is almost always a foreigner in one of
the hotels.
Field Observations
Fig. 005 : Undersized concrete floor plate, loss of attached staircase
Fig. 009 : Traditional masonry base with w Fig. 006 : Two story building facade collapse ood frame living quarters above
Fig. 007 : Two story building partial collapse Fig. 010 : Single story police station with clerestory, 50/50 ratio evident
Fig. 008 : Unkown building of masonry construction, total collapse Fig. 011 : Four story hotel with proper concrete construction, lintel height evident
8 9
1.1.8 Improper Construction Details 1.1.9 Proper Construction Details
1.1.6 Wood Construction
Availability: preorder, widespread in Khumbu
Cost: 1000R / 8’ board
Please note that wood frame construction is
not native to the Khumbu, however there are elements
of the traditional structure which are wood. These
are the floors, roofs, and aperature frames. The floor
and roof are typically built one of two ways; a large
timber inserted between portions of the dry stacked
stone or when the stones are mudded, a timber post
holding up timber girders. Sometimes the timbers are
planed down into rectangular forms and sometimes
the timbers are simply trees chopped at the top and
bottom, bark and all. In any case, they are very sturdy
by my observation, as all the timber structures I’ve
seen are still intact despite any stone facade collapse.
In some buildings, a lowlander or foreigner
has built a stick frame structure. These are not always
doomed but have a higher rate of failure in the
khumbu. I don’t believe this to be because of the stick
frame but the quality of construction. Often times
the beams in a floor system will rest between girders
when they should be resting on top of them. In other
buildings, as seen in figure 013, there are no proper
studs and window frames are used as structural
support in place of additional columns or studs.
Often times buildings which have collapsed exhibit
largely irregular dimensional lumber within a single
structural system. In rare cases, raw wood pieces (bark
on) and dimensional pieces are mixed.
Wood construction is often used in earthquake
prone environments such as Seattle, WA or Tokyo,
Japan. It is not clear to me that wood construction
alone is at fault, as many lower altitude structures
which survived are built entirely out of wood.
Throughout the Khumbu, insulation is neglected.
Stone, plentiful and cheap, also acts as a superb
insulator when mudded on the inside or outside.
Wood requires insulation and is thus favorable in
better weather conditions, such as the lower altitude
villages of the Khumbu. I don’t know if insulation is
merely not required in most buildings, or if it is hard
to source, or if it is expensive due to a combination
of the former. However, the KCC school under
construction in Phortse utilizes hard foam insulation,
even between stone Gabions. I agree with this
methodology and believe it represents a favorable
marriage of traditional and western technology. In
stick built homes proper wood frame construction
technique and added insulation would perform just as
well as a stone building.
1.1.7 Earthbag Construction
Availability: uknown
Cost: 250R / rice bag
Earthbag construction is neither easily
found nor easily understood in the Khumbu. Upon
explaining it to Mingma he fell silent, and later he
mentioned to me that he didn’t think it would be
good. Of course, architecturally its perfectly fine.
But my initial adoption of the technique was based
entirely on speculation. Although there are a few
schools in the region which have been built this way
by nonprofits, I have not witnessed any earthbag
buildings thus far on my trek.
It was easy to find about 30 or so rice bags
per store in Namche, although the availability of bags
does not translate into an acceptable construction
method. By my estimation we would need a little over
one thousand bags to complete the current 900 square
foot design. This would require actually ordering bags
specifically for this use from Kathmandu. I have not
found barbed wire so far.
And furthermore, the research I’ve done
indicates an immense amount of labor in comparison
to traditional methods. The cost is slightly less, yet
the timeline much longer. For a volunteer effort to
build a similarly sized school, it took 30 people 52
days to complete the project. We cannot spend 52 days
building a single home, because the cost of housing
and feeding volunteers alone would be astronomical.
At this point in time, having seen the available
materials and traditional building practices I do
not advise building Mingma’s home with earthbags.
Mingma himself has expressed his preference for
other methods of construction as well.
Field Observations
Fig. 016 : Concrete collar at height of lintel
Fig. 012 : Wood columns and concrete are not joined properly
Fig. 017 : New Construction post-earthquake utilizing single material in structural
element (the rare jack stud is thankfully present)
Fig. 013 : Wood framing is not tied to stone veneer
Fig. 015 : Wood beams and concrete collar/floor plate are joined properly
Fig. 014 : Concurrent use of stone and wood in single structural element
10 11
Prevelent Construction Types:
Masonry & Stick-framed hybrid
Masonry & Timber-framed hybrid
Prevelent Facade Treatments:
Mud (painted)
Sheet metal
Exposed masonry
Treated wood
Prevelent Interior Treatments:
Dimensional stained wood paneling
Painted MDF paneling
Exposed masonry
Vinyl flooring
Low pile carpet
Slate flooring and concrete caps
Dimensional stained wood flooring
There are essentially two types of laborers in the
region, masons and carpenters. Every jobsite worker
Mingma and I interviewed identified with one of
those two fields of work - whether he was chopping
the lumber or whacking the nails. Mudding is
performed by masons and paint is usually applied by
the homeowner or hired help.
Outside of these fields, a specialist appears to
be key to getting the job done. Electricians, plumbers,
welders, mechanics, and roofers are in short supply.
These tasks are not regularly performed outside of
this hectic earthquake rebuilding. In this situation
they are even harder to find. All of the people I have
interviewed said these trades are flown in from
Kathmandu by appointment.
