Education  Nepal Project #53829

Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children

by Vision Dolpo
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children
Passive Solar Classrooms for Himalayan Children

Dear supporters,

We are excited to provide some major updates regarding the project. It has been just more than a year now since we started this crowdfunding campaign to build warm classrooms for young children in Dho Tarap valley, Dolpo. Through your support, we have been able to conduct detailed research on passive solar technology, vernacular architecture, ways of reducing costs (financial and environmental), and on the needs of the communities in Dho and Tokyu villages. We also prepared an initial campus design for an early childhood development (ECD) center, integrating maternal care, nutrition, day-care, and sanitation facilities for holistic investment in childrens’ development. Meanwhile, work on preparing a curriculum, operational guidelines, and crucially fundraising is ongoing. 

On October 2, our team of designers, architects and engineers went to the valley for an on-site field survey and research on building materials and local architecture. It took us 3 days of bus and jeep rides from Kathmandu to Dunai, and then a further 9 days of walking and waiting (due to flash floods and landslides following a week-long rainfall) to get to Dho. Fortunately, we made it safely crossing the heavily damaged trails and were able to do the work we set out to do. We got feedback on our proposed design for the ECD center from community members, local government representatives, and school staff, students and local teachers. We explored different elements of the traditional architecture in the valley, documented changes in building techniques (for e.g. use of corrugated sheets to counter the increased rainfall due changing climate patterns in the region), surveyed the proposed sites for ECD centers in Tokyu and Dho villages, and research available building materials and costs. 

To summarize briefly, the almost month-long field research trip– made possible by your generous support – was a great success. We had a few major “aha” moments, especially in terms of how we were going to balance affordability with leveraging local construction techniques and available human and construction resources. 

Below you will find a brief summary of some of our major findings, and the next steps for this project. 

Major findings of research 

  1. Community is aware of the needs for all year round education and holistic development for young children, and generally excited by the idea of the development of centers close to villages. They also understand the general concept of greenhouses (which are used by all households to grow vegetables in the summer and as warm spaces during sunny days in the winter), and how passive solar houses could potentially be very comfortable and warm in the winters. But people remain skeptical of their implementation in Dho Tarap as there is no available example in the valley of an effective passive solar heated house. 
    • What we learned: Building even a small but effective passive solar room will be vital to enable the community members to experience the warmth and comfort in winters and see and feel how such rooms can really ease their daily lives, especially with regards to needing to continuously burn polluting dung cakes for heating.   
  2. ECD teachers and school administrators are also concerned about meeting the needs of young children in the present, until functioning ECD centers are available in both Dho and Tokyu villages. As we have highlighted before, current ECD classrooms at Crystal Mountain School are not adequate and especially get too cold even for adults by late August. There is a need to improve classrooms for the children for at least 2-4 years until ECD centers are built in each village, and Crystal Mountain School can focus on older children. 
    • What we learned: For the prototype passive solar room to test our ideas at a small scale, we can build a classroom at the school premises to serve current needs of ECD teachers (and which can be used by the school in the future as a senior classroom or a meeting hall). This will also enable us to make better estimates of the costs for the ECD centers, especially as we are testing new building techniques. 
  3. Building materials that are available locally and traditionally used consist primarily of stones and wood, both of which are expensive and very hard to source due to huge transportation and labor costs. Other locally available materials like barley straw and wool may be good options as the insulating materials.
    • What we learned: Stones (and a significant amount of wood) can be replaced by earth bricks, as has been done in Ladakh. Incidentally, earth bricks are not foreign to Dolpo either, as they can be seen in Dho Tarap in a few old structures including some old residential houses. For this, research on the composition of soil and an efficient way to make earth bricks (especially in a way that can also help with earthquake resilience) will be needed. Work on this is currently ongoing. 
  4. There is a big risk of the loss of vernacular architecture in the valley due to changing weather patterns and increased rainfall which traditional roofing techniques were not meant to handle. While in the past only government funded building structures (including a few at our school) used corrugated sheets as roofing (this was not necessarily to handle rainfall, but because designs for such buildings are standardized by the government for the whole country despite great geographic diversity), community members are increasingly in favor of such sheets compared to traditional flat earth roofs. 
    • What we learned: Certain design considerations like slanted roofs can be a good way to tackle the challenges presented by the changing climate, while protecting elements of vernacular architecture. Earth brick roofs may be another option. 
  5. Most construction labor in the valley consists of workers from other regions of Nepal. As there is very little capacity for supervision at the local level, the quality of workmanship (for instance, in making stone or rammed earth walls) is a big issue even for relatively large construction projects at the local government level. There are also specific challenges due to the short construction season, as winters are not viable for any kind of continuous outdoor physical work. 
    • What we learned: Good workmanship is difficult to ensure and labor costs are always rising. There are opportunities for local people to take lead in their own communities. We are currently exploring the use of hand pressed hydraulic earth brick machines to speed up construction, reduce chances of poor workmanship by simplifying the construction process, and encourage local community members to brainstorm entrepreneurial ideas. 

