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Disaster resilient vernacular housing technology in Nepal

Disaster resilient vernacular housing technology in Nepal Background: Disasters like earthquakes and flood cause enormous loss of lives and property in Nepal frequently. However, during such events particular types of houses are found to be more resilient than common types of housing stocks. This paper outlines the disaster resilient vernacular housing technologies in two of the physiographic regions of Nepal. The vernacular houses are analyzed in terms of their performance and shortcomings during earthquake and flood disasters and found to be technologically resilient in many aspects of impending disasters in Nepal distributed within the physiographic regions. Using the comparative case study approach, field visits and non-structured interviews with local people, the resilient features in terms of construction technology of vernacular houses are identified in this study and the preliminary findings are highlighted as observed during the field visits without numerical modeling and analysis. The seismic performance of Rajbanshi, Gurung and Magar houses in Nepal during 1934, 1988 and 2015 earthquakes is presented in order to justify the performance of these particular housing stocks. Results: The vernacular construction technology in Terai is found to be technologically resilient in terms of floods and earthquakes, and earthquake resistant technologies are identified in the dwellings of the western mid-hill of Nepal. The traditional Rajbanshi houses in eastern Nepal are found to be resilient in terms of earthquake and flood disasters and the Gurung and Magar houses in western mid hills are found to be resilient in terms of earthquake disaster. The statistical distribution of housing stocks is presented and survival scenario is discussed with regard to specific building features. Apart from this, the field reconnaissance after Gorkha earthquake in western Nepal shows better performance of buildings with identified features in comparison to common housing stocks in neighborhoods. Conclusions: As there is no instant possibility of enforcing building codes and guidelines for earthquake and floods resistant construction technologies and replacing the structures by modern reinforced concrete construction across the country and even people throughout Nepal are not able to afford the modern aspects of disaster resilient constructions; identified resilient features of houses are instrumental in assuring safety, serviceability, cultural comfort, patrimony and resilient livelihoods in rural and suburban setups of Nepal. The vernacular constructions also incorporate the cost effectiveness with proper use of local materials and cultural reflections in housing units. Global paradigms have shown significant performance during past disaster events, so replication of such technology with due incorporation of strengthening measures may be pivotal for country like Nepal. Keywords: Disaster, Vernacular housing technology, Resilience, Earthquake, Flood, Nepal * Correspondence: strdyn@yahoo.com Structural and Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Kathmandu, Nepal Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © 2016 Gautam et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 2 of 14 Background infrastructures and properties is occurred every year. In Vernacular housing constructions are unique and local the period of 1900–2005, as many as 1674 flood events technologies of constructions in local areas engrossed by were reported in Terai region of Nepal causing 2856193 the local people, resources and knowledge. Throughout casualties (Aryal 2012). The great Bihar-Nepal earth- the world, vernacular housing constructions are signifi- quake of magnitude 8.1 claimed lives of 8519 people cantly occurring and their rational and resilient features along with more than 200000 houses damaged across are nowadays more recognized in terms of sustainability the country (Rana 1935). Another notable earthquake of (Oktay and Pontikis 2008; Jordan and O’Neill 2010; Aziz magnitude 6.5 in 1988 claimed lives of 721 people with and Shawket 2011; Afshar et al. 2012; Wided et al. 2012; 66382 buildings damaged (Dixit et al. 2013). In addition Jiboye 2014; Tutuko and Shen 2014; Langenbach 2015; to these earthquakes, the magnitude 6.9, 2011 Sikkim- Lima et al. 2015; Varum et al. 2015). Non-engineered Nepal border earthquake caused extensive damage on vernacular dwellings abundantly exist worldwide where rural houses of eastern Nepal. The severe impact of majority share of houses is occurred in rural and subur- 2015 Gorkha earthquake (magnitude 7.8) is reflected in ban settlements (Saleh 2001; Yamin et al. 2004; Ferrigni terms of 8790 casualties, 22300 injuries and 498852 et al 2005; Mundo-Hernandez et al. 2013; Widera and houses completely or partially collapsed and other Despang 2013; GhaffarianHoseini et al. 2014; Donovan 256697 houses partly damaged (NPC 2015). In this and Gkartzios 2014) and a countable fraction in urban regard, flood and earthquakes are amongst the most fatal areas. Nepal consists of 83 % rural population and about disasters claiming enormous life and property loss in 90 % of total houses in Nepal are non-engineered con- Nepal, so it is imperative to study the local response and structions (CBS 2012), this depicts the wider presence of resilience in local level. Most of the rural and suburban vernacular non-engineered dwellings. settlements in Nepal have established their own tradition There is an inherent linkage between the disasters and in building construction apart from the recent modern housing, though such correlation is more amplified in reinforced concrete (RC) construction, which dominates developing countries where housing is considered only in urban areas and newer settlements. Some muni- amongst the most valuable assets for the people (Chang et cipalities in Nepal have enforced Mandatory rule of al. 2010; Ahmed 2011). Global paradigms in various Thumbs (MRT) as suggested in Nepal Building Code disasters and environmental conditions have reflected an (NBC) for the construction of RC buildings, though ma- accountable performance of vernacular dwellings in terms jority of population is concentrated in rural areas where of survival and low damage intensity during past disaster building codes are nevertheless enforced. Without prior events (e.g., Boen 2001; Bouchair and Dupagne 2003; guidelines on disaster resilient construction technology; Gulkan and Langebach 2004; Bouillot 2008; Dixit et al. locally developed and approved technologies have been 2008; SDMC 2008; Amirrol 2010; Zhai and Previteli 2010; obtaining legitimacy in suburbs and rural settlements Audefory 2011; Cheng et al. 2011; Nguyen et al. 2011; and reflected in almost of the dwellings as local architec- Anh 2012; Bodach et al. 2014; Gautam 2014; Malalgoda et ture irrespective of ethnic origin and cultural descent. al. 2014; Yung et al. 2014; Gautam and Rodrigues 2015). People are not advised in terms of disaster resilient con- As the effective disaster coping mechanisms start right struction with regard to frequent disasters concentrated from the local building culture (CRAterre 2013, Moles et to particular area, so local craftsmanship has been con- al. 2014), the resilient features of vernacular housing tributing in developing resilient technologies through should be carefully judged along with the impending di- continuous trial and error and many on occasions sasters. Vernacular constructions are practiced for many through experiences from past disaster events (e.g., Rana centuries and it is obvious that the many parts of the 1935; Gautam 2014). world would be more sticked on this technology for cen- In the hilly region of Nepal, earthquake impacts are turies as well due to economic and technological con- more disastrous due to topographical/ridge effects, foun- straints in terms of switching the construction practice dation type and lack of structural integrity and the Terai towards reinforced concrete. Carrying on vernacular tech- region is particularly susceptible to floods and flash- nology will be undergirded by the extensive use of local floods triggered by annual torrential precipitation and resources and dynamic characteristics of technology itself also earthquake impacts are widely distributed. Earth- in terms of adaptation to available resources and continu- quake risk is distributed in all physiographic regions in ous hit a trial by the local practitioners. The evolution Nepal as suggested by the frequent seismic events in the based on gradual modification through hit and trial has entire Hind-Kush-Himalayan region. led the vernacular technology to be dynamic and compli- Past earthquake events from 1255, 1260, 1408, 1681, ant with the contemporary socio-economic setup. 1767, 1810, 1823, 1833, 1834, 1837, 1869, 1917, 1934, Nepal is characterized by frequent disaster events like; 1936, 1954, 1965, 1966, 1980, 1988,2011 and 2015 have floods and earthquakes where substantial loss of lives, depicted severe damage scenarios in Nepal in terms of Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 3 of 14 structural collapse, life and property damage (Dixit et al. in Nepal Building Codes (NBC 203 and NBC 204), however 2013; NPC 2015). Beside several detrimental cases of such technologies and capacity building trainings in local structural collapses in other types of houses, timber level are rarely propagated in remote villages. Due to high framed houses are the resilient ones in every earthquake dependence of Nepal Building Code with Indian Standard event in Nepal (Rana 1935; JSCE 1989; Gautam et al. Code of practice, only the MRT section of Nepal Building 2015) and also timber frames are justified as seismic Code is practiced, however in case of engineered construc- resistant features globally (e.g., Poletti et al. 2015). Simi- tion practices, almost all designs and analysis are done con- larly, the flood events of 1993 and 2008 have severely sidering the Indian Standard Code of Practice IS 456:2000 affected the Terai region of Nepal in terms of life and and IS 1893:2002. This paradigm should be accounted for property loss (UNDP 2008). After the 1988 M 6.5 ameliorating the Nepal Building Code by incorporating Udaypur, earthquake resistant construction and design Nepalese aspects of construction materials, technology of structures got more attention, as the consequence of transfer and improvement, disaster scenarios and work- this earthquake, Nepal Building Code was formulated in manships and economic status. 