|Karma Sonam, chief engineer for school construction in the Bhutan Ministry of Education, recently spent time on the Maharishi University of Management campus to learn more about green construction, Maharishi Vastu®architecture, and sustainability.|
Sustainable Living faculty member Lonnie Gamble and Maharishi University of Management legal counsel William Goldstein first met Mr. Sonam while visiting Bhutan last fall to explore collaborations between Maharishi University of Management (MUM) and Bhutan and to assist them in building sustainable schools.
Bhutan is noted for its Gross National Happiness Index, which the government uses to guide and assess all policies in the country. The index has 9 domains and 72 indicators and requires, for example, that food be organic and energy be renewable.
“There is a real synergy of values between MUM and Bhutan,” Mr. Gamble said. MUM is exploring options such as a six-month course in sustainability in Bhutan and a course that studies the concept and application of Gross National Happiness.
“It’s an ideal location to study sustainability,” Mr. Gamble said. “Gross National Happiness is the core of the curriculum, and the schools will be centers of sustainability and will serve as models. All the schools there actually have organic farms.”
While on campus, Mr. Sonam attended the Transcending Sustainability conference in late May, which was organized by the University’s Sustainable Living department and drew people from around the country. In addition, he and Mr. Gamble visited green schools in Iowa and met with top architects in Des Moines and other cities to get design ideas for schools and to discuss implementing aspects such as energy efficiency and passive solar design. They also attended an energy conference in Cedar Rapids.
“My goal is to be exposed to new concepts and to see what we can implement in Bhutan,” said Mr. Sonam, whose responsibilities include onsite management of the construction of the schools. Mr. Sonam said he felt at home at MUM and enjoyed meeting people from all over the world.
With the help of the Maharishi University of Management’s Sustainable Living department, Bhutan is planning to begin constructing its first sustainable school house this fall, at an elevation of 16,000 feet in the Himalayas.