The METI Handmade School designed by Anna Heringer for the Dipshikha Society for Village Development is a sustainable design for a building made entirely with local materials, technology and labour. It employed only locals over the 6 months it took to be built. It is made out of bamboo, mud, straw, bricks, and other locally sourced materials. Measuring 325 square meters, it has 3 classrooms on the ground floor, two divisable classrooms on the upper floor, and 6 “caves” where children can read or relax. The design won the 2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the 2006 AR Emerging Architecture award.
*Please note that building designs are being included as “products” in the Habitat Sector of the Solutions Library to allow readers to learn from how projects were designed and constructed and how they are serving the occupants, whether effective or ineffective.
The foundation is laid down using bricks with concrete with a damp proof course. The floor beams are made with three layers of bamboo post, protruding by a meter in a balustrade. The walls are made of packed mud mixed with straw. The structure is made from more bamboo stalks, fastened together using nylon ropes and steel dowel pins. The roof is made from iron coated with zinc.
Intellectural Property Type
User Provision Model
Distributions to Date Status
The METI Handmade School is a unique building design.
Unique Design (Yes/No)
Intended number of occupants (#)
Duration of construction (days)
Footprint area (m²)
Number of storeys
Flammable flash point temperature (ºC)
Thermal insulating capacity (m²*K/W)
Maximum wind speed (km/h)
Structural Occupancy Category
Seismic Design Category
The materials used for the construction are bricks for the foundation, mud mixed with straw for the walls, bamboo for the structure and framework, timber for the window frames, and a bamboo ceiling covered with corrugated iron for the roof. The foundation consists of a brick masonry foundation that is 50 cm deep. The ground floor consists of three classrooms that have thick earth walls. At the back of each classroom is an opening that connects to an organic “cave system” that is designed to encourage the children to explore or concentrate. The ceiling is made out of three layers of bamboo canes that are arranged perpendicularly to each other. This arrangement is designed to add lateral stability to the supporting beams. The upper floor features a bamboo structure that contrasts with the earthen ground floor. This floor is designed to be lighter and more open, and provides views to the outside.
The building can be maintained by a worker with general construction experience.
To repair a mud wall, it is possible to wet the broken piece and place it back. Bamboo pieces can be replaced individually.
Its full lifespan is not known, but as of 2017 it has endured over 11 rainy seasons.
Manufacturer Specified Performance Parameters
The building is designed to be sustainable, comfortable and functional for occupants. The school’s use of improving construction techniques with combinations of local materials is designed to reflect the client’s desire to encourage children's’ creative development.
Vetted Performance Status
The structural engineering and earth building consultation was provided by Christof Ziegert of ZRS Architects and engineers in Berlin Germany.
Day-laborers working on the construction are subjected to the risks it entails; heights, heavy objects, tools, among others. Builders should also wear appropriate protective equipment such as hardhats and gloves while working to protect against physical injury commonly associated with heavy construction.
Complementary Technical Systems
Since access to electricity is limited, a complementary technical system could be an off-grid energy source.
Academic Research and References
Schwartz, Chad. 2016. Introducing Architectural Tectonics: Exploring the Intersection of Design and Construction. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
Ashraf, KK., 2007, This is not a building! Handmaking a school in a Bangladeshi village. Architectural Design, 77(6), pp. 114-117.
Afroz, Rumana, and Mohammad Zakaria Ibne Razzaque, 2012, “Ecological Architecture with Vernacular Character: Contemporary Mud Architecture Practices in Bangladesh.” Nakhara?: Journal of Environmental Design and Planning, 8, pp. 33–48.
Alam, M. M. Lekhon, 2018, “A Critical Analysis of Bengali Modern and Traditional Architecture Using the ‘Deep Beauty’ Framework.” Thesis, Kansas State University.
Hoteit, Aida, 2016, “Architectural Education in the Arab World and Its Role in Facing the Contemporary Local and Regional Challenges” Canadian Social Science, 12(7), pp. 1–7.
Compliance with regulations
The design won the 2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture, given to projects that demonstrate excellence in architecture and planning practices.