Druk White Lotus School




Country: India

What did this project achieve?

Build a school in the Himalaya mountains

The Druk White Lotus school (also known as the Druk Padma Karpo school in the local language of Bodhi) is a school in Shey, the ancient capital of Ladakh, a district in northern India.

The school aims to educate children in the Ladakh area while still preserving cultural traditions – based on Tibetan Buddhism - and learning about life in the 21st century.

Ladakh is in an area with few resources. At an altitude of 3,500m, the remote region is only accessible for six months of the year. This led to the scheme being designed to use locally available materials wherever possible.

Engineers working on the project have used traditional building techniques with modern construction methods. The aim was to make the traditional methods more effective in the region’s often-extreme climate.

The complex of classrooms and other structures is being built in stages. The nursery and infant courtyard opened in 2001, with the junior and middle schools added later. The secondary school opened in 2014.

The school has won many awards, including the British Council for School Environments environmental award in 2012 and the International Architecture in Stone award 2013.

Difference the project has made

Construction of the Druk White Lotus School means children living in the area can now get access to education they might not otherwise have had.

The complex’s student residential blocks allow pupils from Ladakh’s remotest areas to attend the school.

A programme of student sponsorship run by the institution allows children from the poorest backgrounds to take up places.

How the work was done

Engineers building the Druk White Lotus School used locally sustainable materials and construction techniques for the scheme.

The school’s outer wall was made from solid granite blocks found on or very close to the site.

The project team built inner walls from local mud brick. Engineers constructed these as cavity walls to improve building insulation.

The roof was made using a traditional Ladakhi mud construction. This uses poplar and willow from local plantations and provides effective protection from cold weather.

Engineers supported the heavy roof on a structure independent from its walls – helping to protect the school from earthquakes.

The school’s 3,500m-high altitude means it’s an ideal location to use solar energy. Engineers installed nine solar panels in 2008 – these provide a reliable source of electricity for the whole site.

The system is linked to batteries that store power for use during the hours of darkness. These can be charged from both local mains electricity and the school’s own generator.


Our school offers an education that grounds students firmly in their own culture and equips them to thrive in the modern world.

 Druk Padma Karpo school website.

Fascinating facts

The school is run by a trust headed up by Tibetan head of state and religious leader the 14th Dalai Lama.

Students learn Bodhi (the local language), English and Hindi, as well as sciences, social studies and creative arts. They also learn presentation and leadership skills and problem solving.

Honorary patrons of the school include the actors Joanna Lumley and Richard Gere.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Drukpa Trust
  • Architect: Arup Associates
  • Construction engineers: Ove Arup

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