1994 by the Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning. In average, some 70 flood events occur in every monsoon This building code incorporates only the earthquake dis- in Nepal (Gautam 2015a) so earthquakes and floods are aster to consider during building construction for build- more highlighted disasters in terms of loss of life and im- ings demanding state-of-the art design, engineered pact upon physical infrastructures and properties. buildings, pre-engineered design for non-engineered Regarding flood resistant construction, Nepal Building buildings through mandatory rule of thumb and rural Code and other guidelines are still silent in addressing the and owner-built houses (NBC 1994). Several efforts impacts and countermeasures. Risk sensitive land use plan- regarding earthquake resistant constructions are being ning, land use planning and zoning are not effectively implemented after the formulation of building codes. researched and implemented in rural setups of Nepal. Mason trainings, seismic vulnerability assessment and Overall flood fighting mechanisms like construction of em- retrofitting of school buildings and government offices, bankments, levees, and plantation are promoted in Nepal. building code implementation programs are some of the Due to growing interests and practices of RC construc- visible outputs mirrored after the formulation of Nepal tions, local appropriate technologies developed from Building Code (Dixit 2014). After the promulgation of local resources are not effectively researched and pro- Natural Calamities Relief Act in 1982 for the first time moted in Nepal. As some of the key features of vernacular in South Asian region, Nepal stepped up into responding constructions are being forgotten in recent decades, the natural disasters, however till date, it is in the same present paper reviews local housing technology from primitive form without any revisions and compliance, Terai and Hilly regions of Nepal and outlines local con- though the specifics and frequency of disaster events, struction technologies in relation to their performance, ef- structural and social vulnerabilities are largely increased ficacy and disaster resilience. Engrossing the performance with mushrooming population. The ongoing discussion of houses in the aftermath of 2015 Gorkha earthquake is on disaster management act in Nepal is expected to ad- pivotal in assuring sustainable and resilient livelihoods in dress many impending disasters and associated pre- any physiographic region. Retrofitting and strengthening paredness activities in Nepal. Majority of discussions of vernacular dwellings and the concept of rural and sub- and guidelines till date are developed for urban setups of urban reconstruction in Nepal have nowadays more pro- Nepal as these guidelines and policies do not necessarily nounced in the aftermath of Gorkha earthquake. Local incorporate countryside. Similarly, National Plan of strengthening solutions like buttresses, corner posts, cor- Action for Disaster Management (1994), Kathmandu ner ties and wall bracings could be viable solutions for Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project (1997–2005), feebly damaged houses so as to assure the life and prop- Study on Earthquake Disaster Mitigation for Kathmandu erty of local people in rural Nepal. Prior to formulation of Valley (2000–2002) by JICA, Shelter Policy (2006), such frameworks it is imperative to identify the resilient National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management (2009), features of vernacular constructions in terms of construc- Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (2009) have put some tion technology and their performance paradigm during efforts in disaster risk reduction through consortium of past events. Such features may be adopted during rural/ government, non-government offices, aid agencies and de- sub-urban reconstruction, strengthening and retrofitting velopment partners, yet morefocus is visible onurban as well. In this context, this paper highlights the local centers and suburbs. Mandatory rule of thumb (MRT) for practices of constructions in technological aspect which building constructions are more pronounced and have performed better during past disaster events. Taking implemented in suburbs and some villages, though MRT into consideration of floods and earthquakes, housing incorporates only modern construction practices. Strength- technologies are analyzed as per the construction aspect ening of vernacular construction technology is incorporated and technological soundness. Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 4 of 14 Study area is also densely populated by the indigenous Rajbanshis, The physiographic composition in Nepal (Fig. 1) reflects Dhimals and Satars (ethnic communities found only in the smallest fraction of land in Terai (about 17 %) eastern Nepal) who have contributed better in develop- followed by the Hills (about 18 %) and the Mountains ing the vernacular architecture for centuries. Similarly, (about 65 %). At the meantime, Terai has gotten the lar- in Kaski the significant fraction of houses is occupied by gest share of population (50.27 %) followed by Hills the mud bonded bricks or stones related with the con- (43.00 %) and Mountainous region (6.73 %) (CBS 2012). struction of rounded houses. These two districts have From east to west and north to south there is wide- unique architecture and performance of these particular spread variation in terms of social, cultural and geo- types of houses has been justified in three strong earth- graphical aspects in Nepal. Likewise these variations, quakes of 1934, 1988 and 2015. The Rajbanshi architec- housing constructions are also different and more local- ture in the entire Terai is unique one, as most of mid ized due to social composition and cultural diversities. and western Terai belts have no trend of constructions The localization of housing construction technology var- with platform. Similarly, the rounded houses are typic- ies as per the materials, craftsmanship, inherent threats ally found in western mid-hills only. Moreover, densely and challenges like animal attack to environmental ad- populated Gurung (an ethnic group in mid hills of versities. Two districts of Nepal Jhapa (Terai) and Kaski Nepal) settlements are also prevalent in Kaski and (Hill) are chosen for analyzing the local housing technol- unique architectural composition has been practiced ogy with regard to disaster resilient features. Both of and refined for centuries. Thus Kaski and Jhapa are these districts are easily accessible by road transport and chosen as study site so as to obtain representative hous- also ideal place in terms of indigenous settlements. Jhapa ing technologies in terms of indigenous inputs and asso- has the significant fraction of wooden pillared houses and ciated resilient features learned and incorporated from Fig. 1 Physiographic map of Nepal (Modified from: http://www.johntyman.com/nepal/01.html) Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 5 of 14 past disaster events. Entire Nepal is under grave threat such materials, why they chose particular form of houses of seismic events as Nepal lies in the subduction zone of and what benefits they are observing from such houses. Indian plate beneath the Eurasian plate so the local Identified disasters vis-à-vis prevalent construction tech- housing technologies are studied with respect to earth- nology has been disseminated in this study. Sample quake resilient features and associated construction houses are justified with the disaster resilient techno- technologies. Due to widespread plain land and low logical features and the shortcomings are identified for topographical relief, flood is normally occurred in Jhapa introducing remedies in some extent for future almost every monsoon and due to topographical condi- constructions and strengthening of particular types of tions and gregarious settlements mid-hills may suffer houses. This paper only incorporates the technological from severe loss during earthquakes so Kaski district is aspects of vernacular housing; however sustainability chosen as representative study area. should be compliant with the cultural, social, economic and environmental aspects. Methods Field visits in two of the case study districts (Jhapa and Result and discussions Kaski) were performed and the representative houses Vernacular housing construction technology and were studied. Analysis in terms of the composition, ma- performance of vernacular houses during disasters terials, technology, relevance and sustainability was RC construction in Nepal started only after 1980. How- performed as desk study after collecting data on field. ever, modern RC construction system till date is con- Phenomenological studies in terms of performance dur- centrated only in urban areas and some suburbs. Only ing disasters, non-structured and informal interviews 9.94 % buildings are RC constructions, moreover ce- were performed during the field visits. A comparative ment bonded constructions are 17.57 %, wooden pillars case study approach (Yin 2003) was adopted due to 24.9 %, mud-bonded bricks 44.21 % (Fig. 2) hence the purely explanatory nature of this research. The resilient dominance of non-engineered vernacular constructions features of the houses were disseminated as many as throughout Nepal is well reflected and obvious. Mean- possible during field visits. Non-structured interviews while, as per the wall systems of houses in Nepal, ma- with masons with regard to the construction processes jority fraction of walls is constituted by mud bonded and materials used were performed and interaction with bricks or stones (41.38 %). Other wall systems like local old aged people (as young people and women sel- cement bonded bricks or stones (28.74 %), bamboo dom participate in construction activities), community (20.23 %) and wooden walls (5.31 %) are in significant leaders were also done so as to understand the adapta- fraction (Fig. 3). As most of the houses are concen- tion, endorsement and construction framework of ver- trated in rural neighborhoods of Nepal suggested by nacular houses. In addition to this, informal interactions 83 % population concentration in suburbs and rural with educated people and community leaders, phenom- setups (CBS 2012), majority fraction of wall system is enological observations and desk studies were per- incorporated by mud bonded bricks or stones, bam- formed. As complete understanding of the processes and boo and wooden planks for walls. Cement bonded technologies needs long terms exposure and involve- walls are common in urban and suburban areas. The ment in communities, so this study is only a preliminary roofing system in houses is dominated by galvanized highlight regarding the good practices and justified sheet after 1980 and yet the locally available slate, tile evidences from the past. Detailed numerical analysis and or straw is being extensively used in rural Nepal modeling will be disseminated in future contribution for (Fig. 4). After galvanized sheets, tile slate (26.68 %), understanding the performance behavior of houses. RCC (22.48 %) and thatched straw (19.0.3 %) are While formulating the disaster resilient vernacular common types of roofing systems in Nepal. Notably, dwellings in each physiographic region of Nepal; 15 before the use of galvanized sheet most of the houses representative vernacular houses from Jhapa and 15 used to be covered by thatched/straw roofs. The rein- rounded houses (Ghumauro dhi) from Kaski were taken forced concrete cement roofing system is dominant as case study dwellings as such constructions are domin- only in urban areas, district headquarters, suburbs ant in the specific physiographic regions. The studied and commercial centers. Particular types of houses houses from indigenous communities are chosen in were identified to be undamaged or less damaged study- 15 Rajbanshi houses from Maheshpur village during 1934 Bihar Nepal, 1988 Udaypur and 2015 development committee of Jhapa and 15 Gurung houses Gorkha earthquakes in comparison to other types of from Sarankot village of Kaski districts are studied. houses. Likewise during interviews, the local older While studying those houses owners were interviewed in people from Jhapa remarked that the houses with terms of age of buildings, how they used such technolo- wooden pillars were survived or less damaged during gies, what materials were used and where they obtained 1988 earthquake in Nepal and also those rounded Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 6 of 14 Types of roof Types of Structures 3.55 3.38% RCC 9.94% Galvanized sheet (%) Cement bonded 19.03 28.26 bricks Tile/slate (%) 17.57% Wooden pillar RCC (%) 44.21% Thatched/straw (%) 22.48 Mud bonded bricks Others (%) 26.68 24.90% Others Fig. 4 Distribution of houses as per types of roof in Nepal Fig. 2 Distribution of housing systems as per types of structures in Nepal during several past earthquakes. The features of houses houses were among the good performers during the are analyzed in terms of elemental contribution to holistic same event in Kaski. This is consistent with the de- housing performance to minimize the impact of disaster scription presented by Rana (1935), report compiled events on case by case