Dagpo Dratsang is located in India at the foothills of the Himalayas with an altitude around 2000 metres. This means it can get icy cold in wintertime, with temperatures dropping below 0, hail, snow and freezing winds. Up until now, the monastery was unheated and people just had to live with the cold. As was customary in Dagpo Dratsang in Tibet, people simply wore extra layers and never complained. In those days, the monks were hardened and able to withstand extreme cold. However, these Spartan conditions are, of course, horribly outdated. Now the opportunity to improve their living conditions has finally arisen. Heating will contribute considerably to the monks’ health and their focus and concentration on their meditation and studies. Not only because they will no longer have to suffer the immense cold, but also because their rooms will be less humid while properly heated.
In 2015, the management of the monastery asked the Dagpo Educational Fund (TDEF) for financial support for the development of a (sustainable) central heating system in the monastic buildings.
First, the monastery commissioned some research into how a sustainable heating in the monastic buildings could be implemented. When it appeared that there was no expertise in India in this field, TDEF contacted the Technical University Delft and later the internationally well-known building consultancy Arup.
Research by the Technical University Delft
The request for help regarding the research was enthusiastically accepted. Two groups of students and their supervisors have travelled to the monastery in Kaïs for an extensive research – the first in November 2016 and the second in May 2017. In collaboration with the TU, the project’s scope expanded to also include a broader social purpose: the possibilities into sustainable buildings and a sustainable heating system in existing buildings were explored, as well as the possibilities to renovate the medical centre. One of the aims was that the research results would lead to sustainable building designs that could serve as an example for the whole region.
During the first research, it became clear that the buildings needed serious improvements before an effective heating system could be installed. To further look into this, a second group of students continued the research into insulation possibilities. The most important conclusion of the research is that the state of the buildings may not be adequate to ensure safety, and that more research was needed by experienced engineers into the terrain on which the buildings are located due to a potential danger of landslides and earthquakes.
Therefore, contact was sought with Arup, and an application was submitted to request their support as part of their Community Engagement Programme, through which they work pro bono for socially relevant projects.
In the autumn of 2018, two engineers from Arup could travel to the monastery in Kaïs in India. One of the engineers conducted a geological research and assessed the conditions of the foundation, the composition of the soil, any indications of erosion and beginning landslides, etc. By digging five holes near the foundation of several buildings at different levels of the terrain, insight was gained into the composition of the soil, the height and quality of the building foundations, the water levels, etc.
The structure engineer thoroughly assessed all rooms in the buildings for any tears in the walls, moist and other damage. The strength of the walls, columns, the horizontal-vertical ratio of the carrying capacity were also mapped. This research gives insight in the general condition of the buildings and especially what will happen in case of an earthquake or another natural disaster.
The final conclusion is that extensive measures are necessary to ensure the safety of the buildings, in particular regarding earthquakes. For some buildings, the state is so bad that renovation needs to be considered. Moreover, a good drainage of the terrain is needed to avoid the threat of destabilization.
This means that large-scale and expensive renovation project is needed.
From heating project to renovation project
The heating project has been concluded at the end of 2018 and will now transform into a renovation project.
For this purpose, a new foundation has been founded: the ‘WHISE (Wisdom Housing in a Sustainable Environment) Foundation’, which will support the monastery with this project and help raise the necessary funds. All the previous experience and research results from the previous years are available to the WHISE Foundation.
For TDEF, the organizational support of this project has hereby come to an end.
The contribution by TDEF
The organization support by the TDEF in this project consisted, amongst others, of: making contact with the TU Delft and ARUP, the applications to request support, communicational support/facilitation between the monastery, the TU Delft and ARUP, supporting in the formulation of the research assignments, supporting the development of the research and helping to organize and manage the field research.
Moreover, the TDEF has financially contributed through compensating travel and accommodation costs for the researchers and compensating the printing costs of the research reports.
In anticipation of further developments, TDEF also made a donation to the monastery in 2017 for the financing of the renovation, insulation and (passive) heating of all buildings of Dagpo Shedrup Ling. The transferred amount has been placed by the monastery on a savings account pending the moment at which the (re) construction activities can start.
In the meantime, the monks are still waiting for heating in their buildings. That’s why we have thought about cheaper, intermediate measures that can be taken now that can help avoid the danger of further weakening of the buildings and can temporarily increase the comfort of the buildings, such as:
- Where possible, to install a drainage system
- Measures to keep the warmth inside the buildings, such as:
- Thicker and broader curtains in front of the windows
- Draught/weather-strips at the bottom of the doors
- Carpets/warmer flooring
- Wooden planks against the wall at the top of the beds
- Everything else that can be thought of to avoid draught and the loss of warmth.
The French organization Entraide Franco Tibetan that supports the monastery in their daily needs will take care of the financial support for these intermediate measures. Earlier in 2017, TDEF already financed the costs for temporary measures for the youngest monks such as insulating carpets etc.
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