There is power onsite in Phortse and I have
seen power tools in Namche. I’m not sure how these
are acquired, but they were not for sale. I assume the
tradesmen bring them. All of the plugs I have seen
are either UK or Universal plugs. I do not know the
1.2.0 Materials & Labor
Material Cost:
Dimensional Lumber 1000Rs/board
Nails 300Rs/kilo
Rice Bags 250Rs/bag
Barbed Wire unknown
Paint unknown
Wire Mesh unknown
Concrete 6000Rs/bag
Rebar unknown
Gabion Cage unknown
Corrugated Metal unknown
Sheet metal 4000Rs/sheet
Corrugated Plastic unknown
Tarp unknown
Toilet Seat unknown
Labor Cost:
Porter 1500Rs/day
General Laborer 1500Rs/day
Mason 1500Rs/day
Carpenter 1500Rs/day
Welder unknown
Electrician unknown
Plumber unknown
Helicopter: 180Rs/kilo
voltage yet. The other bad news is that wages are a
very sticky subject here. Mingma is reluctant to ask
laborers we interview how much they are being paid. I
am trying to meet with an english-speaking contractor
from the Valley in Phortse.
Construction materials are not usually stocked
in Namche. There are a couple small mills churning
out boards but only as they are ordered. Stone is
similarly mined onsite but only when you hire the
laborers to do so. Many women have found work
breaking rocks into smaller, workable pieces. All other
construction sites with extra piles of materials report
flying them in from Kathmandu. From the landing
strip in Lukla there are two options. Materials can be
divvied out into small quantities which can be carried
by porter to Namche. Or, you can use a helicopter
service to fly materials to Syanboche. It is not
necessary to fill the entire helicopter as the company
runs regular cargo flights with mixed loads. The yak
are generally not available at elevations below Namche
because they overheat in the warmer temperatures.
In the summer monthes they are actually taken to
higher altitudes than Phortse where the air is cooler.
That is where they now reside despite the rush
of materials coming in to support relief efforts.
The smaller Zoe, a cross between a cow and a
yak, is available on occasion. Mules are also regularly
available from Lukla to Namche. Unfortunately
these are almost exclusively used to carry water and
propane up the mountain. I don’t know if this is
because the trains were bought out by a supplier after
the earthquake or if this is normal. But everything
from my flight was being carried up the mountain by
a porter (human) at a rate of 1500R per day. There
is no immeadiate alternative to this, but it appears
there are plenty of Sherpa people willing to carry. All
ages and both genders have been witnessed carrying
food and supplies for the same standard wage (to my
I have been told that by october we may be
able to get a Zoe for a rate less than 1500R - but
we will also be competing with tourist traffic. This
is organized in advance by travel agencies so we
will also need to reserve our Zoes well in advance.
According to the park ranger station, October is the
busiest month of the year. Anywhere from 3,000 to
5,000 people will walk this trail at that time during
an average year. I’m willing to bet that the earthquake
will not impact that number because most people
have already forgotten that it happened unless they
are somehow involved. Tourists will be here, and
that’s why everyone is rushing to rebuild before the
monsoon season starts.
Lastly, a helicopter is always available. Mingma
tells me this is the most common way to recieve
construction supplies, and indeed I have heard three
or four helicopters per day. Aside from materials
which can be found in the Khumbu (wood and stone),
everything is flown in from Kathmandu. You don’t
need to reserve the entire helicopter because there are
regular cargo flights to Syanboche with mixed loads.
An entire 300 kilogram load runs about $5,400.
Labor & Materials
Fig. 018 : One kilo of nails
Fig. 019 : Rice bags for sale in Namche
Fig. 020 : Makeshift lumber yard in Namche
12 13
1.3.0 Site Observations
Climbing straight uphill toward Phortse you see only
one opening in the forest, a foggy white hole in the
horizon. Against the blur leans a perfectly crooked
tree draped in moss like an old woman clutching her
jewels. And as you draw nearer, no land reveals itself.
You’re met with the crisp line of the hilltop against this
white blur that makes you wonder if you’ve reached
the edge of the world.
1.3.1 Permitting
According to Mingma, there is no permit
required to build or renovate a structure in Phortse.
There is a mayoral-like figure in the village but we do
not need his permission to continue with our plans
to build Mingma’s home. I asked Mingma if I can
meet with him and he said that I could, so I will try
to do that before I leave. When asked about local laws
regarding construction Mingma said that there are
none. I would bet that there are, somewhere in the
heart of Nepalese regulation, because we are inside of
a national forest. However, upon inspecting his home
it was clear that any current standards were below
the International Building Code (used in the U.S.)
and therefore anything we build would probably be
acceptable. There are so many people hastily fixing
their homes themselves, I doubt approval is needed
from anyone.
The only strong tradition among the Sherpa
people is a special type of window featuring a
decorative lintel which juts out of the wall about 1’ at
an upward 45 degree angle.
1.3.2 Site Conditions
Electricity: available onsite, 2000R/month
Water: available offsite, free
Phortse still has a working source of water and
electricity. That said, Mingma’s home has access to
both despite the earthquake. This is really fortunate
because without either I think life would be much
harder. Yet, there is not enough regular electricity
in the village to supply the morning and evening
rush during meal time. So although Mingma and his
wife own an electric burner, they have to stoke a fire
inside of a cast iron stove for about two hours at those
times of day. The electric comes in via a fusebox in
the entryway downstairs - it is locked and can only
be opened by a custodian of the energy company.