Next Steps and Funding Challenges 

  1. Meet fundraising target of $55,000 (Nov 2022 - Mar 2023)
    1. So far, about $16,000 has been raised (and spent), which has funded most of the research work that we have done over the last year. 
    2. About $30,000 remains to be raised of the target amount.
      1. About $5,000 will be used to partially cover the costs for certain research tasks like lab testing of construction materials and earth bricks, as well as administrative costs for grant writing and funding search for ECD centers.
      2. About $3,500 will be used to purchase a single hand pressed earth brick machine that can produce over 500 bricks per day. 
      3. Remaining amount will be used to cover design, materials, and construction costs for the prototype classroom. 
  2. Construct prototype classroom  (Apr 2023 - Sep 2023) 
    1. Compare estimated costs vs actual costs during construction 
  3. Test classroom in winter (Oct 2023 - Mar 2024) 
    1. Get daily temperature data (inside vs outside) and test against predicted models

Other Tasks 

  • Another set of local government and community workshops to finalize location of ECD centers, cost contributions, and timeline for construction and operation.
  • Finalization of ECD designs based on feedback and new building materials and construction approach.  
  • Development of legal and community engagement framework to run the centers.
  • Development of a framework for integration and collaboration between CMS (parent school) and ECD centers (feeder schools)

How can you help? 

  • Consider making a donation again by clicking here. The more donations we get the easier it is to reach greater people, which can help our fundraising campaign gather momentum online. 
  • Consider donating monthly. You can find recurring-donation option on our GlobalGiving project page. Continued monthly donations (even small amounts) get matched by GlobalGiving, and also help our fundraising campaign gather momentum. 
  • Share our work. Write to your friends, family, and colleagues. Writing a personal message can be very effective. Sharing also helps drive social media traffic to our posts and increase views of our GlobalGiving project and donation page.  
  • Are you interested in helping us in another way? In making a large donation? Or know someone who might be interested in our work? Connect with us via email at 
  • We are preparing to send periodic newsletters to our supporters directly via email, as a way of showcasing our work, sharing feedback from local communities, and the impact our supporters are making. If you are interested, send us a quick message at 
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Dear supporters,

On October 2, 2022, our design, engineering and sustainability team is heading to Dho Tarap valley for a community site visit to finalize location of the first ECD center in Tokyu village, and conduct research on local building materials and techniques. With over 5 days of bus and jeep rides and a further 4 day walk up to Dho Tarap valley, this has been a challenging part of our project to manage logistics and utilize the 3 week window in October that our engineering and design team have carved out of their busy schedules in Kathmandu.  

Our primary goals in this trip are:

  • Gather all required information for the final engineering design of the ECD center and final cost analysis for construction
  • Engage with local community members for co-design of the center and incorporate local ideas and building techniques
  • Draw an initial plan for the full infrastructure of Crystal Mountain School (in addition to the ECD center, for which a final plan will be prepared)

Some of the activities we will be engaging in are:

  • Workshops with community members in Dho and Tokyu villages
  • Workshops with ECD teachers and staff at Crystal Mountain School
  • Workshops with students at Crystal Mountain School, including Minecraft games and physical model building where students will imagine their future campus and also the ECD centers in Dho and Tokyu villages
  • Video and photo documentation of the journey with the help of a photographer/film-maker who is going on the trip

This trip is one of the most vital phases of the ECD project we are undertaking. And it has only been possible to spend so much time and resources planning this trip for deep research and community work with your generous support. We are extremely grateful. 

