Ground breaking ceremony held for construction of examination facility

Name of the project: Project for Evaluation and Mitigation of Seismic Risk for Composite Masonry Buildings in Bhutan under the scheme of Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS).

The ground breaking ceremony (Salang Tendrel) for the construction of the first-ever examination facility to undertake scientific research on traditional structures in Bhutan was held on December 26 at Kawajangsa, Thimphu. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck graced the event.

Photo Courtesy: BBS


Bhutan being vulnerable to natural disasters, the safety and well-being of the people are of great concern to the nation. After the 2009 and 2011 earthquake, despite minimal loss of lives, there was a strong skepticism on the structural performance of the traditional buildings in Bhutan, which constitute 70 percent of the building stock in Bhutan. While the Government became highly aware of the need to undertake scientific study of the performance of traditional buildings, and learn how to improve them for better resilience against natural disasters, particularly earthquake, Bhutan did not have the facilities nor the capacity to undertake scientific study of traditional buildings for this purpose.

As per the Royal Command, the Department of Culture under the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs instituted the Research Institute for Traditional Structures (RITS) has been instituted to establish facilities to enable testing and research works on the properties of traditional materials and construction techniques.

To enable rigorous scientific studies of traditional structures in Bhutan, the Department of Culture (DoC, MoHCA), Department of Disaster Management (DDM, MoHCA), Department of Geology and Mines (DGM, MoEA) and Department of Engineering Services (DES, MoWHS) from the Royal Government of Bhutan, in collaboration with the Japanese counterpart: Nagoya City University, Kagawa University, Nihon University, Tohoku University, Kyoto University and National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, formulated a proposal of collaborative research towards improving seismic resilience of traditional houses in Bhutan.

Accordingly, based on the proposal, the Government of Bhutan has requested Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) a scientific and technological cooperation program under the framework of technical cooperation of the Government of Japan titled “Evaluation and Mitigation of Seismic Risk for Composite Masonry Buildings in Bhutan”. This project have commenced from April 2017 and will be completed by March 2022.

The overall goal of the project is to disseminate the seismic technology for disaster mitigation of the composite masonry buildings, wherein the seismic risk of composite masonry buildings are evaluated, seismic technology for constructing and strengthening composite masonry buildings is developed and the dissemination mechanism for the seismic technology is enhanced.


Within the project, a state-of-art examination facility with two strong floors and three reaction walls are being constructed. In conjunction, we are going to construct 4 rammed earth and 2 stone masonry building to carry out quasi-static and dynamic test for traditional Bhutanese houses, to understand the global behavior of traditional houses against the seismic action. The examination facility will also house 3metre x 3metre shaking table for carrying out small scale test for verification and effect of seismic strengthening measures, before incorporation of strengthening measures on full scale test. Such state of art technology is first of its kind in Bhutan. The examination facility will bring about profound positive impact in further strengthening the efforts in preservation and promotion of traditional building practices with improved seismic resilient features.

The examination facility will be later be an extension of Research Institute for Traditional Structures (RITS). The Research Institute for Traditional Structure (RITS) is constituted for establishment of know-how and technologies for safe and sustainable traditional structure. It will function as a research institute for traditional building structures in Bhutan and shall conduct cutting-edge research for the safety and well-being of society and the preservation of its building traditions.