Throughout the evening light bulbs burn regularly
without interruption, and several families I’ve met
in the village have charging LED bulbs which they
unplug and carry around like a regular flashlight.
These alternate sources of light are common, with
both fires and flashlights substituting proper lamps.
Alternative sources of electricity are rare. Mingma’s
brother owns and operates a lodge which has one solar
panel. His lodge also has a gas powered on-demand
hot water heater which I found useful for my first
The water in the village is distributed to a
half dozen small pipes at random intervals along the
pedestrian roads. It’s about a five minute walk, or three
city blocks, to the nearest one to get water. None of
the structures in Phortse have running water, however
most lodges have a pump that brings water out of a
large collection barrel and through pipes to a shower
or sink. Mingma’s home has a large 50 gallon barrel
outside which was also used to collect rainwater from
the gutter downspout. This is still used to hold water
although the makeshift gutters on his home have been
broken and no longer deliver water to any particular
place. They currently fill the large barrel with water
carried over from one of the nearby wells. Lastly, the
water in the barrel may occasionally be used to irrigate
the potatoes that Mingma and his wife grow in their
small field adjacent to the home.
The village has an organically flowing set of
pedestrian roads which traverse the terraces of each
family’s land. It is typical for these to run behind
or directly in front of a home, and since everyone
knows each other, these are welcome interactions.
We are often stopped for tea or say hello as we cross
paths with people outside their homes. These roads
are typically 18” - 36” wide and present an additional
logistical challenge. Luckily, Mingma’s plot resides
fairly close to the edge of town first reached upon your
ascent to Phortse and during the time of construction
Site Observations
Fig. 021 : Approach to Phortse
Fig. 022 : Lower terraced fields of Phortse
Fig. 023 : Typical “road” in Phortse, back of Mingma’s home
Fig. 024 : Electrical box in Mingma’s home
Fig. 025 : Outlet strip typical of Sherpa Homes (few wall outlets)
Fig. 026 : Only year-round water supply in Phortse
14 15
his fields will already be harvested. This means we
can walk all over them, using the space to stage
1.3.3 Mingma’s Current Home
23’ 8.25” x 38’ 3” footprint
18” thick stone and mud walls
30” deep foundation with 30” x 6” footing
49” x 84” front door rough opening (r.o.)
35” x 75” front doorway
106.5” x 58” ground floor (g.f.) window r.o.
21-1/8” x 48” g.f. window incl. frame
18 glass pcs to reuse
23” x 37” first floor (f.f.) window incl. frame
36 glass pcs to reuse
8 are opening frames
(no screen)
9.25” rise, 10.75” run; solid wood staircase
10 step staircase to reuse
must rebuild 10” rise platform
Please note that in Nepal the metric unit
and is primarily used. Imperial units are used in this
report to aid American readers. The final construction
documents may be labeled with both units so that
both American volunteers and Sherpa workers can
read them properly. If one unit is used it will be metric
so that plans left behind are legible for future Sherpa
construction. I know how to use both having spent
time studying abroad, so I can always aid volunteers
onsite in October of 2015. In Nepal, as elsewhere in
the world outside America, the ground floor is labeled
as such (or with a “0”) and the following floor is
labeled the first floor (“1”) instead of the typical first
and second floor designation given in America. We
will be using the Nepalese designation.
As mentioned, the current home has electricity
used for; bare lightbulbs on the ceiling of each
room, one electric burner, a television set and DVD
player, and charging phones. Water is not pumped in
Mingma’s home, and it has no pipes.
At roughly 900 square feet, the two story
home has five rooms inside. These currently serve 3
people. The upstairs living area has a gathering room,
kitchen, and sleeping room. The downstairs includes
a small entryway and staircase, and then a large room
used for general storage, wood storage (in very large
quantities), and animal housing for two months
during the depth of winter. The home reads large from
a visual standpoint both inside and out, but this is
because the gathering room and storage room take up
about two thirds of the floorplan so that once inside, it
feels spacious.
Adding to the illusion of space is the long
wall of windows that flanks the gathering room on its
broadsides. Although these let in a generous amount
of light and could be considered a luxury for the
region, Mingma actually dislikes them because they
don’t capture the heat. In the winter, you can imagine
such a large thermal break becoming uncomfortable,
especially in a room that’s large and difficult to heat
in the first place. Unfortunately the windows are a
single pane of glass. These sit in a wood frame nailed
into the columns. On the outside there is a metal grate
which has been painted for decoration. The home also
has windows downstairs despite being almost entirely
storage space. They currently have shades affixed to
them in a rather permanent manner, leading me to
assume they are unnecessary, especially on all sides of
the home.
The downstairs floor is just dirt, and the
upstairs is entirely outfitted in stained wood from
floor to ceiling. The roof is a green corrugated metal,
and the walls are mudded on the outside and painted
eggshell white. The walls themselves are built in
the traditional stone vernacular, and do not sit on a
foundation but are embedded into the ground to a
depth of 30” at the most shallow point.