basis. by JSCE (1989) and study performed by various teams after the 2015 Gorkha earthquake (e.g., Gautam et al. Vernacular housing technology in Terai: floods and 2015). During the great Bihar-Nepal earthquake of earthquake resilience 1934, Jhapa district didn’t suffer from any structural In the Terai region, inundation is common due to plain damage (Rana 1935) though the epicenter was near, terrain having low altitudes. Housing construction in this clearly depicts the resilience of wooden pillared this region is guided by creating a platform up to certain structures during earthquakes. Also, during many height (usually from 1m to 3m) which is unconstructed flood events, those houses with wooden pillars were open and arrangement of the living environment is resilient than other types of houses with their super- started from the first storey above the unconstructed structure started right from the ground surface in the platform (Fig. 5). Due to water logging problems, locally vicinity as per the local people. The 1988 eastern available and dampness resistant heartwood of Shorea Nepal earthquake was devastating event for eastern robusta was found to be used as wooden pillar running Nepal and also Kaski was severely affected during this up to the roof level. Construction in such buildings is event, however there was clear distinction between par- limited to first storey only, however the gable part of ticular types of houses with other common types of houses are isolated by creating a wooden slab or slab houses, as per the local people. It is found that, the constructed using bamboo. Such low height and weight Rajbanshi houses and the rounded Gurung houses are houses constructed with timber elements have sound resilient constructions as depicted by their performance performance during earthquakes due to high ductility and low weight of overall construction. Although, major- ity of houses in Jhapa are found to be constructed of mud bonded bricks or stones (91.99 %), before 1990 very Types of wall few houses were of mud bonded bricks. Beside this, the 4.34 vernacular wooden pillar houses (4.21 %) and cement 5.31 Mud bonded bricks or bonded bricks/stones (3.04 %) are other dominant hous- stones (%) ing types in Jhapa (Fig. 6). Due to availability of timber Cement bonded for construction from the forests of “Sal” Shorea robusta bricks or stones (%) in the vicinity, people used to focus on such housing 41.38 20.23 Bamboo (%) construction and wooden pillared houses were dominant even during the 1988 earthquake. Such housing con- Wood/planks (%) struction was relatively economic practice due to widespread use of local materials in terms of timber 28.74 Others (%) and bamboo. During interaction all of the 15 houses were found to be constructed in less than $500 due Fig. 3 Distribution of houses as per types of wall in Nepal to instant availability of resources during their Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 7 of 14 Fig. 5 Common vernacular Rajbanshi house in Jhapa (Terai) construction time some 20 to 40 years back. The (Fig. 7). As in Fig. 5, walls of majority of the studied technology was locally developed and adopted so local houses were constructed from bamboo ikra (net craftsmanship was effectively used in order to delin- constructed from bamboo sticks tied together). Wall eate the appropriate technology of housing construc- system and partitioning is provided with the ikra tion in Jhapa. During interviews with community having relatively low weight and easy circulation of air as a leaders, it is found that, after the 1988 Udaypur countermeasure against relatively higher temperature than earthquake many of the people from other ethnic any other physiographic regions of Nepal. Thermal com- origins also adopted the similar construction technol- fort in such houses is easily achieved through a wooden ogy so as to reconstruct their houses. This is evi- slab below roof and provision of sufficient openings. dently verified by the significant occurrence of similar These dwellings have mud (48.55 %), galvanized iron types of constructions in many areas of this district. sheets (30.94 %) and wooden planks (16.51 %) as domin- In such vernacular constructions, the wall system is ant roofing materials (Fig. 8). Mud is adopted from the dominated by the mud bonded bricks or stones traditional roofing system for passive solar cooling and (82.32 %) and next to this, wood or planks (9.53 %) heating in comparison to other roofing materials so as are dominant over the vernacular constructions to avoid the burning heat during daytime and prevent followed by cement bonded bricks/stones (7.46 %) the attack of cold waves during winter. Types of structures Wall system 0.28 0.48 0.48 0.21 4.21 Mud bonded 3.04 Mud bonded bricks or bricks/stones (%) stones (%) 9.53 Cement bonded Cement bonded 7.46 bricks/stones (%) bricks or stones (%) Wood/planks (%) RCC (%) Bamboo (%) Wooden pillar (%) 82.32 91.99 Others (%) Unbaked bricks (%) Fig. 6 Distribution of houses as per types of structure in Jhapa Fig. 7 Distribution of houses as per wall system in Jhapa Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 8 of 14 art. The construction technology is not sophisticated Type of roof and doesn’t require specialized manpower; however a simple rectangular construction technology with four to 0.55 0.28 six wooden pillars running from foundation to roof is prevalent in case study area. Such simple and symmetric Thatch/straw (%) construction is also efficient in terms of balancing the Galvanized iron (%) torsional effects during earthquakes. Such appropriate 30.94 Tile/slate (%) technology is guided by earthquake resistant features, 48.55 RCC (%) flood and damping resilience and also to prevent snake Wood/planks (%) attacks. Due to economic constraints new houses were 2.49 also observed to be adopting the similar construction Mud (%) 0.69 16.51 technology in study area. Others (%) Fig. 8 Distribution of houses as per types of roof in Jhapa Vernacular dwellings in hills: earthquake resilience In the mid-hills of Nepal basically the Gurung and About 80 % of precipitation occurs in Nepal from June Magar settlements (indigenous groups in western mid- through September, during this season, the entire Terai hills of Nepal) are dominant. In this region people have region observes inundation problems. While accounting developed a unique tradition of housing construction. such inundation and staying safe from the attacks from These are called as Ghumauro dhi locally. The rounded epidemics and snake attack and thermal comfort structures (Fig. 9) constructed from stone masonry with through proper air circulation additionally; local people countable fraction of timber elements are excellent ex- usually prefer such construction since early settlement amples in earthquake resilient features (SDMC 2008; stages. The local older respondents remarked that dur- Gautam 2015b). While selecting the timbers, it has been ing past time there used to be severe cases of floods so noticed during field visit, heartwood (“Agrakh” as per local that ground storied houses were found to be problematic people) from local trees was found to be used for major in order to reside and also there used to be frequent components like timber posts and rafters. Ghumauro dhi attacks of snakes and other predatory species as well, is a symmetrical circular construction, usually one to two evidently it was found true for some of the ethnic com- storied where timber elements are introduced in the form munities who have cultural restriction to construct more of openings, slabs and struts at various levels. than one storied house or constructing a platform before The overall distribution of houses in Kaski shows the starting first storey. In order to overcome such calam- dominance of mud bonded bricks or stones (91.99 %) ities, present technologies were developed some 40 years followed by wooden pillar constructions (4.21 %) and ce- back as per the respondents’ argument. This is an instru- ment/mud bonded bricks or stones (3.04 %) (Fig. 10). mental depiction of local people so as to enhance the The studied houses fall under the category of mud resilience in local level with local materials and state-of- bonded stone houses. As per the local people, majority Fig. 9 Common vernacular dwelling in western mid-hill (Kaski) of Nepal Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 9 of 14 Type of roof Types of structures 0.28 0.55 0.28 4.21 0.48 3.04 Thatch/straw (%) Mud bonded bricks or stones (%) Galvanized iron (%) 30.94 Cement bonded Tile/slate (%) bricks or stones (%) RCC (%) RCC (%) Wood/planks (%) 2.49 Mud (%) Wooden pillar (%) 0.69 16.51 Others (%) 91.99 Others (%) Fig. 12 Distribution of houses as per type of roof in Kaski Fig. 10 Distribution of houses as per type of structures in Kaski homogenous roofing. The stone units were ultimately found to be connected with purlins so as to stick better of the indigenous settlements in Kaski follow the similar and prevent from falling. The subsequent load reduction pattern of housing units with exception to some modern while constructing upper parts of buildings was identi- constructions. These houses have dominant mud bonded fied as one of the most unique feature leading to earth- bricks or stone walls (82.32 %) as façade, and wooden quake resistant construction practice, which is also planks as facade (9.53 %) and cement bonded brick endorsed by modern building codes. Wooden pegs were façade (7.46 %) are also significantly practiced in Kaski found to be commonly deployed for tying the various district (Fig. 11). However, the vernacular construction is materials and rafter of the roof in such houses. The ever-dominating the other construction technologies openings were found to be smaller so that majority of and typology of structures in terms of wall systems. the load bearing walls is covered by wall units contribut- Availability of local resources like stones, timber, straw ing in better structural integrity. In such constructions, and mud-mortar has effectively contributed in economic pancake destruction and soft storey problems are never constructions, development of local economy as well as observed due to presence of wooden bands in lintel level investment and employment opportunities in local level or sill level, so sometimes such features perform better consequently supporting the livelihoods in local level. than deficient RC structures (e.g., Langenbach 2010). Such houses in the case study site were found to be of Locally, people provide sill band (“Nas”) which has around 50-150 years of age and the construction cost significant contribution in avoiding the out of plane was ranging from $100 to $300 at that time. collapse. Roofing in such construction is usually provided with During past events like the 1934 Bihar-Nepal and the the locally available mud (48.54 %), galvanized iron 1988 Udaypur earthquakes and recently during 2015 (30.94 %), and tile/slate (2.49 %) (Fig. 12). In the study Gorkha earthquake, damage was particularly less in such area, all 15 houses were with seasoned stones properly constructions due to symmetry and low rise construc- tied with iron wires assuring integral framework of tion (Rana 1935; JSCE 1989; Gautam et al. 2015). The mainstreamed load transfer mechanism for the cantilev- ered portion of such houses is found to be facilitated by the struts, as these struts have directed the outward load Wall system into the load bearing walls. The rounded structures have 0.21 a coinciding center of gravity and center of rigidity 0.48 Mud bonded avoiding possible torsional phenomenon during earth- bricks/stones (%) 9.53 quakes. Foundation leveling is found to be ensured Cement bonded 7.46 through construction of stone plinths for strapped foun- bricks/stones (%) dation and hence the sloped terrains was even consisting Wood/planks (%) the leveled foundations. Bamboo (%) Shortcomings of vernacular constructions 82.32 In local construction