He used these systems, coupled with solar systems for electricity, cooking and water heating to build a self sufficient school that was run and controlled by the student body to drive experiential learning. He aimed at popularizing the rammed earth construction scheme in the higher strata of society, so that it easily becomes an idealization for the poverty ridden sector, and will not be demarcated as a scheme for the “poor” to be looked down upon. Another efficient system he derived from simple calculation was the CST or Campus Standard Time, which stood at an hour ahead of the IST. This system ensured that students would sleep earlier, and hence wake up earlier, to utilise the beautiful and natural early morning light. His slight back calculation led him towards the discovery that if all the 7 billion people on the planet were to sleep early and wake up early, we could have saved enough energy to be able to shut off all nuclear and solar power plants! “Just by sleeping right, we can save the earth.” he exclaimed, chuckling.
Wangchuk’s next big venture was the launch of a course to build careers in climatic responsive building construction, and that ran extremely well. This had become supremely popular in Ladakh and had managed to change the scene of building construction and real estate value in Ladakh.
He engaged students by focussing at what they wanted to do, rather than forcing them to do something. He drove learning through enjoyment and skill development, like farmers who learn from their fathers by hands on experimentation and learning. This earned him The World Earth TERRA Award and the Global Sustainable Award the year after.
Sonam Wangchuk is a man of keen observation and applied learning. These are the skills that made him solve a great problem for his city, the crisis for water shortage because of sinking glaciers. Spring time in Ladakh is the biggest challenge because all plants are thirsty at a time when there is no water in the glaciers. All the water has melted and flown away, out of reach, leaving a stark water shortage in the months of May and June. This however, was until Wangchuk discovered a block of ice under a bridge, sustained in its solid state, even in the summer month of May! The gears in his mind were activated, and he worked on the reasoning until he recognized that the reason behind this
this was lack of direct sunlight which was the pivotal differing aspect. This made him think day and night about providing shelters for ice, until he realized that this was futile. All he really needed to do was work with geometry, and figure out how large volumes of water could be stored with minimum surface area in the form of a solid shape. The answer to that was a “cone.” He realized a cone was a shape that exposed minimum surface area while containing maximum volume, of all the geometric shapes. This led him to the discovery of an Ice Stupa. Using the principle of a pressure fountain, he combined the law of gravity and latent heat to form a pipe which would rush water out as a fountain, making it lose its latent heat and freeze as solid lumps of ice in the shape of a cone. Their first module stayed frozen until May 18th, while the second one stood the test of time for another month. This then melted to form a glacier which was directed to deserted fields and is now the source of water for a number of fields of trees and grasslands around Ladakh. This was a raving success, which completely changed the game of Ladakh’s climatic issues, and paved the way for further innovation and understanding. Wangchuk had the Ice Cone transformed into a stupa through prayer flags hung across from it, and people payed special visits and pilgrimages to the Ice Stupa at Ladakh, paying their dues to the mastermind innovation!
The awards that these successes won him, earned him enough money to venture into the creation of a self sustained university at Ladakh, which would house a school of business, education, tourism, hospitality, and more. This project is in full fledge appraisal by the Dalai Lama himself, who is its’ chief patron.
Wangchuk’s thirst for innovation and learning drives us to aspire and dream, to think and to create, and to never back down in the wake of challenges. We learnt a manifold from his visit to CEPT University, and we wish he aspire many more beginnings.