The kitchen has a traditional wood burning
stove which is used in tandem with the convienance
of a single electric or gas burner. The single burner is
used consistently throughout the day for making tea,
although in their current tent kitchen Mingma’s wife
stokes the woodfire stove all day which isn’t a normal
practice. The kitchen measures roughly 13’ by 13’ and
is covered with shelving from top to bottom on two
sides adjacent to the stove (missing in photo because
Site Observations
Fig. 029 : Foundation inspection dig & measurement
Fig. 027 : Interior of Mingma’s current dining/gathering room
Fig. 028 : Interior on the lower level of Mingma’s home
Fig. 030 : Mingma’s current kitchen. Wood stove stripped from right corner
Fig. 031 : Only countertop, wash basin where wood stove normally sits
Fig. 032 : Mingma’s current sleeping room
16 17
it has already been removed). For clarity, there is no
refridgerator, no dishwasher, no garbage disposal,
no sink, and no built in small appliances of any kind.
What exists is a tiny counter for food preperation and
a large metal bowl for washing and rinsing. The stove
serves as a countertop for the newer electric stove
(they had recently purchased a gas stove before the
earthquake but its still in the box). On the opposite
wall is a long bench common in Sherpa homes.
Family and friends will gather in small quantities in
the kitchen as opposed to the larger dining room. The
kitchen is the heart of the home.
Mingma’s current kitchen is not ideally
located, because it is also the main thoroughfare for
anyone coming and going from the home. On one side
of the room lies the door to the gathering room, which
means the kitchen is also a hallway on one side. If it
weren’t usually crowded already this may be alright,
but I think we can design a more functional kitchen
layout. The staircase empties out into this space of
passage which also contains the door to the sleeping
room. The sleeping room (bedroom) is roughly 8’
x 6’ measured from the inside of the deep window
bay, used to stack clothing and blankets. Their bed is
roughly the size of a full mattress so there is enough
room for an additional space where one can stand to
change clothes.
The benches in the kitchen are likewise found
in the gathering room. In most sherpa homes, these
run the entire length of the wall and are married to
two-person desks which serve as dining table, work
station, and elbow rest. These benches do not have
storage but they might as well, and this is easily
remedied by adding a hinge. The center of the room
has a wood burning iron stove, but less a place for
cooking than keeping tea and the occupants warm.
it sits on a small metal platform 3” high and the
chimney stack goes straight out of the top of the
house. Because the home we plan to build is smaller,
I believe this is optional; if added, it should be vented
out of the wall instead of the roof to prevent any
leaking from poor installation or deterioration. In this
room Mingma also has a cabinet on the north end
measuring 10’ long. It was filled with items related to
his Buddhist faith which are very important to him.
Although that side of the home partially collapsed, he
Fig. 035 : Entryway and staircase in Mingma’s home
Fig. 034 : Floor plate construction in Mingma’s home
Fig. 033 : Roof construction in Mingma’s home Fig. 036 : Windows on the upper floor of Mingma’s home
Fig. 037 : Wood stores in the lower level of Mingma’s home
Fig. 039 : Water barrel for Mingma’s family with drop toilet house in background
Fig. 038 : Upper portion of Mingma’s salvaged prayer cabinet
Fig. 040 : Mingma’s current kitchen, living, and sleeping quarters
Fig. 041 : Mingma’s family vegetable garden, usually a makeshift greenhouse
18 19
was able to save the cabinet and its contents. We will
have to reinstall this cabinet on the second floor of the
new home.
1.3.4 Mingma’s Land & Adjacencies
180’ x 52’ lot (aprx.)
x 26’ width at midsection (aprx.)
9,000 ft2 lot size (aprx.)
9’4” terrace to northeast (uphill)
6’11” terrace to southwest (downhill)
The land which Mingma’s home occupies is roughly
9,000 ft2. I surveyed the lot with Mingma’s help
using a rop tied at a 20’ length. Starting from the
northeast corner of his Auntie’s home (see site plan)
we measured 180’ to the corner of his mother’s home.
This side of the lot is also where the road is located,
although we have the freedom to relocate the road
elsewhere on the lot. The other boundary of the site
measures approximately 52’ and is roughly equal on
the opposite side.
The first stretch where the road is located is
bounded by a rock retaining wall supporting the field
above (northeast). About halfway there is a very large
boulder which we won’t be able to move. This throws
a crook into the lot which narrows the land to 26’
near the middle of the plot. Mingma says that land
boundaries can be manipulated at times and there is
a chance that if we need to, he can purchase a small
strip of land from his eastern neighbor. This will make
the eastern lot line perfectly straight and allow us to
build against the rock wall, on top of where the road is
currently located. I don’t believe this will be necessary
because the final size of the home is small enough
to be placed before hitting the rock, and will just be
oriented with the curve of the current lot line.
Between the road and the potato field there
is a 27” high stone wall just one rock wide (8”-12”).
This seperates the two entities for naviagtion’s sake
but more importantly keeps yaks and cows out of the
potato field. The animals of Phortse are allowed free
reign of any open land and usually wander, although
their mainstay is on the opposite side of the village.
Although I didn’t observe any animals coming
Site Observations
through the road by Mingma’s plot it was also not the
right time of year. Most of the animals are at a higher
altitude because they overheat in the summer sun.
There is a small settlement on the base of a glacier
roughly 45 minutes away, tethered to Phortse by a trail
which does not connnect to any other communities.
Most families have a one room stone home there,
and all of these “yak houses” survived the earthquake
because of the flat expanse created by the glacier and
their incredibly thick (and very old) walls.