practice of hilly region, the binding Unbaked bricks (%) material used is mud mortar which is the prime cause leading to lack of structural integrity and poor bonding Fig. 11 Distribution of houses as per wall system in Kaski of housing units. There can be seen cracks on walls due Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 10 of 14 to uneven settlements after construction. Such cracks others during past events has proven the efficacy of ver- can serve as stress concentration points and the effect nacular houses (Boen 2001; Decanini et al. 2004; Gulkan could be detrimental during earthquakes. If timber and Langenbach 2004; Bothara et al. 2007; Winarno et al. structures are constructed, good resilience against earth- 2008; Amirrol 2010; Gautam 2014, Ortega et al. 2015; quake effects could be ensured. In Terai region, people Gautam and Rodrigues 2015). In this regard cultural as- usually construct their houses beside or within the ar- pects and local resource led economic and appropriate able land as entire Terai region has relatively plain relief constructions are incorporated in most of the indigenous throughout and most of the population is dependent in settlements. Though there are some shortcomings of ver- agricultural practices with regular irrigation in cultivated nacular houses, however such shortcomings could be eas- lands. This practice has created problem in rapid decay ily overcome by implementing some countermeasures as of wooden columns for the sapwood pillars so proper se- suggested and incorporated by the Bureau of Indian lection of timber is instrumental in assuring the per- Standard (BIS 2012). In order to assure life and property, formance of houses in long run. In this regard, people Nepal urgently needs some frameworks for strengthening may get better site in relatively higher topographical relief and retrofitting techniques for the vernacular houses thus in case of availability or use drains around the houses so the economic constructions could be carried on. Beside as to avoid inundation. Such techniques may be beneficial this, the cultural dimensions are nevertheless addressed for people to adopt and enhance the life span of houses. by modern RC and steel construction technologies, so in In the other hand, during the field visit it is observed that order to assure culturally sound and disaster resilient heartwood timber used for timber framing was remark- neighbourhoods; some guidelines are to be formulated in- ably less affected by the groundwater so proper selection corporating the prevalent disasters in local scales. The cost of timber frames is crucial in vernacular houses of Terai. of construction is usually high for modern RC buildings As the strengthening and retrofitting methods of vernacu- so it would be rational to promote the vernacular con- lar houses have been seldom discussed in Nepal except structions both in order to preserve cultural aspects as few cases (e.g., Bothara and Brzev 2012), such structures well as for economic construction. There is severe de- need immediate attention due to the fact that majority of struction in rural houses during 2015 Gorkha earthquake structures are vernacular non-engineered ones and are be- (Fig. 13) so reconstruction should be guided by the earth- ing used for very long time. Attention towards construc- quake resistant features in local level, however there is tion technologies and capacity building of local masons negligible damage in timber framed (Fig. 14) and rounded haven’t been implemented so people are obliged to follow houses (Fig. 15) in western Nepal so these lessons should traditional construction technologies only. Juxtaposition be thoroughly incorporated. Beside these, proper identifi- of modern findings and verified vernacular elements cation and verification of disaster resilient technologies within such constructions could be pivotal in ensuring are urgently needed. Meanwhile, some strengthening mea- disaster resilience in rural Nepal. sures are also needed for the survived houses which have observed minor damages. As the vernacular construc- Future insight tions would continue for ages, it would be imperative to As majority fractions of Nepalese buildings are guided incorporate the identified features employing some add- by the vernacular construction aspects and technologies, itional resilient characteristics and elements in new con- their performance and technological resilience largely structions. For this capacity building is necessary and determine the loss of life and property in case of disaster should reach upto the local communities. In order to events. Vernacular housing technology is the most cost- construct/reconstruct culturally appropriate and to as- effective practice which utilizes the local workmanship sure patrimony, promotion and enhancement of local and materials and also endorses the cultural dimensions technology could be effectively utilized in Nepal. In of indigenous and local people as well. In this regard, building codes, the blended framework of verified resili- appropriate technologies are justified in terms of eco- ent features along with recently developed technical as- nomic efficacy and cultural endorsement. Beyond this, pects should be incorporated to preserve cultural with regard to comfort and lessons from the past events, dimensions of local people so that resilient and cultur- vernacular constructions are the products of continuous ally soundconstructions wouldbepromotedmore.As trial and errors, incorporating many features that are there are many paradigms in the world hinged with such resilient aginst particular type of disasters. While incorp- blending and their performance is justified as well, like in orating countermeasures against several risks and their Dhajji construction (UN Habitat and National Disaster impacts, vernacular technologies are developed and found Management Authority, Pakistan 2009) Nepal could prag- across the world. The performance of Dhajji-dewari, Nias, matically endorse and reinforce sustainable construction/ Himis, LambanTuha, Pombalino, Newari Chhen, Casa reconstruction mechanism using insights from perform- Baracada, Bhungas, Batak, Lombok, Tasikmalaya, among ance of vernacular houses. Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 11 of 14 Fig. 13 Completely collapsed dry stone masonry houses in entire neighborhood of western Nepal after 2015 Gorkha earthquake Conclusion earthquake resistant features like symmetrical construc- Honed by continuous trial and error and juxtaposing the tion, high ductility, proper binding of housing units, experiences of past events, vernacular technology has among others. Such features were developed from con- appreciably contributed in terms of resilience and sus- tinuous trial and error efforts after several past disaster tainable construction in suburban and rural Nepal. Use events. In the case of hills, people have developed a of local materials, manpower and technology has tradition of one to two storied constructions with brought a unique trend of construction in Nepal in proper use of symmetrical rounded configuration. terms of vernacular technology. Each physiographic Earthquake resilient technology is proven through im- unit has own tradition of vernacular dwellings. In Terai, plementation of elements like struts, timber bands, low people seek some dimensions of construction with re- storey height and smaller openings, mainstreamed can- gard to flood resilience primarily, so they have been tilevered load on structural walls, subsequent load re- constructing houses with raised platform. Such houses duction in upper stories, proper connection of roof with raised platform are usually of one to two storied with other structural system, among others. Leveled and having less weight. Thermal comfort is also en- foundation is also a characteristic practice in hills even sured through use of locally casted partitioning mate- if the terrain is not leveled. Nepal, being an underdevel- rials. Relatively durable timber like Shorea robusta oped country, has weak framework of disaster resilient (“Agrakh”) is used for such construction. The housing construction and execution in rural setups and suburbs. technology also incorporates many aspects of Even in the urban areas, the NBC is surpassed by the Fig. 14 A house with timber lacing and corner posts in the same stretch of western Nepal which survived during 1988 and 2015 earthquakes Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 12 of 14 Fig. 15 A 150 years old rounded house in western Nepal survived during 1934, 1988 and 2015 earthquakes without any damage Indian Standard codes of practice due to high depend- Authors’ contributions DG and JP collected the data and went for field study. KVP, KKB and ence of NBC into IS code. Thus, it is obvious that, PN suggested on methodology and did data analyses. DG, JP and KVP there is lack of proper mechanism to govern the local prepared first draft and KKB and PN modified and enriched the text construction technology. People have developed them- with research relevance. KKB and PN also enhanced the research framework and engrossed the analysis. All five authors read and selves some unique features of construction which are approved the final manuscript. proven to be earthquake resilient against prevalent di- sasters of small to medium scales. There are still several Acknowledgement Authors express sincere gratitude to Mr. Randolph Langenbach things lagging in vernacular construction technology, (conservationtech, USA), Mr. Rabindra Prajapati (civil engineer), Prof. Ranjan beside this the remarkable features from vernacular Kumar Dahal (Tribhuvan University), Prof. GS Bhardwaj (India) and Mr. Kshitij practice might be instrumental in governing and assur- Thebe for providing us valuable feedbacks and information. Special thanks go to the respondents and interviewee during field visits. The constructive ing disaster resilient construction technology econom- comments from two referees are sincerely acknowledged. ically and locally in greater extent. People, if devised with regard to the remarkable features of such con- Author details Structural and Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Kathmandu, struction and provided with some additional low cost Nepal. Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Kathmandu, features like lateral supports (buttresses), improved Government of Nepal. Partido State University, Goa, Philippines. local binding materials, configuration, site selection, Received: 8 June 2015 Accepted: 4 February 2016 among others; resilience could be remarkably en- hanced. Such construction framework would be surely cost-effective due to use of local materials and also cul- References turally sound through reflection of local customs repli- Afshar, A., W. Alaghbari, E. Salleh, and A. Salim. 2012. Affordable housing design with application of vernacular architecture in Kish Island, Iran. International Journal of cated in households. Many of the global paradigms Housing Markets and Analysis 5(1): 89–107. doi:10.1108/17538271211206680. have shown remarkable performance of vernacular Ahmed, I. 2011. 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Ancient vernacular architecture: characteristics categorization and energy performance evaluation. Energy and Buildings 42(2010): 357–365. Submit your manuscript to a journal and benefi t from: 7 Convenient online submission 7 Rigorous peer review 7 Immediate publication on acceptance 7 Open access: articles freely available online 7 High visibility within the fi eld 7 Retaining the copyright to your article Submit your next manuscript at 7 springeropen.com http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Geoenvironmental Disasters Springer Journals

Disaster resilient vernacular housing technology in Nepal

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Springer Journals
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Copyright © 2016 by Gautam et al.