Consider donating to help us continue our work. We are in need of resources to fund further research, and parts of this local site visit trip. 

Best Regards,

Vision Dolpo Team

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Dear supporters,

With your generous support, we have been able to raise over $16,000 so far. This has enabled us to fund the architectural design and initial engineering analysis of the first Early Childhood Development center. We are very proud of the designs that have been prepared. You can find more details about the design on our website:, and also on the updated project document on our GlobalGiving page:

The next steps include finalizing the design after a site visit in Dho Tarap with a group of engineers, sustainability experts, and architects scheduled for Sept-Oct 2022. Our team will run community workshops to get further input on the initial design, bring soil and other materials for lab testing in Kathmandu, and then complete a final drawing for the ECD center with detailed engineering and structural analysis and design updates based on community feedback. Our deadline for getting this final design is Dec 2022.

Our initial estimates for the construction of one ECD center cross $240,000 for Phase 1 (just the southern block of the center which can be immediately put to use to run classes and essential services), and $500,000 for both southern and northern blocks. We are now starting to approach donors (mainly embassies based in Kathmandu) to help us fund construction of either just Phase 1 or the entire ECD center. 

As informed in our previous report, our strategy for crowdfunding has now shifted from the actual construction of the ECD center to ensuring the costs for research, design, and program administration costs. Additionally, we are planning to use about $20,000 (out of the total target of $55,000 on GlobalGiving currently) to start sourcing wood and stone locally. This will enable us to begin construction right away once funding is ensured for construction. 

We are now requesting our supporters to help us cover the costs of programs until Dec 2022. For the site visit lab research and community programs, we are in need of about $3000. We require about $6000 to pay for detailed structural and engineering analysis of the campus. 

In total, we are trying to raise $9000 by end of October. And at least $2000 by end of August to ensure we can follow our current calendar of programs. We would like to request you to help us achieve this target. You can contribute more yourself, share the project with your friends and colleagues, and help us share our mission and vision. We are also eager to get your feedback and suggestions, also regarding any potential sources of funding we may look into for the construction costs. 

We have been so fortunate to have your support to enable this innovative and potentially revolutionary project, not just for Dolpo but for the entire Nepal Himalayas. With your continued support, we are sure we can successfully complete this ambitious project. 