Just as the northeastern neighbor sits on a
terrace above Mingma’s land, his own land sits on a
terrace above the southwestern neighbor. The terraces
allow for views outward and plenty of southern
sunlight despite being oriented west. In the evening,
this orientation and the slope of the village creates a
lasting sunset that gives off most of the day’s sun. To
the south (to the left when looking outward from his
lot) there is a wide expanse which contains his field.
His current home spans almost the entire
breadth of the northern lot line. While this allows for
a nice square-ish field, it made the home vulnerable
during the earthquake. Because the foundation is only
30” deep and sits just feet from a much deeper terrace,
there wasn’t much land to hold it still. Most people
are familiar with the demonstration of wiggling a
pencil by the bottom and watching the upper end
swing wildly back and forth. We use this concept to
demonstrate what happens to the vertical axis of a
building during seismic activity. However, the siting of
the home at the corner of terraced land produces the
same effect in a horizontal manner, thus subjecting
the front (west) side of the home to more extreme
fluctuations during a seismic event.
To the north of the house he has built a small
home for his Aunt out of gathered wood sticks, brush,
extra stone, and corrugated plastic. This structure is
roughly 10’ by 10’ and she lives entirely inside of it,
they do not share the home’s kitchen.
They do share the toilet. This lies just to the
south of the main home on the cusp of the western
terrace. It is a drop toilet entered from a tall step above
the ground plane, and thus the contents of the “drop
hole” actually sit above the ground plane. I do not
know how deep the actual hole is, but it is obvious
that it is quite full. Over time the contents decompose,
Fig. 042 : Bird’s eye of N corner of Mingma’s lot, Aunt’s home under corrugation
Fig. 043 : Road leading into Mingma’s lot, beginning at Aunt’s home
Fig. 045 : Measurment from home to terrace edge
Fig. 046 : Measurement of terrace height, neighbors toilet house in background
Fig. 044 : The structure is sited on the corner of Mingma’s terraced lot Fig. 047 : Interior of Mingma’s Aunt’s home
20 21
shifting downward and creating more room at the
top. Thus, there is no immeadiate problem with the
contents breaching the ground plane so long as the
rock structure which surround them is kept intact.
This is a stone and mud structure about 5’ by 5’ with
a corrugated metal roof. This is entirely seperate from
the home, and Mingma has assured me that it can
be moved (and the hole filled in properly) if we so
choose. The toilet is currently functional.
Mingma currently has a square pile of extra
stone from the original construction sitting adjacent
to the east of the toilet and it measures roughly 5’ x
5’ as well. Just to the east of that rock pile is a clothes
line running along the edge of the patio and then a
sizable vegetable garden which is seasonally tended to
and seperate from the potatoes which are harvested
annually. They don’t have a greenhouse, common in
the village, because the plastic is covering their tent.
1.3.5 Damage to the home
The damage to Mingma’s home is on the South
facade, one of the two narrow ends of the structure. I
would characterize this as a partial collapse because
the wall on the upper floor completely fell, revealing
the interior. It is not merely an issue of facade material
falling off the structure, but the actual structure of the
home collapsing. This is most evident in both corners
of the facade, where the stone completely fell. The
corners are still intact but are bowing outward due to
the increased load bearing down from the roof.
The fissures (cracks) which have appeared are
a sign that the mud which held stones together is now
unstable. Following the fault line to the ground, I see
the potential for further collapse. In the event that
this southern end of the structure undergoes more
siesmic activity, or is subject to increased loading from
heavy snowfall I believe it will completely fail, and
that particular section of roof will likely follow. If the
roof fails, even a partial collapse will leave the entire
interior vulnerable to deterioration. Water diverted
to the interior will make its way to the foundation
because the ground floor is composed solely of dirt.
This butterfly effect leads to the possibility of further
seperation between stones, foundation (and walls
above) becoming unstable, or the damage of interior
belongings and furnishings.
On the opposite side of the home along the
corners of the north facade there is also evidence of
fissures. It’s unfortunate that even at the most sturdy
portion of the foundation, seperation has occured.
Although not critical at this time, it shows the
structure as a whole is prone to oscillating. As if fixed
on the upper end of the slope, the walls performed
much like a pendulum during the earthquakes, which
is why the downhill portion collapsed first. This sway
in the structure caused fissures at the sturdier end,
where minimal movement but maximum bending
The fact that the structure is already damaged
and placed poorly on the site, combined with the
knowledge of oscillation leads me to suggest that
we rebuild the structure entirely. This will lower the
risk of further collapse and prevent the infiltration of
water, both of which may ultimately threaten the lives
of Mingma and his family. This is a necessary step
due to the nature of the home’s initial construction.
With no background in architecture or engineering,
the home was built in the manner known to Sherpa
people for decades. Architects call this learned
construction technique “local vernacular.”
Vernacular architecture throughout the globe
lacks proper engineering and is consistently ruined
by natural disasters. In fact, many people in Mingma’s
village rebuilt their homes immeadiately following
the first earthquake only to experience collapse of a
greater degree days later when the second earthquake
struck. This is because core issues were not addressed,
and the fissures which formed in the walls were
mudded over, but the stones underneath this surface
treatment remained seperated and vulnerable to
increased oscillation. This is consistent evidence of the
need to rebuild the structure entirely.
