Future sustainable development of buildings in the high altitude Khumbu region of Nepal. A design for Cafe De Imja Tse Bakery and Guesthouse, Chukhung 4730m.
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The Khumbu, also known as the Everest Region, is the home of the Sherpa people. Originally from Tibet, they emigrated to this region of Nepal 600 years ago. In Nepal’s population of 30 million around 300,000 are Sherpas. They have become accustomed to the harsh conditions of living at high altitude in cold conditions where even the lowest Sherpa settlements are above 3500m. Traditional Sherpa houses are built with local materials and their known construction methods. With much of the Khumbu being a ten-day walk from the nearest road, the availability of modern materials is very limited. These buildings, in local stone, often suffer severe damage in this earthquake prone region. Indoor temperatures commonly fall below freezing whist open yak dung fires, used for cooking and heating, contributes to poor indoor air quality. Since the middle of the 20th century tourism from trekking and climbing has become increasingly important to the local economy. A shortage of materials following an earthquake in 2015 and demand for inexpensive buildings to accommodate tourists has led to an influx of poorly constructed prefabricated buildings and a loss of traditional techniques. Today accommodation standards are generally regarded as poor by Westerners. Modern and usually expensive Western practices are usually only seen in Western funded developments and are generally not available to the local Sherpa people. Tourist spend per day is low and less than it was ten years ago. Rooms are commonly available for $5 USD. Increasing the standard of tourist services will raise the spend which will benefit local living standards and educational opportunities and consequently slow the rate of indigenous depopulation. The first part of this thesis looks at historical and current Khumbu building practice. It examines their sustainability and then seeks to identify both simple affordable improvements that can be implemented locally. The second part of the thesis presents a development proposal for an existing high altitude bakery in Chukkung (4730m).