On behalf of the whole Vision Dolpo team and our students,

Pawan Dhakal,
Project Lead, ECD program
Vision Dolpo

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Top view of proposed ECD center
Top view of proposed ECD center
Dear supporters,
We are excited to announce the completion of preliminary design of the first Early Childhood Development center in Dolpo (see attached photos or visit our program page). This center has been designed with a holistic overview of the necessary components for effective early childhood education, suited to the local context and needs. 
Inspired and informed by the National Early Childhood Development Strategy 2077-2088 (by National Planning Commission), this center based in Tokyu village of Dho Tarap Valley will provide maternal care services to expecting and new mothers, day care services to children aged 2-3 years, and early childhood education to children aged 4-8 years old. Apart from classrooms, nursing/health area, and day-care area, the center will be equipped with eco-friendly dry compost toilets, solar powered shower, an indoor courtyard, a multi-purpose hall that will also serve as community center in winters, a library, and a digital lab. 
The campus design is based on vernacular architecture of Dho Tarap valley and optimized for optimum use of local building materials and building expertise, with careful modifications-- to facilitate easy transfer of technology to the local community--- for effective passive solar heating and insulation, and floor structure based on needs of campus users and standard design principles for early childhood centers. 
All of this has been possible with your kind help and support. We are extremely grateful for enabling us to tackle this important and ambitious project, which will not only spur quality early childhood education and passive solar/sustainable design in the region, but also serve as an important model for effective development practices with deep local engagement to understand local needs and expertise, and sustained research for introduction of new technology or resources. 
A lot more work is to be done to finalize this design. Interior design, and design of outdoor spaces in the ECD campus are also remaining.   Our project team of architects, sustainable building experts, engineers and educators are heading to the project site in August for further research on local building materials, and engagement with local community members for feedback on current design. Final design will be available by the end of 2022, upon design refinements based on collected feedback. 
We have also estimated costs for the construction of the entire ECD campus, which totals over Rs. 5,00,00,000 (>$420,000). Due the difficulty with transportation and acquiring wood for construction, costs in Dolpo are generally much greater than in other regions of Nepal. To minimize costs, our team has maximized the use of local building materials like wood, stone, and mud, and techniques like stone walls and rammed earth. After the site visit in August, our team is expected to be able to think of further avenues to reduce costs, for e.g. by using available local resources as insulation material. 
Due to the increased scope of this project, we have decided to pursue the construction of this ECD center in two phases.  In Phase 1, the southern block of the campus will be constructed, which will enable running of essential services at the center while the northern block is being built in Phase 2. The estimated costs for construction of Phase 1 is expected to be over Rs. 2,40,00,000 (>$200,000). 
We have decided to seek support to cover major costs of Phase 1 by approaching different types of donors, including id agencies, embassies, philanthropic groups or individuals. 
As a result, we are now pivoting our crowdfunding campaign on GlobalGiving to cover partial costs of Phase 1, especially to source wood and stone locally, which must start this summer for expected start of construction in April 2023, and thus will require immediate support which may only be possible via crowdfunding. Additionally, the funds raised from our GlobalGiving campaign will help cover other essential costs of the project, including architecture/design and engineering costs (which gave us this beautiful design of the campus), as well as administration costs (hiring of local site officer in Tokyu village, program management, marketing). 
So far, the funds raised have been spent primarily on research and design of the campus, with a small percentage on administrative costs. The remaining funds are sufficient to cover the costs for the final engineering design of the campus and also to cover partial costs of program management and administration. 
Thank you again for your support. We hope you will continue to engage with us and this project in particular as your support gives us extra energy for the challenging tasks ahead. Meanwhile, we encourage you to go through the campus design, send us any comments if you have them, and share among your friends and colleagues. If you are or know of anyone who could be willing to sponsor the construction of Phase 1, we would love to engage with you more directly. 
Best Regards,
Pawan, on behalf of ECD team
Program Lead, ECD project, Vision Dolpo 
South west view of proposed ECD center
South west view of proposed ECD center
Features of proposed ECD center
Features of proposed ECD center
Proposed ECD center imagined in winter
Proposed ECD center imagined in winter
Showing center placed at the proposed site
Showing center placed at the proposed site


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Dear supporters,

Thanks to your generous support, we have so far raised $13,622 from 86 donors since we first started this campaign in Sep 2021 as part of the GlobalGiving accelerator program. Out of the raised amount, $11,896 has been disbursed in two installments by GlobalGiving to our local organizational bank account in Kathmandu.

This is a short report on our progress so far and the steps ahead for the successful completion of this project. 


Almost $3,000 has been spent so far on initial program research on early childhood education and on locally adapted passive solar design, site identification, and travel and on-site community research. The primary output of this phase of the project is a detailed project report with clear working modalities (including engagement of local community and local government) and an initial early childhood campus design that will incorporate the holist childhood development frameworks under the National Strategy for Early Childhood Development, developed by the National Planning Commission, Nepal. 

The project report and its details (including an initial estimate for the total construction and operation cost of the pilot early childhood center) are currently being finalized and will be shared publicly (on our website and on GlobalGiving) in the coming two weeks.

Please be on the lookout for an email from us with such a report.

We are grateful to all our supporters who have donated time, energy and resources to make this campaign a success.  We have a long way to go before we meet our updated campaign goals (more updates on the upcoming detailed project report) and our larger project goals. But with your support and encouragement, we are confident that we will successfully spur on the development of ECD centers in remote regions like Dolpo via this pilot project. 

Best Regards,

Early Childhood Development Team,
Vision Dolpo

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Organization Information

Vision Dolpo

Location: Kathmandu, Bagmati - Nepal
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Pawan Dhakal
Kathmandu, Bagmati Nepal
$16,655 raised of $55,000 goal
100 donations
$38,345 to go
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