Lastly, the overall construction of the original
home is poor. Many details are not proper, such as
the use of scrap wood as beams between the more
solid structural girders in the floorplate. All members
should maintain at least 6.5 square inches of wood at
the attached surface (2” x 4” equivalent). Rebuilding
the home provides an opportunity to point out
these improper details and teach better construction
methods while still using local materials.
Site Observations
Fig. 048 : Toilet house with Mingma’s home in background
Fig. 049 : Yak wanders village fields behind stone walls
Fig. 050 : Yak house typical of the upper fields outside Phortse
Fig. 051 : Fissures and bowing on the east facade of Mingma’s home
Fig. 052 : Fissure on the east facade of Mingma’s home
Fig. 053 : Roof & floor plate construction in Mingma’s home
22 23
1.4.0 Design Development
1.4.1 Initial Prototype
Not wanting to show up to a job empty handed,
I employed the help of two close friends of mine
who are also young architects to research Nepali
architecture and culture in order to design a
prototype. But as we sat in Chicago, on the other
side of the world, we had neither experience or true
understanding of a Sherpa family home. The research
lead us mostly back to lowland architecture and
ancient temples, both of which were interesting but
not exactly what I was destined to build. I knew that
animals were stored inside during the winter (similar
to the agrerian culture of Northern Europe), and I
knew the current size and arrangement of Mingma’s
The other part of the equation was the
foundation’s scope and budget. I was only destined
to build what was absolutely necessary and culturally
relevent. The result was a home of roughly 900
square feet on two levels, with public spaces below
and sleeping quarters on top. There was also an
outbuilding that could house Mingma’s Aunt who
currently resides in a makeshift shack about 8’ x 8’.
The space between could be used for a vegetable
garden, courtyard, animal storage, or some
combination. In the winter, the family could choose to
share the living area with the animals or move Auntie
inside and store them in the outbuilding. The two
structures were phased in case the foundation didn’t
reach it’s fundraising goals immeadiately. Luckily we
now have all the necessary funding, and the following
prototypes do not include phasing of construction.
The initial prototype was meant to be
built of earthbag walls and a metal roof. Earthbag
construction is relatively new and used in many
underdeveloped countries where typical materials or
labor is unavailable or too expensive. Usually earthbag
construction is one story, and I will admit I was
unsure about the stability and feasability of building a
two story structure this way. There would be a wood
burning stove for heat and cooking purposes, a simple
wood floor, and the atypical addition of a concrete
foundation. The toilet would remain where it was,
outside and untouched.
Design Development
Fig. 054 : The first proposal for One Sherpa Home in traditional aesthetic
Fig. 055 : The first proposal utilizing local materials in a modern aesthetic
Fig. 056 : The floorplan and phasing of the first proposal
Fig. 057 : Mingma’s current home
Fig. 059: Buttressing seen in Namche
Fig. 058 : Sketch made while explaining buttressing to Mingma
Fig. 060 : Sketch depicting subterranean concrete construction
Fig. 062: Sketch made while explaining wood framing techniques to Mingma
Fig. 061 : Sketch depicting a terraced, one story home and its program
24 25
1.4.2 Mingma’s Preferences
I was hesitant to show Mingma anything when
we first met in Lukla. It was my goal to flush out his
preferences first on the trek to Phortse, and with every
building we passed we would have a conversation
about it. These conversations started with me pointing
out what was structurally good or bad, with the focus
remaining on safety. I wanted him to know that he
had options, but whatever we built would have to put
safety first.
It didn’t take long for Mingma to open up to
me. He was interested in what I had to say, which
was very helpful in making my point about safety.
Soon enough, we came across buildings which were
standing and I asked him what he thought of their
looks. He shrugged, saying “that’s a good idea” or
“that’s a bad idea” with a bashful tone. But there was
one home, clearly newer than any other we had seen,
that Mingma absolutely loved. He stopped me midstride
to point it out on the hill above our trail. The
home was stone construction with the appropriate
concrete collar at lintel-height. It was two stories, quite
large, and featured a cupola at the top. These were all
appealing features to Mingma, but most of all he loved
the color. The stone was a perfect backdrop for vivid
blue, red, yellow, white, and green accents around
the bulky window frames which I have come to
understand as decidedly “sherpa” windows. Mingma
made it clear that above all else, he must have Sherpa
Through many days of discussion, sketching,
and touring homes (inlcuding his own) I have come
to understand his preferences as follows. Two modest
sleeping rooms roughly equal in size to the one he
currently has (8’ x 6’). Cooking, tea, and small talk
comprise all of Sherpa life in the living areas of their
homes. Thus, an improved kitchen and large dining
area fulfill their needs and no other gathering space
is desired. This is not so different from our American
“open concept kitchen.” Sherpas also dine at small
desks, and do not sit across from one another. So the
home will have the traditional built in seating aorund
its edge and an open area in the middle of the room
through which one can easily navigate.
The next most important item to Mingma
and his wife is a dedicated prayer room. Although
this feature is normally found in homes with a much
higher income, Mingma and I were able to agree
that the second sleeping room the home requires can
double as a prayer room for up to five people at a
time. There are about 5 times a year when his family
hosts large gatherings and group prayer is a part of
the agenda. In his previous home, a large 10’ long
cabinet contained all the artifacts for prayer which
was carried out in the main gathering (dining) space.
