Nepal : 7.5 magnitude earthquake strikes. How can we help rebuild such a place?

Is there anything that we can do to help rebuild Nepal and its surrounding neighbors and regions? As a collection of architects, with friends all over the world and from many disciplines, can we get together a fund and a program that specifically seeks to help places in desperate need for help? 

Casualties tend to be  incredibly high in many of these areas when disaster strikes because they have not reinforced for lateral forces, generally speaking. In the last century, North America and countries around the world have managed to create the safest cities to be in if/when an earthquake will strike. More often than not, it came at great expense to the aesthetic richness and diversity of culture. For a country with such an identifiable and still very relevant heritage, an economy reliant on tourism, can we help rebuild a safer Nepal and keep their heritage and tradition intact?

I think we can. Any ideas on how to get started, who to contact? Does an effective avenue already exist?

Please take a moment to answer, openly and honestly:

Does anyone think that we, as a profession, have a duty to help those in need?

Apr 25, 15 10:48 am

You should see the HBO program on the aftermath of aid to Haiti.

There is systemic corruption in how aid is delivered and a whole host of concomitant problems.

My best guess would be something outside of the normal channels that used local materials and methods.

Apr 26, 15 2:31 pm

Erin Lani: I really appreciate your concern. I also think that we as architects have more to contribute in these kinds of situations, I mean more than just giving donations. We are getting news that the death toll has exceeded 3600. We are still in shock. Most of us are with our families as the tremors are still coming (yesterday were hit with 6.7 richter magnitude aftershock). People are scared to dead that these aftershocks may hit again of similar magnitude. So most of the people here are are staying outdoors 24/7 in open public areas and even in streets. And the weather hasn't been in our favor either. People were sleeping out without proper shelter and it was raining last night. 

I also really want to help. I am still figuring out how I could contribute. I would really like to brainstorm with other architects out there with an effective solution.

Right now I'm thinking of assembling a team of architects, doctors, etc. I talked to my architect and doctor friends who are willing to help but not sure how be most effective. We can probably start a project and fund it using I'm open to any suggestions....

I am even willing to quit my day job if I have to.

And Lye__Nerd____Sky__Nerd is also right. You should be really careful before donating.


Apr 27, 15 3:04 am

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Apr 27, 15 8:07 am
Non Sequitur

I am sure Sean Penn has us covered.

Apr 27, 15 8:23 am
Jesus, Carerra. That's way uncalled for.
Apr 27, 15 8:32 am

Shigeru Ban to the rescue! I sense another Pritzker in his future! Also, I have it on good authority that the earthquake opened up a large vein of gold on Mt. Everest, so Hillary Clinton's brother will be right there emoting with the best of them.

Apr 27, 15 8:36 am

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Apr 27, 15 9:04 am

Carerra, you really shouldn't drink and post. Especially at 8 am.

Apr 27, 15 9:05 am

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Apr 27, 15 9:14 am

financial aid, security support where possible, and blood drives were offered by other countries to the US after 9/11.  red cross donations are international, and obviously the red cross was there to help anyone they could on 9/11.  america's need for financial assistance was also obviously considerably less than nepal's current need because we have enough money to repair our infrastructure and rebuild.

the united states wasn't the only, or even the first, to show up with help this time either.  this article says india, china, and pakistan were first to mobilize.

just because you don't like poor people or people who work for a living doesn't mean you should be stupid.

obviously the people of nepal weren't able to offer a lot of financial assistance after 9/11 due in part to relatively high poverty rates, unemployment, and underdeveloped infrastructure.  it seems they were making a lot of progress over the past several years, but this will  likely set that back.

high unemployment, high poverty rates, and underdeveloped infrastructure are probably why they don't build to the same codes we do as well.  in addition to that, i would point out that many archinect forum followers and posters are not american, so your ethnocentric view isn't really as appropriate in this context as it would be at your local starbucks.

to effectively help in a disaster situation like this, i think you need planning and training long before the disaster hits.  what they need now are trained first responders to help locate anyone who can be saved.  then they need medical help, and perhaps some sort of infrastructure like a mobile hospital that can treat those who need immediate assistance.  also lots of clean water.  i would think if you just show up, you'll likely get in the way and cause more harm than good.  there are relief organizations who have planned mobilization efforts to get people and supplies where they need to be as efficiently as they can. 

i'm not sure how you could help with the immediate needs of people sleeping in the streets without adequate shelter.  tents and blankets are being brought in from the international relief groups, so it may just be a matter of trying to get the supplies to the right places.

if you want to help people in future disasters, i would try to find some of these groups and ask them what you can do

Apr 27, 15 9:55 am

an immediate architecture response group would be a good idea...even if its just a matter of helping to construct temporary shelters from found materials, tarps, tents, etc...not aware of any such organization...

Apr 27, 15 10:50 am

also, donating goods is probably a better tactic than donating money.. 

Apr 27, 15 10:52 am

As President my second order will be to retool the US military into a global humanitarian aid force designed specifically to restore (rather than destroy) infrastructure, provide health services, etc.