Subject
Environment; Environment, general; Earth Sciences, general; Geography, general; Geoecology/Natural Processes; Natural Hazards; Environmental Science and Engineering
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2197-8670
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10.1186/s40677-016-0036-y
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Abstract

Background: Disasters like earthquakes and flood cause enormous loss of lives and property in Nepal frequently. However, during such events particular types of houses are found to be more resilient than common types of housing stocks. This paper outlines the disaster resilient vernacular housing technologies in two of the physiographic regions of Nepal. The vernacular houses are analyzed in terms of their performance and shortcomings during earthquake and flood disasters and found to be technologically resilient in many aspects of impending disasters in Nepal distributed within the physiographic regions. Using the comparative case study approach, field visits and non-structured interviews with local people, the resilient features in terms of construction technology of vernacular houses are identified in this study and the preliminary findings are highlighted as observed during the field visits without numerical modeling and analysis. The seismic performance of Rajbanshi, Gurung and Magar houses in Nepal during 1934, 1988 and 2015 earthquakes is presented in order to justify the performance of these particular housing stocks. Results: The vernacular construction technology in Terai is found to be technologically resilient in terms of floods and earthquakes, and earthquake resistant technologies are identified in the dwellings of the western mid-hill of Nepal. The traditional Rajbanshi houses in eastern Nepal are found to be resilient in terms of earthquake and flood disasters and the Gurung and Magar houses in western mid hills are found to be resilient in terms of earthquake disaster. The statistical distribution of housing stocks is presented and survival scenario is discussed with regard to specific building features. Apart from this, the field reconnaissance after Gorkha earthquake in western Nepal shows better performance of buildings with identified features in comparison to common housing stocks in neighborhoods. Conclusions: As there is no instant possibility of enforcing building codes and guidelines for earthquake and floods resistant construction technologies and replacing the structures by modern reinforced concrete construction across the country and even people throughout Nepal are not able to afford the modern aspects of disaster resilient constructions; identified resilient features of houses are instrumental in assuring safety, serviceability, cultural comfort, patrimony and resilient livelihoods in rural and suburban setups of Nepal. The vernacular constructions also incorporate the cost effectiveness with proper use of local materials and cultural reflections in housing units. Global paradigms have shown significant performance during past disaster events, so replication of such technology with due incorporation of strengthening measures may be pivotal for country like Nepal. Keywords: Disaster, Vernacular housing technology, Resilience, Earthquake, Flood, Nepal * Correspondence: strdyn@yahoo.com Structural and Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Kathmandu, Nepal Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © 2016 Gautam et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 2 of 14 Background infrastructures and properties is occurred every year. In Vernacular housing constructions are unique and local the period of 1900–2005, as many as 1674 flood events technologies of constructions in local areas engrossed by were reported in Terai region of Nepal causing 2856193 the local people, resources and knowledge. Throughout casualties (Aryal 2012). The great Bihar-Nepal earth- the world, vernacular housing constructions are signifi- quake of magnitude 8.1 claimed lives of 8519 people cantly occurring and their rational and resilient features along with more than 200000 houses damaged across are nowadays more recognized in terms of sustainability the country (Rana 1935). Another notable earthquake of (Oktay and Pontikis 2008; Jordan and O’Neill 2010; Aziz magnitude 6.5 in 1988 claimed lives of 721 people with and Shawket 2011; Afshar et al. 2012; Wided et al. 2012; 66382 buildings damaged (Dixit et al. 2013). In addition Jiboye 2014; Tutuko and Shen 2014; Langenbach 2015; to these earthquakes, the magnitude 6.9, 2011 Sikkim- Lima et al. 2015; Varum et al. 2015). Non-engineered Nepal border earthquake caused extensive damage on vernacular dwellings abundantly exist worldwide where rural houses of eastern Nepal. The severe impact of majority share of houses is occurred in rural and subur- 2015 Gorkha earthquake (magnitude 7.8) is reflected in ban settlements (Saleh 2001; Yamin et al. 2004; Ferrigni terms of 8790 casualties, 22300 injuries and 498852 et al 2005; Mundo-Hernandez et al. 2013; Widera and houses completely or partially collapsed and other Despang 2013; GhaffarianHoseini et al. 2014; Donovan 256697 houses partly damaged (NPC 2015). In this and Gkartzios 2014) and a countable fraction in urban regard, flood and earthquakes are amongst the most fatal areas. Nepal consists of 83 % rural population and about disasters claiming enormous life and property loss in 90 % of total houses in Nepal are non-engineered con- Nepal, so it is imperative to study the local response and structions (CBS 2012), this depicts the wider presence of resilience in local level. Most of the rural and suburban vernacular non-engineered dwellings. settlements in Nepal have established their own tradition There is an inherent linkage between the disasters and in building construction apart from the recent modern housing, though such correlation is more amplified in reinforced concrete (RC) construction, which dominates developing countries where housing is considered only in urban areas and newer settlements. Some muni- amongst the most valuable assets for the people (Chang et cipalities in Nepal have enforced Mandatory rule of al. 2010; Ahmed 2011). Global paradigms in various Thumbs (MRT) as suggested in Nepal Building Code disasters and environmental conditions have reflected an (NBC) for the construction of RC buildings, though ma- accountable performance of vernacular dwellings in terms jority of population is concentrated in rural areas where of survival and low damage intensity during past disaster building codes are nevertheless enforced. Without prior events (e.g., Boen 2001; Bouchair and Dupagne 2003; guidelines on disaster resilient construction technology; Gulkan and Langebach 2004; Bouillot 2008; Dixit et al. locally developed and approved technologies have been 2008; SDMC 2008; Amirrol 2010; Zhai and Previteli 2010; obtaining legitimacy in suburbs and rural settlements Audefory 2011; Cheng et al. 2011; Nguyen et al. 2011; and reflected in almost of the dwellings as local architec- Anh 2012; Bodach et al. 2014; Gautam 2014; Malalgoda et ture irrespective of ethnic origin and cultural descent. al. 2014; Yung et al. 2014; Gautam and Rodrigues 2015). People are not advised in terms of disaster resilient con- As the effective disaster coping mechanisms start right struction with regard to frequent disasters concentrated from the local building culture (CRAterre 2013, Moles et to particular area, so local craftsmanship has been con- al. 2014), the resilient features of vernacular housing tributing in developing resilient technologies through should be carefully judged along with the impending di- continuous trial and error and many on occasions sasters. Vernacular constructions are practiced for many through experiences from past disaster events (e.g., Rana centuries and it is obvious that the many parts of the 1935; Gautam 2014). world would be more sticked on this technology for cen- In the hilly region of Nepal, earthquake impacts are turies as well due to economic and technological con- more disastrous due to topographical/ridge effects, foun- straints in terms of switching the construction practice dation type and lack of structural integrity and the Terai towards reinforced concrete. Carrying on vernacular tech- region is particularly susceptible to floods and flash- nology will be undergirded by the extensive use of local floods triggered by annual torrential precipitation and resources and dynamic characteristics of technology itself also earthquake impacts are widely distributed. Earth- in terms of adaptation to available resources and continu- quake risk is distributed in all physiographic regions in ous hit a trial by the local practitioners. The evolution Nepal as suggested by the frequent seismic events in the based on gradual modification through hit and trial has entire Hind-Kush-Himalayan region. led the vernacular technology to be dynamic and compli- Past earthquake events from 1255, 1260, 1408, 1681, ant with the contemporary socio-economic setup. 1767, 1810, 1823, 1833, 1834, 1837, 1869, 1917, 1934, Nepal is characterized by frequent disaster events like; 1936, 1954, 1965, 1966, 1980, 1988,2011 and 2015 have floods and earthquakes where substantial loss of lives, depicted severe damage scenarios in Nepal in terms of Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 3 of 14 structural collapse, life and property damage (Dixit et al. in Nepal Building Codes (NBC 203 and NBC 204), however 2013; NPC 2015). Beside several detrimental cases of such technologies and capacity building trainings in local structural collapses in other types of houses, timber level are rarely propagated in remote villages. Due to high framed houses are the resilient ones in every earthquake dependence of Nepal Building Code with Indian Standard event in Nepal (Rana 1935; JSCE 1989; Gautam et al. Code of practice, only the MRT section of Nepal Building 2015) and also timber frames are justified as seismic Code is practiced, however in case of engineered construc- resistant features globally (e.g., Poletti et al. 2015). Simi- tion practices, almost all designs and analysis are done con- larly, the flood events of 1993 and 2008 have severely sidering the Indian Standard Code of Practice IS 456:2000 affected the Terai region of Nepal in terms of life and and IS 1893:2002. This paradigm should be accounted for property loss (UNDP 2008). After the 1988 M 6.5 ameliorating the Nepal Building Code by incorporating Udaypur, earthquake resistant construction and design Nepalese aspects of construction materials, technology of structures got more attention, as the consequence of transfer and improvement, disaster scenarios and work- this earthquake, Nepal Building Code was formulated in manships and economic status. 