When I suggested doing the same thing again in order
to accomodate those larger gatherings, Mingma and
his wife both agreed they would rather have a private
space the rest of the year than sacrifice kitchen and
dining space for the prayer cabinet. We will have to
recycle this cabinet, as it is extremely spiritual and
highly ornamented - it would be very hard to replicate
He and his wife are open to using metal on
the exterior of the home where stone is not present.
I sketched out a few examples of how we could
improve the texture and aesthetic of the rudimentary
metalwork seen in the valley now, and they liked
square tiling best. The sheet metal comes in green,
red, and gray - and can be painted albeit unevenly as
the paint doesn’t take well. This effect could be used
to create a fantastic two tone textured paint job - but
that’s not important at this juncture. Mingma and
his wife prefer the standard forest green, or pink if
1.4.3 Ideas from the Field
While trekking the Khumbu from Lukla to
Phortse I observed one common denominator in the
architecture. Every building uses stone. Why? Well,
its more than tradition. Stone is the most readily
available building material found in the Khumbu
after wood. However, because these villages are
located inside of a national forest there is a per-person
(adult) cap on the trees one can cut each year. There
is a fifteen day window once a year wherein each
person can take one “load” of lumber from the forest.
This does not include the trees on any designated
residential property - and some lowlanders have
made a small fortune from responsibly harvesting
Design Development
Fig. 063: One of Mingma’s favorite homes in the region
Fig. 064 : Mingma likes the sheet metal look, prefers painted or colored metal
Fig. 065: Concrete Collars employed in new home construction in Namche
Fig. 066 : The destruction of the community center in Phortse
Fig. 067 : Sketch made while explaining gabion methods to Mingma
Fig. 068 : Gabion Walls used for insulating properties at a winery in Napa, CA
26 27
their land year after year and operating lumber yards.
This option is already bygone in Phortse where all
residential land has been cleared for agriculture. The
single “load” allowed has been described to me as “a
few trees” totaling about 10-20 boards 8” x 1.5” x 8’
When we arrived in Namche I began
brainstorming ways to use stone more economically,
because the current method of dry-stacking walls
was unsafe and square-cutting each stone comes
with enormous cost. It is roughly 2500 rupee ($25)
per stone. There are few masons who can accomplish
this task, leading to the surge in pricing. Following
the earthquake, all of the lodge owners realized
this square-cutting method is more sound. This
architecture survived the quake when others did not.
We can’t afford to square-cut stones, and we can’t
afford to buy each piece of lumber at 1000 rupee a
piece either. So I thought of gabion wall construction,
where a heavy-gauge wire basket is formed and then
filled with stone at random (or not, depending on
cost and preference). These walls are extremely sturdy,
have insulating properties equal to the existing dry
stacked stone, and align with the local vernacular.
Thus it is my suggestion that we utilize this type of
construction for Mingma’s home.
When we reached Phortse I immeadiately
asked to see the KCC school building which was
under construction. Reaching the site, the first thing
I saw were gabion walls, confirming my reasoning.
They also withstood the quake on the ground floor,
and the second floor where braced. Unfortunately
the school was not finished, and missed most of the
second floor and all of the roof. This means that the
gabions stacked to great height without bracing did in
fact lean and bend - but did not fall over! Assuming
there isn’t an earthquake in October, we won’t have
this problem. My proposed structure is also 16’ x
16’ which is roughly one quarter the size of the KCC
school. Longer lengths of unbraced wall (in any type
of construction) undergo more stress during a siesmic
event. The gabion structure will only reach 12’ in
height (above ground) and it will be braced at 8’ on
center at the second story half-wall; making a liferisking
total collapse unthinkable even in the worst
seismic event.
The indoor-outdoor flexible space and
attached “little house” were an idea from the initial
proposal meant to accomodate all of the family’s
needs in a smaller footprint. I knew from the outset
that we would probably be replacing the current
home with a smaller one. Mingma understands that
replacement means downsizing the storage spaces
usually found on the ground floor of a Sherpa home.
And he has consistently approved the flex-space and
unconditioned “little house” idea, even when the
“dream home” we drew together was chopped in half
to accomodate these storage spaces. I sincerely believe
these spaces are in his (and all sherpas) best interest.
After living with his family for four days and
observing the homes and lifestyle of others in his
village, this is exactly what they need. The flex-space
should have a plastic corrugated roof which interlocks
with the existing green metal corrugated roof at its
lower edge to accomodate a gutter and sliding barn
door. The greenhouse effect created will do many great
things at once; it provides a literal greenhouse for
vegetables spring through fall, and a shelter for yaks in
the winter. Vegetables can also be grown on hanging
bins attached to the wire of the gabion during winter
so long as they are out of reach of hungry yaks (yaks
are usually on a leash while indoors).
It also shelters the doors to the entry, toilet,
shower, and wood storage from wind and snow during
the harsh winter so they won’t need to go outside.
This type of greenhouse-flex-space has fascinated
every sherpa who has seen my sketches, and I think
it will make a lasting impact. Incorporating a sliding
barn door with which to close the fourth wall will
allow passive solar gain to heat the air trapped inside
this space. Once the room is sealed, the clear plastic
roofing will also allow the exposed stone of the
southern facade to act as a trombe wall.
A trombe wall is a passive solar building
technique which uses the mass of the wall to collect
heat given off by UV rays which pass through glass
and other clear materials easily but which cannot
escape once inside. This is the effect you experience
when you jump inside of a parked car in the summer.