Apr 27, 15 10:52 am

jla, i think one of the biggest problems these relief organizations face is logistics.  ultimately it's going to be easier for them to get a truckload of bottled water than it is for them to get that truck where it needs to go, especially if the airports and roads are damaged.

if you donate 100 cases of bottled water in, let's say new york or wherever you are, then they need to combine your 100 cases of bottled water with a bunch of other people's cases of bottled water, put it on a truck, get it in on a plane, find a way to get the plane to land, find a way to get the truck to move......

if you give them money, they can buy a truck full of bottled water already wrapped on palettes from the bottled water people, preferably from a source closer to the catastrophe, and cut out a good portion of the expense and delay.  donating goods makes you feel better because there is less chance for graft and corruption, but it is about the least efficient thing you could do if you're concerned about the first response.  people will need water in a couple weeks too, so it helps, but the immediate need is to get them resources as fast as possible.

Apr 27, 15 11:04 am

AIA Disaster Assistance Program

While necessarily focused on domestic disasters, this program has, in the past, provided assistance off shore, such as in connection with the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Apr 27, 15 11:06 am

There seems to be a notion that architects are somehow special. That architecture is the solution to natural disasters, social unrest, political inequality, etc... Unfortunately architects are just regular people too. What we do is limited to the budget of our clients. It would be nice if it wasn't that way.

Apr 27, 15 11:10 am

architects are just regular people, but it takes regular people to solve problems created by natural disasters, social unrest, political inequality, etc.

Apr 27, 15 11:15 am

Yes that's what I meant, it doesn't have to be an architectural solution. So don't single out architects, instead ask "what can we as people do?"

Apr 27, 15 11:22 am

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Apr 27, 15 11:24 am

Rajan, I'm so sorry that you and yours are facing this. The news reports we are getting in the US sound very bad, with everyone afraid to go indoors and the weather not good for being outside.

Erin, to your question, yes, I believe that architects have a duty to help, specifically when it comes to lack of shelter. Lack of shelter appears to be a significant issue in Nepal right now. But as others have said, the logistics of getting needed supplies to the right places are typically far beyond the architect's expertise, which is why, as Western architects/humans, we are likely more helpful donating money, to reputable organizations.

Outside of moments of crisis, architects have worked on projects like temporary shelters that are flat-pack so easy to ship and erect, or shelter solutions that use local building techniques and materials so they will be easily achievable in situ. But the danger of thinking we are swooping in with a solution that appears good but ends up being useless because it completely ignores local conditions is high.


Apr 27, 15 11:50 am

Definitely think this forum should stick to architecture

now pair that statement with

Well, one of the great things about this forum is that it prompts me to look things up and learn.

we should definitely step outside our comfort zone to try to understand how the larger world works, and what our role can be.  if you haven't read this on archinect

that's the legacy you're leaving behind.  if you want to help the next generation, there's the mistakes you made and that's what needs fixing.  helping to build housing in developing countries is great, but it would be far better to develop an economy where working for a living is a viable path to improving your life.  they shouldn't need governments and large corporations to build them houses, the should be getting paid fair wages so they can build their own houses.  that's off topic though.

Apr 27, 15 11:57 am

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Apr 27, 15 12:27 pm

So we should just unilaterally impose our economic system and standard on the less-developed world?

Oh, wait, we already do.

Apr 27, 15 1:19 pm

NOTE: Everyone should just ignore Carrera's ignorant comments... (Would be nice for a moderator to delete/ban Carrera from this post as well since their opinion bares no relevance and has created a distraction from Erin's sincere post about potential architectural assistance in this time of tragedy)


In my opinion, international aid definitely helps out in the short term, but ideally, firms from around the world would team with local design groups and take on small humanitarian projects that aim to recreate forms from the past in a way that they restore the architectural history of the region while also ensuring designs are structurally sound to withstand future seismic activity.

Apr 27, 15 4:12 pm
Non Sequitur

Ban Carrera? That's a little harsh.

Aalok, nice double post, 15min apart.

Apr 27, 15 4:20 pm

I would be excited to design/research/model/draw/ect. ect. something like Shigeru Ban has done after many disasters... It'd have to be remotely since constraints hold me to the USA, sadly.  Shigeru/Mass design/ect ect should have an online portal where people could tune in to a WebEx/Google Wave (RIP)/or some project management tool where task could be split up... kind of like the open source community behind stuff like Ubuntu.

Apr 27, 15 7:21 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

I read the AIA breakdown of the 3 stages an architect can assist in, thanks quizzical. I see the third most appropriate for most of us, especially those of us who can't be there. ......long term recovery.......rajan, an open source solution wiki kind of thing would be good. for instance you could tell us what the typical building products would be and the incoming stream of such products and then we could quickly provide short term architectural solutions and long term infrastructure integration solutions........give us a kit of parts and we shoot back 3d assembly guideline, like Ikea instructions for furniture etc.....

Apr 27, 15 9:01 pm

 I do agree with Erin  that our economy is reliant on tourism, so perhaps whatever is left of the remaining cultural heritage, we should make them earthquake proof . I know some of the heritage in Patan Durbar Square (particularly Patan museum)  were made resilient by using newer technology. Perhaps we could save whatever is remaining from future mishaps. I believe that restoration should be a huge priority.

