Pegasus Children’s Home Visit

Open Biotecture is really interested in learning more about natural building and passive solar heating. An energy efficient living requires an energy efficient home before one should think of ways to produce more energy. To be energy efficient one should consider using energy efficient construction materials, this will reduce the embodied energy of the construction. Rather than importing expensive construction material from remote places, one can simply use earth, available on-site and for no cost, to build a home. To be energy efficient a home should also use as much of the freely available energy as possible. One such source is sunlight. Passive solar architecture tries to use sunlight optimally so a house should require no energy source to heat or cool. Earth houses are particularly good for passive solar heating, because of the thermal mass (large heavy walls) which slows down energy transfer from indoor to outdoor and vice versa. However earth itself is not an insulation enough, the heat from inside could still leak out into the ground. What happens then in Kathmandu area during the winter? Open Biotecture inquired into existing projects in Nepal.

Earlier in November 2012, Open Biotecture visited the Pegasus Children Homes in Nayapati to the North of Kathmandu. These homes were built on donation basis by Julian Faulkener from Small Earth, using late Nader Khalili’s Eco Dome architecture developed at Cal Earth. The homes are thermally massive, and despite the lack of insulation, they require no heating during winters and no cooling during summers. They are however victim of local hill geography: partly delved into the hillside, the homes experience considerable leakage during the raining season as water runs from the hillside table directly soaking the walls. This could be improved upon in future constructions. Some pictures here below.

One of the dorms (houses are built on different plateaus on the hill). A house consists of a main dome, surrounded by 3 to 4 other smaller domes.

One of the domes seen from the back with some vine growing on it.

Series of domes built on the top side, these are 3 domes aligned and connected with one another. They face the South to catch a maximum sun light and heat the walls so these can in turn heat the home when temperature cools down at night. Thick walls (thermal mass) also ensure the temperature does not rise rapidly inside during day time.

The houses are built using long tubular bags filled with a mixture of earth and cement or other binding agent. They are piled up one upon each other and barbed wire is laid in between to ensure the bags are connecting and tension is created between bags. Here is an indoor view of the sealing. You would normally see a skylight at the top, here omitted, probably because budget restrictions.

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