Sustainable (Re)Building in Post-Earthquake Nepal

The 2015 earthquakes in Nepal left widespread destruction and loss of life in their wake. They also presented an opportunity to rebuild safer and more sustainably. Martin Hammer, architect and co-director of Builders Without Borders (BWB), led a team to design and build a prototype building with its Nepali partner organization to do just that. ‘Paral Ko Ghar’, the first straw bale house in Nepal, is 1.5 stories with a multi-purpose attic, modeled after the traditional rural Nepali house. In addition to a seismically tested straw bale wall system developed for post-earthquake Pakistan, the building utilizes structural bamboo, straw-clay, lime-stabilized earthen floors, split bamboo lath, clay-lime, lime, and clay plasters.

Martin Hammer and Mark Jensen – lead builder, with extensive natural building experience in the US, on US tribal land, and in Kenya – will guide you through this project, used to train local builders while the BWB team members learned equally about Nepali ways of building. Context will be provided with an overview of the earthquake, Nepali culture and society, and descriptions of other sustainable building systems such as compressed earth blocks and earthbag that have been utilized more broadly in the rebuilding effort.

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Oct 21 2023


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Breakout Sessions


Shining Mountain Waldorf: Music Room


Martin Hammer and Mark Jensen


  • Mark Jensen
    Mark Jensen
    Builders Without Borders member, Professional Builder

    Mark Jensen has spent the last two decades building and teaching others the ins and outs of straw bale construction, healthy building material choices and renewable energy options. He worked as the Construction Program Director for the nonprofit Red Feather Development Group for nine years on Indian Reservations throughout the west; teaching volunteers and tribal members every step of construction as they built a home for a local tribal family. Mark’s ability to teach others has also taken him to Kenya and most recently Nepal to teach straw bale construction as a form of safe, healthy and affordable housing.

    It is very important for Mark to continue to give back to the communities that are an integral part of his life and that have given him so much. Annually Mark makes several pro bono trips to reservations in the west offering up his skills to better other people’s living conditions.

  • Martin Hammer
    Martin Hammer
    Architect, Co-Director - Builders Without Borders

    Martin Hammer is an architect in California and co-director of Builders Without Borders.

    Throughout his 35-year career he has emphasized sustainable building design, including passive and active solar design, with particular focus on the design, testing, and construction of straw bale buildings. He has written and lectured widely on the subject, including as a contributing author of the book Design of Straw Bale Buildings and CASBA’s Straw Bale Building Details.

    Since 2001 Martin has worked to include sustainable building materials and systems in building codes. He is lead or co-author of five appendices in the International Residential Code (IRC): Appendix AS – Strawbale Construction, Appendix AR – Light Straw-Clay Construction, Appendix AU Cob Construction (Monolithic Adobe), Appendix AQ – Tiny Houses, and Appendix BA Hemp-Lime (Hempcrete) Construction. He has also worked to revise the adobe provisions in the International Building Code (IBC).

    In 2006-2007 Martin helped introduce straw bale construction to earthquake-affected Pakistan with Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building (PAKSBAB). He was extensively involved in post-earthquake Haiti (2010-2013), including reconnaissance with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, historic preservation with the World Monuments Fund, and sustainable rebuilding with Builders Without Borders (BWB), including Haiti’s first straw bale building. From 2015-2019 Martin led a BWB team in rebuilding sustainably in post-earthquake Nepal. He is co-author of A Strawbale Building Tutorial: For High Seismic Regions of the Developing World.

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