In Nepal, access to education doesn’t just improve job prospects — schools can save lives, whether it’s rescuing children from malnourishment or delaying the age of marriage to reduce rates of HIV, maternal death and suicide. That’s why American nonprofit BlinkNow has dedicated itself to building community infrastructure in Surkhet, Nepal, including the Kopila Valley School. Powered entirely by solar energy and built of rammed earth walls, the campus is billed by the founders as the “greenest school in Nepal.”

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courtyards outside rammed earth school buildings

Located on three acres of land, the recently opened Kopila Valley School serves more than 400 students from nursery through 12th grade. The campus was built to expand on the nonprofit’s existing primary school and create a safe and nurturing environment that is not only a place of learning (with school uniforms and books provided), but also offers children nutritious meals, basic medical and dental care and after-school activities, such as sports and cooking classes. The school employs more than 100 Nepalese teachers and administrators. The campus also includes a Mental Health and Counseling Center, the Kopila Valley Health Clinic, a tutoring room, a computer lab, a stage and a small library.

stone staircases leading up to rammed earth buildings

teacher working with students

Sustainability is at the forefront of the campus design. Locally sourced rammed earth, chosen for superior thermal mass and temperature control, was used to construct the 18-inch-thick walls reinforced with steel bars for stability and earthquake resilience and a small amount of PPC cement to protect against dampness during monsoon season. Natural ventilation and lighting were also optimized in the positioning of the buildings and windows, while covered terraces at southern-facing walls provide shade. The campus is 100 percent solar-powered with a 25.2 kWp solar PV system and a 20 kVA off-grid battery system.

Related: UK architect helps locals rebuild Nepal temple destroyed by earthquake

person harvesting leafy greens

views of courtyards from upper level balcony

A 300,000-liter underground cistern stores rainwater harvested from the rooftops that is filtered for potable use. The landscaping and permeable paving ensure rainwater is also used to replenish the groundwater system. All wastewater is treated on site with constructed wetlands and then recycled. Gray water from sinks is used to flush the toilets; black water is filtered for plant irrigation; solids are converted in a pressurized tank into biogas fuel for cooking. Solar cookers are also used for cooking.

+ BlinkNow

Images by Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi, via BlinkNow

stone walkway and trees beside a school