1994 by the Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning. In average, some 70 flood events occur in every monsoon This building code incorporates only the earthquake dis- in Nepal (Gautam 2015a) so earthquakes and floods are aster to consider during building construction for build- more highlighted disasters in terms of loss of life and im- ings demanding state-of-the art design, engineered pact upon physical infrastructures and properties. buildings, pre-engineered design for non-engineered Regarding flood resistant construction, Nepal Building buildings through mandatory rule of thumb and rural Code and other guidelines are still silent in addressing the and owner-built houses (NBC 1994). Several efforts impacts and countermeasures. Risk sensitive land use plan- regarding earthquake resistant constructions are being ning, land use planning and zoning are not effectively implemented after the formulation of building codes. researched and implemented in rural setups of Nepal. Mason trainings, seismic vulnerability assessment and Overall flood fighting mechanisms like construction of em- retrofitting of school buildings and government offices, bankments, levees, and plantation are promoted in Nepal. building code implementation programs are some of the Due to growing interests and practices of RC construc- visible outputs mirrored after the formulation of Nepal tions, local appropriate technologies developed from Building Code (Dixit 2014). After the promulgation of local resources are not effectively researched and pro- Natural Calamities Relief Act in 1982 for the first time moted in Nepal. As some of the key features of vernacular in South Asian region, Nepal stepped up into responding constructions are being forgotten in recent decades, the natural disasters, however till date, it is in the same present paper reviews local housing technology from primitive form without any revisions and compliance, Terai and Hilly regions of Nepal and outlines local con- though the specifics and frequency of disaster events, struction technologies in relation to their performance, ef- structural and social vulnerabilities are largely increased ficacy and disaster resilience. Engrossing the performance with mushrooming population. The ongoing discussion of houses in the aftermath of 2015 Gorkha earthquake is on disaster management act in Nepal is expected to ad- pivotal in assuring sustainable and resilient livelihoods in dress many impending disasters and associated pre- any physiographic region. Retrofitting and strengthening paredness activities in Nepal. Majority of discussions of vernacular dwellings and the concept of rural and sub- and guidelines till date are developed for urban setups of urban reconstruction in Nepal have nowadays more pro- Nepal as these guidelines and policies do not necessarily nounced in the aftermath of Gorkha earthquake. Local incorporate countryside. Similarly, National Plan of strengthening solutions like buttresses, corner posts, cor- Action for Disaster Management (1994), Kathmandu ner ties and wall bracings could be viable solutions for Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project (1997–2005), feebly damaged houses so as to assure the life and prop- Study on Earthquake Disaster Mitigation for Kathmandu erty of local people in rural Nepal. Prior to formulation of Valley (2000–2002) by JICA, Shelter Policy (2006), such frameworks it is imperative to identify the resilient National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management (2009), features of vernacular constructions in terms of construc- Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium (2009) have put some tion technology and their performance paradigm during efforts in disaster risk reduction through consortium of past events. Such features may be adopted during rural/ government, non-government offices, aid agencies and de- sub-urban reconstruction, strengthening and retrofitting velopment partners, yet morefocus is visible onurban as well. In this context, this paper highlights the local centers and suburbs. Mandatory rule of thumb (MRT) for practices of constructions in technological aspect which building constructions are more pronounced and have performed better during past disaster events. Taking implemented in suburbs and some villages, though MRT into consideration of floods and earthquakes, housing incorporates only modern construction practices. Strength- technologies are analyzed as per the construction aspect ening of vernacular construction technology is incorporated and technological soundness. Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 4 of 14 Study area is also densely populated by the indigenous Rajbanshis, The physiographic composition in Nepal (Fig. 1) reflects Dhimals and Satars (ethnic communities found only in the smallest fraction of land in Terai (about 17 %) eastern Nepal) who have contributed better in develop- followed by the Hills (about 18 %) and the Mountains ing the vernacular architecture for centuries. Similarly, (about 65 %). At the meantime, Terai has gotten the lar- in Kaski the significant fraction of houses is occupied by gest share of population (50.27 %) followed by Hills the mud bonded bricks or stones related with the con- (43.00 %) and Mountainous region (6.73 %) (CBS 2012). struction of rounded houses. These two districts have From east to west and north to south there is wide- unique architecture and performance of these particular spread variation in terms of social, cultural and geo- types of houses has been justified in three strong earth- graphical aspects in Nepal. Likewise these variations, quakes of 1934, 1988 and 2015. The Rajbanshi architec- housing constructions are also different and more local- ture in the entire Terai is unique one, as most of mid ized due to social composition and cultural diversities. and western Terai belts have no trend of constructions The localization of housing construction technology var- with platform. Similarly, the rounded houses are typic- ies as per the materials, craftsmanship, inherent threats ally found in western mid-hills only. Moreover, densely and challenges like animal attack to environmental ad- populated Gurung (an ethnic group in mid hills of versities. Two districts of Nepal Jhapa (Terai) and Kaski Nepal) settlements are also prevalent in Kaski and (Hill) are chosen for analyzing the local housing technol- unique architectural composition has been practiced ogy with regard to disaster resilient features. Both of and refined for centuries. Thus Kaski and Jhapa are these districts are easily accessible by road transport and chosen as study site so as to obtain representative hous- also ideal place in terms of indigenous settlements. Jhapa ing technologies in terms of indigenous inputs and asso- has the significant fraction of wooden pillared houses and ciated resilient features learned and incorporated from Fig. 1 Physiographic map of Nepal (Modified from: http://www.johntyman.com/nepal/01.html) Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 5 of 14 past disaster events. Entire Nepal is under grave threat such materials, why they chose particular form of houses of seismic events as Nepal lies in the subduction zone of and what benefits they are observing from such houses. Indian plate beneath the Eurasian plate so the local Identified disasters vis-à-vis prevalent construction tech- housing technologies are studied with respect to earth- nology has been disseminated in this study. Sample quake resilient features and associated construction houses are justified with the disaster resilient techno- technologies. Due to widespread plain land and low logical features and the shortcomings are identified for topographical relief, flood is normally occurred in Jhapa introducing remedies in some extent for future almost every monsoon and due to topographical condi- constructions and strengthening of particular types of tions and gregarious settlements mid-hills may suffer houses. This paper only incorporates the technological from severe loss during earthquakes so Kaski district is aspects of vernacular housing; however sustainability chosen as representative study area. should be compliant with the cultural, social, economic and environmental aspects. Methods Field visits in two of the case study districts (Jhapa and Result and discussions Kaski) were performed and the representative houses Vernacular housing construction technology and were studied. Analysis in terms of the composition, ma- performance of vernacular houses during disasters terials, technology, relevance and sustainability was RC construction in Nepal started only after 1980. How- performed as desk study after collecting data on field. ever, modern RC construction system till date is con- Phenomenological studies in terms of performance dur- centrated only in urban areas and some suburbs. Only ing disasters, non-structured and informal interviews 9.94 % buildings are RC constructions, moreover ce- were performed during the field visits. A comparative ment bonded constructions are 17.57 %, wooden pillars case study approach (Yin 2003) was adopted due to 24.9 %, mud-bonded bricks 44.21 % (Fig. 2) hence the purely explanatory nature of this research. The resilient dominance of non-engineered vernacular constructions features of the houses were disseminated as many as throughout Nepal is well reflected and obvious. Mean- possible during field visits. Non-structured interviews while, as per the wall systems of houses in Nepal, ma- with masons with regard to the construction processes jority fraction of walls is constituted by mud bonded and materials used were performed and interaction with bricks or stones (41.38 %). Other wall systems like local old aged people (as young people and women sel- cement bonded bricks or stones (28.74 %), bamboo dom participate in construction activities), community (20.23 %) and wooden walls (5.31 %) are in significant leaders were also done so as to understand the adapta- fraction (Fig. 3). As most of the houses are concen- tion, endorsement and construction framework of ver- trated in rural neighborhoods of Nepal suggested by nacular houses. In addition to this, informal interactions 83 % population concentration in suburbs and rural with educated people and community leaders, phenom- setups (CBS 2012), majority fraction of wall system is enological observations and desk studies were per- incorporated by mud bonded bricks or stones, bam- formed. As complete understanding of the processes and boo and wooden planks for walls. Cement bonded technologies needs long terms exposure and involve- walls are common in urban and suburban areas. The ment in communities, so this study is only a preliminary roofing system in houses is dominated by galvanized highlight regarding the good practices and justified sheet after 1980 and yet the locally available slate, tile evidences from the past. Detailed numerical analysis and or straw is being extensively used in rural Nepal modeling will be disseminated in future contribution for (Fig. 4). After galvanized sheets, tile slate (26.68 %), understanding the performance behavior of houses. RCC (22.48 %) and thatched straw (19.0.3 %) are While formulating the disaster resilient vernacular common types of roofing systems in Nepal. Notably, dwellings in each physiographic region of Nepal; 15 before the use of galvanized sheet most of the houses representative vernacular houses from Jhapa and 15 used to be covered by thatched/straw roofs. The rein- rounded houses (Ghumauro dhi) from Kaski were taken forced concrete cement roofing system is dominant as case study dwellings as such constructions are domin- only in urban areas, district headquarters, suburbs ant in the specific physiographic regions. The studied and commercial centers. Particular types of houses houses from indigenous communities are chosen in were identified to be undamaged or less damaged study- 15 Rajbanshi houses from Maheshpur village during 1934 Bihar Nepal, 1988 Udaypur and 2015 development committee of Jhapa and 15 Gurung houses Gorkha earthquakes in comparison to other types of from Sarankot village of Kaski districts are studied. houses. Likewise during interviews, the local older While studying those houses owners were interviewed in people from Jhapa remarked that the houses with terms of age of buildings, how they used such technolo- wooden pillars were survived or less damaged during gies, what materials were used and where they obtained 1988 earthquake in Nepal and also those rounded Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 6 of 14 Types of roof Types of Structures 3.55 3.38% RCC 9.94% Galvanized sheet (%) Cement bonded 19.03 28.26 bricks Tile/slate (%) 17.57% Wooden pillar RCC (%) 44.21% Thatched/straw (%) 22.48 Mud bonded bricks Others (%) 26.68 24.90% Others Fig. 4 Distribution of houses as per types of roof in Nepal Fig. 2 Distribution of housing systems as per types of structures in Nepal during several past earthquakes. The features of houses houses were among the good performers during the are analyzed