The April 2015 earthquake underscored the need for new approaches to housing and shelter in urban and rural areas in Nepal. Since then, MIT researchers and students have undertaken three relevant projects in this area.
PrepHub Nepal is an adaptive re-use innovation that addresses disaster preparedness by supporting the role of existing Paatis as public space anchors. This research investigates embedding technology into Paatis with the intention to enhance their public service function, providing infrastructure that can help improve the disaster resilience of the community while simultaneously tackling issues of everyday life.
By grafting onto existing open space infrastructure of social and cultural significance, the operation of PrepHubs by local stakeholders reinforces the role communities themselves play in disaster preparedness, and concentrates that role at a public space node.
The Urban Risk Lab in partnership with Kathmandu based NGOs, Lumanti Support Group for Shelter, and the Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) is currently piloting the first PrepHub in Thecho, a settlement on the south side of the Kathmandu Valley experiencing severe water scarcity. The pilot embeds a small-scale community managed water system into an existing Paati, allowing a local co-operative to operate a small enterprise selling water.
MIT’s D-Lab has developed an energy needs assessment toolkit to help communities develop off-grid energy sufficiency. In January 2018, D-Lab researcher Dr. Anish Anthony and three MIT undergraduates partnered with Kathmandu University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to perform an energy assessment in Salambu, a rural Nepali community east of Kathmandu. The team gathered data on fuel use and energy efficiency, and also studied cookstove uses and options. This project is now led by Dan Sweeney, a research scientist and lecturer in D-Lab. Students interested in traveling to Nepal in IAP 2022 to work on this project should contact Dr. Sweeney.
Led by Professor Leon Glicksman, the Building Technology group in the MIT Department of Architecture has been conducting research into improving the performance of low-cost reconstruction housing. This includes the use of sustainable, low-cost means of housing insulation to improve thermal performance and the use of locally available fiber reinforcement in traditional mud and stone construction to improve seismic performance.
In the summer of 2018, the group continued work in a village near Ghorka to identify and develop locally sourced insulation materials and to understand the construction process for stone homes. Partners in this work include the Hunnarshala Foundation, an Indian nonprofit organization committed to the development of sustainable habitats.