Regarding rebuilding efforts, the maximum damage happened in the villages where houses were not reinforced, so perhaps think of a sustainable and affordable method for construction. I do like what they did in Haiti as an example.for rebuilding.

As for contacts, I did a part time with department of Architecture in Institute of Engineering in Kathmandu and some of the teachers there are doing conservation work . They would  also be resourceful in local building technology and materials. 

Apr 28, 15 3:04 am

Hi all,

I have talked with Shigeru ban architects and they said they're planing to build tents for medical personals in first phase, which is a great thing. Further there few others architecture organizations that I'll be coordinating. 

 I think we should put our expertise in rebuilding structures that are quick to assemble, a safe guard from weather and have basic amenities.

Signing off for now. 1% charge and no electricity 

Apr 28, 15 7:41 am

give us a kit of parts and we shoot back 3d assembly guideline, like Ikea instructions for furniture etc.....

Apr 28, 15 11:47 am

Curtkram, I agree that we would require basic facilities like mobile health centers, mobile toilets and clean water supply. We should avoid epidemics at all costs. We don't want another cholera outbreak, like in Haiti.
Thank you Quizzical for the AIA link.
SpatialSojourner, I really like your idea of an open portal where local architects could just tune in and start the construction. This might be a quicker way to rebuild as there are villages that require assistance. 
Pooja dd, for right now we are in the Emergency stage and moving towards Relief, as per AIA Disaster Assistance Program. Although we are deeply saddened by the destruction of our cultural heritages, we should keep in mind that there are people without shelter and need assistance. 
My major concern is that most of us (here in Nepal) do not have any experience in disaster assistance. So, if architects like Shigeru Ban pitches in on this it would be great.
Sagar, I think that was a good move.

P.S. - Aalok if you have any plans to come to Nepal during this crisis just shoot me an email. 

Apr 28, 15 2:15 pm

AIA Disaster Assistance Program Responds to Nepal Earthquake:


Apr 28, 15 2:26 pm

I agree with Aalok.

International aid definitely helps in the short term. But this initial period of unrest and homelessness is very crucial and needs to be dealt with.

People affected by natural calamities(tsunami)  while recounting their stories, vividly remember the disaster itself but they say it was short-lived and worst came after the disaster itself while waiting for houses to be built.

These temporary shelters, sadly, are not as temporary as one might think.In the south, when the tsunami struck, entire villages lived in tents made of tarpaulin sheets under the scorching sun for over 2 years before they got their allotted houses.The temporary shelters should be constructed carefully to ease the trauma in whatever minuscule way we can. 

Hasty and badly planned contractor driven construction can displace and destroy entire villages and their livelihoods. This is why design groups should come together resolve critical planning issues while being sensitive to the people and the land. Owner driven construction is the only way to reconstruct these places.

Apr 29, 15 2:54 am

Few updates from ground here.

Visited a village of Sangha in Lalitpur with a group of people with reliefs for affected people out there. We had tarpaulins, few rice sacks, mats, snacks and water. Since most of the houses were either build from mud or stone, most of them seems to have been damaged. Even the recent ones they constructed were damaged and they had to sleep outside. 

The basic shelter they had were tarpaulin, that were provided by us. This is the most distributed material throughout Nepal. But I think this is not a solution for a long term. The locals were complaining that it's not strong enough to hold up-drift winds and even rains. They didn't had much covering in the grounds, so when it rained, it got wet inside, and they had a a bad time inside.

Even I had a first hand experience of this tarpaulin  We had to stay in an open compound with all the people standing with their hands up to act as a pole, just to direct all the water outside. We had to tap once in a while as water was accumulating in pockets. It was a horrible experience.

Today, we're brainstorming ways to find the best solution to make shelters out of tarpaulins / bamboos / ropes with minimum resources. If you happen to have experience in this, it would be great. 

Next, I've been in touch with Shigeru Ban Architects and waiting to hear back from them. They plan to build tents for medical supplies, which I think would be a great idea. Further we heard from a group of architects from Italy, they're interesting in rebuilding project.

I feel we need more teams on-board who have experience in these similar situations and can act efficiently. As in one of our internal meeting, someone said that, "This is something SEXY unfortunate event and everyone wants to contribute ". I quite agree with this. I don't think this is the right time to experiment but rather put one's experience directly to the field. 

We're open to collaborations but we need experts on board. 

Let me know.

P.S Tomorrow we're delivering goods to the affected areas. And, we plan to do so for few days.  So if you wish to donate, please let me know. I can guarantee that it will be totally transparent. 

Apr 30, 15 11:56 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

tarpaulin, bamboo, ropes

Apr 30, 15 9:42 pm

One thing we all need to be vigilant for is the theft of precious antiquities, sadly some of the aid workers and other foreigners drawn to such disaster often pocket a small fragment or outright pillage art and artifacts. 

I hope bordering nations and the US China and India are coordinating efforts to prevent theft

Over and OUT

Peter N

May 1, 15 1:41 pm

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