The Sagarmatha Next centre is an innovation hub that strives to promote sustainable tourism in Sagarmatha National Park. The construction of the centre, composed of five buildings and outdoor space, took about four years. Aligned to our purpose, we aimed to incorporate sustainable construction methods that made the construction process unique.
Here we will share our experience working with wood at such altitude as to build the centre. The carpentry works complement the stone masonry works, and together they give a structurally strong and aesthetically appealing building. If you’ve read our stone masonry blog, this blog is the continuation. If you haven’t yet, check out the intricate process at 3,775 meters here.
Carpentry at Sagarmatha Next
Carpentry is a method of construction in which primary wood is cut, shaped, and installed in the structure of a building. We used wood to build the structural tie-bands, the trusses to hold the roofs, and the door and window frames.
Working with wood at these great heights, with limited resources, climatic challenges, and execution of complex designs, wasn’t easy. However, the hard work and sheer determination of our skilled team brought life into the architectural vision.
1st step - Wood procurement, transportation, and storage
We aimed to use local materials for the construction of our centre as much as possible. However, we could not outsource wood in the surroundings, given that our centre is situated within the Sagarmatha National Park. We choose to use pinewood and sal wood as both can be easily acquired in Nepal. Pinewood was procured from the lower Khumbu region while sal wood was brought from Kathmandu.
Sal wood was brought to Salleri by trucks, and then along with the pinewood, transported to the site via helicopters. Whenever we had the chance to use an empty aircraft, the wood was flown to Lukla and then carried to the site by the team.
Once the wood reached the site, we stored it until it was required in the construction. To protect it against rain falls, we covered it with tarpaulin sheets to protect.
2nd step - Making of tie-bands
Wooden tie bands strengthen the stone buildings. By placing them at equal intervals in the walls, the tie bands help to transfer the load to the ground. To create the tie bands, our skilled workers used the only means of hand tools. Besides, some bands needed to be placed at complex angles, which our team successfully achieved.
Basic drawings and dimensions were available, but the team needed to prepare the bands based on actual site conditions and the stone wall beneath them. To achieve this, the coordination between the stonemasons and the carpenters was critical. The stonemasons dressed and prepared the stones for the wooden bands to be installed, and layer after layer both teams together formed the walls.
3rd step - Making of trusses
Making the trusses was one of the most challenging parts of the entire construction process. Firstly, we had limited options on the sizes of wood that we could transport. Therefore, we had to make the required size of wooden planks ourselves. We started by searching for a flat surface to keep the wooden planks on – a relatively simple task but challenging on mountain slopes. In the absence of a flat surface, we had to create it ourselves by placing stones, barrels, and wooden pieces underneath the planks.
Then, using adhesive, metal plates, screws and bolts, the wooden planks were joined to create the various trusses. The margin of error was minimal as the trusses had to be installed on the walls that were already constructed, and any mistake could result in that entire truss section being wasted. We had over 15 different types of trusses, and each one of them required its own set of drawings, measurements, on-site verification, and construction method.
From finding a way to level the trusses and stitching them together, to create the desired shape and size, the construction required creativity, hard work, accuracy, and persistence.
4th step - Placement of the trusses
About 20 workers were needed just to lift a truss and place it on top of the stone walls. No machines. No pulleys. Only the physical strength of the entire team. Once lifted and placed, the team kept holding the truss until the bolts were screwed so that they could be held in place.
The centre has over 45 trusses of 500 kg each to be installed before building the roofs and completing the building.