in terms of elemental contribution to holistic same event in Kaski. This is consistent with the de- housing performance to minimize the impact of disaster scription presented by Rana (1935), report compiled events on case by case basis. by JSCE (1989) and study performed by various teams after the 2015 Gorkha earthquake (e.g., Gautam et al. Vernacular housing technology in Terai: floods and 2015). During the great Bihar-Nepal earthquake of earthquake resilience 1934, Jhapa district didn’t suffer from any structural In the Terai region, inundation is common due to plain damage (Rana 1935) though the epicenter was near, terrain having low altitudes. Housing construction in this clearly depicts the resilience of wooden pillared this region is guided by creating a platform up to certain structures during earthquakes. Also, during many height (usually from 1m to 3m) which is unconstructed flood events, those houses with wooden pillars were open and arrangement of the living environment is resilient than other types of houses with their super- started from the first storey above the unconstructed structure started right from the ground surface in the platform (Fig. 5). Due to water logging problems, locally vicinity as per the local people. The 1988 eastern available and dampness resistant heartwood of Shorea Nepal earthquake was devastating event for eastern robusta was found to be used as wooden pillar running Nepal and also Kaski was severely affected during this up to the roof level. Construction in such buildings is event, however there was clear distinction between par- limited to first storey only, however the gable part of ticular types of houses with other common types of houses are isolated by creating a wooden slab or slab houses, as per the local people. It is found that, the constructed using bamboo. Such low height and weight Rajbanshi houses and the rounded Gurung houses are houses constructed with timber elements have sound resilient constructions as depicted by their performance performance during earthquakes due to high ductility and low weight of overall construction. Although, major- ity of houses in Jhapa are found to be constructed of mud bonded bricks or stones (91.99 %), before 1990 very Types of wall few houses were of mud bonded bricks. Beside this, the 4.34 vernacular wooden pillar houses (4.21 %) and cement 5.31 Mud bonded bricks or bonded bricks/stones (3.04 %) are other dominant hous- stones (%) ing types in Jhapa (Fig. 6). Due to availability of timber Cement bonded for construction from the forests of “Sal” Shorea robusta bricks or stones (%) in the vicinity, people used to focus on such housing 41.38 20.23 Bamboo (%) construction and wooden pillared houses were dominant even during the 1988 earthquake. Such housing con- Wood/planks (%) struction was relatively economic practice due to widespread use of local materials in terms of timber 28.74 Others (%) and bamboo. During interaction all of the 15 houses were found to be constructed in less than $500 due Fig. 3 Distribution of houses as per types of wall in Nepal to instant availability of resources during their Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 7 of 14 Fig. 5 Common vernacular Rajbanshi house in Jhapa (Terai) construction time some 20 to 40 years back. The (Fig. 7). As in Fig. 5, walls of majority of the studied technology was locally developed and adopted so local houses were constructed from bamboo ikra (net craftsmanship was effectively used in order to delin- constructed from bamboo sticks tied together). Wall eate the appropriate technology of housing construc- system and partitioning is provided with the ikra tion in Jhapa. During interviews with community having relatively low weight and easy circulation of air as a leaders, it is found that, after the 1988 Udaypur countermeasure against relatively higher temperature than earthquake many of the people from other ethnic any other physiographic regions of Nepal. Thermal com- origins also adopted the similar construction technol- fort in such houses is easily achieved through a wooden ogy so as to reconstruct their houses. This is evi- slab below roof and provision of sufficient openings. dently verified by the significant occurrence of similar These dwellings have mud (48.55 %), galvanized iron types of constructions in many areas of this district. sheets (30.94 %) and wooden planks (16.51 %) as domin- In such vernacular constructions, the wall system is ant roofing materials (Fig. 8). Mud is adopted from the dominated by the mud bonded bricks or stones traditional roofing system for passive solar cooling and (82.32 %) and next to this, wood or planks (9.53 %) heating in comparison to other roofing materials so as are dominant over the vernacular constructions to avoid the burning heat during daytime and prevent followed by cement bonded bricks/stones (7.46 %) the attack of cold waves during winter. Types of structures Wall system 0.28 0.48 0.48 0.21 4.21 Mud bonded 3.04 Mud bonded bricks or bricks/stones (%) stones (%) 9.53 Cement bonded Cement bonded 7.46 bricks/stones (%) bricks or stones (%) Wood/planks (%) RCC (%) Bamboo (%) Wooden pillar (%) 82.32 91.99 Others (%) Unbaked bricks (%) Fig. 6 Distribution of houses as per types of structure in Jhapa Fig. 7 Distribution of houses as per wall system in Jhapa Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 8 of 14 art. The construction technology is not sophisticated Type of roof and doesn’t require specialized manpower; however a simple rectangular construction technology with four to 0.55 0.28 six wooden pillars running from foundation to roof is prevalent in case study area. Such simple and symmetric Thatch/straw (%) construction is also efficient in terms of balancing the Galvanized iron (%) torsional effects during earthquakes. Such appropriate 30.94 Tile/slate (%) technology is guided by earthquake resistant features, 48.55 RCC (%) flood and damping resilience and also to prevent snake Wood/planks (%) attacks. Due to economic constraints new houses were 2.49 also observed to be adopting the similar construction Mud (%) 0.69 16.51 technology in study area. Others (%) Fig. 8 Distribution of houses as per types of roof in Jhapa Vernacular dwellings in hills: earthquake resilience In the mid-hills of Nepal basically the Gurung and About 80 % of precipitation occurs in Nepal from June Magar settlements (indigenous groups in western mid- through September, during this season, the entire Terai hills of Nepal) are dominant. In this region people have region observes inundation problems. While accounting developed a unique tradition of housing construction. such inundation and staying safe from the attacks from These are called as Ghumauro dhi locally. The rounded epidemics and snake attack and thermal comfort structures (Fig. 9) constructed from stone masonry with through proper air circulation additionally; local people countable fraction of timber elements are excellent ex- usually prefer such construction since early settlement amples in earthquake resilient features (SDMC 2008; stages. The local older respondents remarked that dur- Gautam 2015b). While selecting the timbers, it has been ing past time there used to be severe cases of floods so noticed during field visit, heartwood (“Agrakh” as per local that ground storied houses were found to be problematic people) from local trees was found to be used for major in order to reside and also there used to be frequent components like timber posts and rafters. Ghumauro dhi attacks of snakes and other predatory species as well, is a symmetrical circular construction, usually one to two evidently it was found true for some of the ethnic com- storied where timber elements are introduced in the form munities who have cultural restriction to construct more of openings, slabs and struts at various levels. than one storied house or constructing a platform before The overall distribution of houses in Kaski shows the starting first storey. In order to overcome such calam- dominance of mud bonded bricks or stones (91.99 %) ities, present technologies were developed some 40 years followed by wooden pillar constructions (4.21 %) and ce- back as per the respondents’ argument. This is an instru- ment/mud bonded bricks or stones (3.04 %) (Fig. 10). mental depiction of local people so as to enhance the The studied houses fall under the category of mud resilience in local level with local materials and state-of- bonded stone houses. As per the local people, majority Fig. 9 Common vernacular dwelling in western mid-hill (Kaski) of Nepal Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 9 of 14 Type of roof Types of structures 0.28 0.55 0.28 4.21 0.48 3.04 Thatch/straw (%) Mud bonded bricks or stones (%) Galvanized iron (%) 30.94 Cement bonded Tile/slate (%) bricks or stones (%) RCC (%) RCC (%) Wood/planks (%) 2.49 Mud (%) Wooden pillar (%) 0.69 16.51 Others (%) 91.99 Others (%) Fig. 12 Distribution of houses as per type of roof in Kaski Fig. 10 Distribution of houses as per type of structures in Kaski homogenous roofing. The stone units were ultimately found to be connected with purlins so as to stick better of the indigenous settlements in Kaski follow the similar and prevent from falling. The subsequent load reduction pattern of housing units with exception to some modern while constructing upper parts of buildings was identi- constructions. These houses have dominant mud bonded fied as one of the most unique feature leading to earth- bricks or stone walls (82.32 %) as façade, and wooden quake resistant construction practice, which is also planks as facade (9.53 %) and cement bonded brick endorsed by modern building codes. Wooden pegs were façade (7.46 %) are also significantly practiced in Kaski found to be commonly deployed for tying the various district (Fig. 11). However, the vernacular construction is materials and rafter of the roof in such houses. The ever-dominating the other construction technologies openings were found to be smaller so that majority of and typology of structures in terms of wall systems. the load bearing walls is covered by wall units contribut- Availability of local resources like stones, timber, straw ing in better structural integrity. In such constructions, and mud-mortar has effectively contributed in economic pancake destruction and soft storey problems are never constructions, development of local economy as well as observed due to presence of wooden bands in lintel level investment and employment opportunities in local level or sill level, so sometimes such features perform better consequently supporting the livelihoods in local level. than deficient RC structures (e.g., Langenbach 2010). Such houses in the case study site were found to be of Locally, people provide sill band (“Nas”) which has around 50-150 years of age and the construction cost significant contribution in avoiding the out of plane was ranging from $100 to $300 at that time. collapse. Roofing in such construction is usually provided with During past events like the 1934 Bihar-Nepal and the the locally available mud (48.54 %), galvanized iron 1988 Udaypur earthquakes and recently during 2015 (30.94 %), and tile/slate (2.49 %) (Fig. 12). In the study Gorkha earthquake, damage was particularly less in such area, all 15 houses were with seasoned stones properly constructions due to symmetry and low rise construc- tied with iron wires assuring integral framework of tion (Rana 1935; JSCE 1989; Gautam et al. 2015). The mainstreamed load transfer mechanism for the cantilev- ered portion of such houses is found to be facilitated by the struts, as these struts have directed the outward load Wall system into the load bearing walls. The rounded structures have 0.21 a coinciding center of gravity and center of rigidity 0.48 Mud bonded avoiding possible torsional phenomenon during earth- bricks/stones (%) 9.53 quakes. Foundation leveling is found to be ensured Cement bonded 7.46 through