As the air temperature drops in the evening, the heat
is then re-emitted in the form of longer-wavelength
infra-red radiation that does not pass back through
transparent surfaces as easily. The effectiveness of a
trombe wall depends on several factors but chiefly;
how effective the material of the collecting wall is at
absorbing the solar energy and how clear the trapping
surface before the wall is. Concrete or water are
typically used because of their high absorption rates
and clear glass is the ideal trapping surface. However,
the dark and matte finish of the stone will be suitable
in this scenario and to reduce cost we should try using
corrugated plastic.
Even if the trombe wall effect is not perfect,
it is a freebie by design. We would still be creating a
room which still contains many essential functions.
I did not explain this to Mingma or other sherpas
because of its complication but come winter they
will be warm enough to take many less trips to the
woodshed. I am attempting to take advantage of
their vernacular architecture instead of introducing
something new. This is another advantage of
using gabion wall construction over earthbag wall
construction. Mingma approves of the gabion
construction along three sides of the home. He is
in favor of salvaging the windows from his current
home, and actually asked me to put less windows in
the next home because his current home was so cold
in the winter. I happily explained to him that the
thermal break from a single pane window was what
was causing the significant heat loss he experienced
and quickly erased a few windows from the dream
house sketch.
I believe that while Mingma’s home will retain
some tradition, the lessons will be passed on to a new
generation which does not require prayer rooms,
sherpa windows, or large private gathering spaces.
This idea has been confirmed by many of the young
sherpa I have spoken with, most often on construction
sites - begrudgingly fixing the mistakes their parents
Design Development
Fig. 070 : Sketch depicting size and look of Mingma’s dream home (using gabions)
Fig. 071 : Sketch made while explaining funding limitations to Mingma
Fig. 069: Sketch made (over Phortse school) to show Mingma single story concept
28 29
1.5.0 Secondary Inquiries
1.5.1 Hillary (KCC) School
The structure funded by the Organization
known as the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) was
one of my primary visits on this trip. It still stands,
with minor setbacks. The building was not finished
before the earthquake and thus the structure remained
unbraced in some places. The seismic activity caused
some elements to experience more torque than they
were probable intended to in the completed building.
The steel and wood truss is one such member, which,
with so many points of connection in such a short
span seemed doomed from inception. This building
was designed by students from the University of
Montana under the tutelige of a professor. The
structure was checked by an architect affiliated with
the KCC from Colorado.
It is obvious to me that the entire design
team was not present at once because of the
resulting dissarray of structural components. I had
the opportunity to talk with a member of the KCC
responsible for the school’s curriculum. I won’t
publish his name on the basis of annonymity. He
told me that the goal was to produce an example of
earthquake-proof architeture. For who? Certainly not
the sherpa people surrounding the building. Due to
the complete unavailability of steel in the Khumbu
region, each piece of the structure had to be flown in
by helicopter from Kathmandu approximately fourty
minutes away. It had to be air-dropped onsite because
it weighed too much for a porter to carry from the
nearest heliport two hours away in Syanboche.
Furthermore, there was no one with
experience in assembling a steel structure in the
Khumbu region. Volunteers had to teach laborers
onsite how to assemble steel, and found that each
time they returned to check on construction “no
appropriate progress had been made” according the
the KCC member I spoke with. In total they have
rebuilt the entire structure three times, adding to the
$400,000 price tag, which exceeds the cost of building
a similar structure in the US. We will not use any steel
in Mingma’s home.
Despite funding of such magnitude dedicated
to construction the region still desperately needs
better examples of architectural detailing.
1.5.2 Phinjo Sherpa Home
As the electronic version of RISK would say on my
iphone, “You have survived a total war unscathed!”
Phinjo Sherpa, his family, and their home remain
in good shape after the earthquake. It is a bit of a
mystery to me how it faired so well, seeing as the
home exhibits similar traits to Mingma’s home. The
construction and site on the lot are both precarious
but Phinjo remains one of the lucky ones.
1.5.3 Status of Phortse Village
Of approximately four dozen structures in the village
14 are significantly damaged, including Mingma’s
home. Unfortunately the grade school and community
center built by UK native and philanthropist “Papa
Tony” are among those structures which require
demolition or complete renovation. There are
probably another two dozen structures which have
cracking in the facade or facade collapse. Many of
these were already being repaired and mudded over
again. Although they will be perfectly fine buildings
to inhabit now, those cracks which were covered will
become worse, and will perhaps experience some
manner of collapse during the next major seismic
event. Water, electricity, and roadways in the village
are all operational. Some minor portions of the terrace
walls which divide lots and roadways have collapsed
but are not hindering daily activity. Some have already
been repaired.
1.5.4 Facebook Employee Campaign
I was informed by Ang Jangbu Sherpa upon my
arrival in Kathmandu that an employee of Facebook
has set up a campaign with $45,000 to help rebuild
in villages throughout the valley. The man who owns
the Khumbu Lodge in Namche is actively helping him
find and order construction materials. I met with him
briefly but he seemed hesitant to take on any other
responsibility. Still, we might have an easier time or
get a better deal if we buy in bulk together.
Secondary Inquiries
Fig. 072 : KCC School under construction
Fig. 073 : Damage to structural member of the KCC School under construction
Fig. 074 : Improved gabion wall from the KCC School under construction
Fig. 075: Phinjo Sherpa and I outside his home
Fig. 076 : Phortse community center and library

Fig. 077 : Stupa in Phortse