construction of stone plinths for strapped foun- bricks/stones (%) dation and hence the sloped terrains was even consisting Wood/planks (%) the leveled foundations. Bamboo (%) Shortcomings of vernacular constructions 82.32 In local construction practice of hilly region, the binding Unbaked bricks (%) material used is mud mortar which is the prime cause leading to lack of structural integrity and poor bonding Fig. 11 Distribution of houses as per wall system in Kaski of housing units. There can be seen cracks on walls due Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 10 of 14 to uneven settlements after construction. Such cracks others during past events has proven the efficacy of ver- can serve as stress concentration points and the effect nacular houses (Boen 2001; Decanini et al. 2004; Gulkan could be detrimental during earthquakes. If timber and Langenbach 2004; Bothara et al. 2007; Winarno et al. structures are constructed, good resilience against earth- 2008; Amirrol 2010; Gautam 2014, Ortega et al. 2015; quake effects could be ensured. In Terai region, people Gautam and Rodrigues 2015). In this regard cultural as- usually construct their houses beside or within the ar- pects and local resource led economic and appropriate able land as entire Terai region has relatively plain relief constructions are incorporated in most of the indigenous throughout and most of the population is dependent in settlements. Though there are some shortcomings of ver- agricultural practices with regular irrigation in cultivated nacular houses, however such shortcomings could be eas- lands. This practice has created problem in rapid decay ily overcome by implementing some countermeasures as of wooden columns for the sapwood pillars so proper se- suggested and incorporated by the Bureau of Indian lection of timber is instrumental in assuring the per- Standard (BIS 2012). In order to assure life and property, formance of houses in long run. In this regard, people Nepal urgently needs some frameworks for strengthening may get better site in relatively higher topographical relief and retrofitting techniques for the vernacular houses thus in case of availability or use drains around the houses so the economic constructions could be carried on. Beside as to avoid inundation. Such techniques may be beneficial this, the cultural dimensions are nevertheless addressed for people to adopt and enhance the life span of houses. by modern RC and steel construction technologies, so in In the other hand, during the field visit it is observed that order to assure culturally sound and disaster resilient heartwood timber used for timber framing was remark- neighbourhoods; some guidelines are to be formulated in- ably less affected by the groundwater so proper selection corporating the prevalent disasters in local scales. The cost of timber frames is crucial in vernacular houses of Terai. of construction is usually high for modern RC buildings As the strengthening and retrofitting methods of vernacu- so it would be rational to promote the vernacular con- lar houses have been seldom discussed in Nepal except structions both in order to preserve cultural aspects as few cases (e.g., Bothara and Brzev 2012), such structures well as for economic construction. There is severe de- need immediate attention due to the fact that majority of struction in rural houses during 2015 Gorkha earthquake structures are vernacular non-engineered ones and are be- (Fig. 13) so reconstruction should be guided by the earth- ing used for very long time. Attention towards construc- quake resistant features in local level, however there is tion technologies and capacity building of local masons negligible damage in timber framed (Fig. 14) and rounded haven’t been implemented so people are obliged to follow houses (Fig. 15) in western Nepal so these lessons should traditional construction technologies only. Juxtaposition be thoroughly incorporated. Beside these, proper identifi- of modern findings and verified vernacular elements cation and verification of disaster resilient technologies within such constructions could be pivotal in ensuring are urgently needed. Meanwhile, some strengthening mea- disaster resilience in rural Nepal. sures are also needed for the survived houses which have observed minor damages. As the vernacular construc- Future insight tions would continue for ages, it would be imperative to As majority fractions of Nepalese buildings are guided incorporate the identified features employing some add- by the vernacular construction aspects and technologies, itional resilient characteristics and elements in new con- their performance and technological resilience largely structions. For this capacity building is necessary and determine the loss of life and property in case of disaster should reach upto the local communities. In order to events. Vernacular housing technology is the most cost- construct/reconstruct culturally appropriate and to as- effective practice which utilizes the local workmanship sure patrimony, promotion and enhancement of local and materials and also endorses the cultural dimensions technology could be effectively utilized in Nepal. In of indigenous and local people as well. In this regard, building codes, the blended framework of verified resili- appropriate technologies are justified in terms of eco- ent features along with recently developed technical as- nomic efficacy and cultural endorsement. Beyond this, pects should be incorporated to preserve cultural with regard to comfort and lessons from the past events, dimensions of local people so that resilient and cultur- vernacular constructions are the products of continuous ally soundconstructions wouldbepromotedmore.As trial and errors, incorporating many features that are there are many paradigms in the world hinged with such resilient aginst particular type of disasters. While incorp- blending and their performance is justified as well, like in orating countermeasures against several risks and their Dhajji construction (UN Habitat and National Disaster impacts, vernacular technologies are developed and found Management Authority, Pakistan 2009) Nepal could prag- across the world. The performance of Dhajji-dewari, Nias, matically endorse and reinforce sustainable construction/ Himis, LambanTuha, Pombalino, Newari Chhen, Casa reconstruction mechanism using insights from perform- Baracada, Bhungas, Batak, Lombok, Tasikmalaya, among ance of vernacular houses. Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 11 of 14 Fig. 13 Completely collapsed dry stone masonry houses in entire neighborhood of western Nepal after 2015 Gorkha earthquake Conclusion earthquake resistant features like symmetrical construc- Honed by continuous trial and error and juxtaposing the tion, high ductility, proper binding of housing units, experiences of past events, vernacular technology has among others. Such features were developed from con- appreciably contributed in terms of resilience and sus- tinuous trial and error efforts after several past disaster tainable construction in suburban and rural Nepal. Use events. In the case of hills, people have developed a of local materials, manpower and technology has tradition of one to two storied constructions with brought a unique trend of construction in Nepal in proper use of symmetrical rounded configuration. terms of vernacular technology. Each physiographic Earthquake resilient technology is proven through im- unit has own tradition of vernacular dwellings. In Terai, plementation of elements like struts, timber bands, low people seek some dimensions of construction with re- storey height and smaller openings, mainstreamed can- gard to flood resilience primarily, so they have been tilevered load on structural walls, subsequent load re- constructing houses with raised platform. Such houses duction in upper stories, proper connection of roof with raised platform are usually of one to two storied with other structural system, among others. Leveled and having less weight. Thermal comfort is also en- foundation is also a characteristic practice in hills even sured through use of locally casted partitioning mate- if the terrain is not leveled. Nepal, being an underdevel- rials. Relatively durable timber like Shorea robusta oped country, has weak framework of disaster resilient (“Agrakh”) is used for such construction. The housing construction and execution in rural setups and suburbs. technology also incorporates many aspects of Even in the urban areas, the NBC is surpassed by the Fig. 14 A house with timber lacing and corner posts in the same stretch of western Nepal which survived during 1988 and 2015 earthquakes Gautam et al. Geoenvironmental Disasters (2016) 3:1 Page 12 of 14 Fig. 15 A 150 years old rounded house in western Nepal survived during 1934, 1988 and 2015 earthquakes without any damage Indian Standard codes of practice due to high depend- Authors’ contributions DG and JP collected the data and went for field study. KVP, KKB and ence of NBC into IS code. Thus, it is obvious that, PN suggested on methodology and did data analyses. DG, JP and KVP there is lack of proper mechanism to govern the local prepared first draft and KKB and PN modified and enriched the text construction technology. People have developed them- with research relevance. KKB and PN also enhanced the research framework and engrossed the analysis. All five authors read and selves some unique features of construction which are approved the final manuscript. proven to be earthquake resilient against prevalent di- sasters of small to medium scales. There are still several Acknowledgement Authors express sincere gratitude to Mr. Randolph Langenbach things lagging in vernacular construction technology, (conservationtech, USA), Mr. Rabindra Prajapati (civil engineer), Prof. Ranjan beside this the remarkable features from vernacular Kumar Dahal (Tribhuvan University), Prof. GS Bhardwaj (India) and Mr. Kshitij practice might be instrumental in governing and assur- Thebe for providing us valuable feedbacks and information. Special thanks go to the respondents and interviewee during field visits. The constructive ing disaster resilient construction technology econom- comments from two referees are sincerely acknowledged. ically and locally in greater extent. People, if devised with regard to the remarkable features of such con- Author details Structural and Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Kathmandu, struction and provided with some additional low cost Nepal. Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, Kathmandu, features like lateral supports (buttresses), improved Government of Nepal. Partido State University, Goa, Philippines. local binding materials, configuration, site selection, Received: 8 June 2015 Accepted: 4 February 2016 among others; resilience could be remarkably en- hanced. Such construction framework would be surely cost-effective due to use of local materials and also cul- References turally sound through reflection of local customs repli- Afshar, A., W. Alaghbari, E. Salleh, and A. Salim. 2012. Affordable housing design with application of vernacular architecture in Kish Island, Iran. International Journal of cated in households. Many of the global paradigms Housing Markets and Analysis 5(1): 89–107. doi:10.1108/17538271211206680. have shown remarkable performance of vernacular Ahmed, I. 2011. 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Ancient vernacular architecture: characteristics categorization and energy performance evaluation. Energy and Buildings 42(2010): 357–365. Submit your manuscript to a journal and benefi t from: 7 Convenient online submission 7 Rigorous peer review 7 Immediate publication on acceptance 7 Open access: articles freely available online 7 High visibility within the fi eld 7 Retaining the copyright to your article Submit your next manuscript at 7 springeropen.com

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