Advanced technology in a low technology setting : the application of building information modeling in the rural settings of Nepal

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Shrestha, Chandra R.
Janz, Wes
Issue Date
Thesis (M. Arch.)
Department of Architecture
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Advanced technology is often considered to be the property of those individuals or corporations based in the richest and most powerful nations, or the rich and powerful individuals or corporations that can be found in the world's poorest countries. It is typically the case that the most disadvantaged populations do not have equal access to the internet, laptops or personal workstations, fabricating machines, or any of the many software programs or hardware components that are available to many of the world's workers and citizens. There is a tremendous gap between those with access to advanced technology and those without.The aim of this thesis is to address this gap by speculating on the potential of implementing an advanced software application—Building information Modeling (BIM)--into several low technology settings that exist in the author's home country of Nepal.To advance this question, a number of research tactics were engaged: field research was conducted in Nepal during the summer of 2006; advanced digital applications, including Revit and BIM software, were studied and used both as a graduate student and an intern in an architectural firm in Atlanta, Georgia; and the non-governmental organization READNepal was contacted and studied, as was the architectural office with which they collaborate in Katmandu.Three different sites in Nepal were selected to highlight the differences present in the rural areas in terms of cultural, social, and physical qualities, as well as to consider the different "cultures of building" and levels of technological sophistication in the three settings.In time, "trajectories" were developed that link the digital tools readily available to the READNepal offices in New York and Nepal, with the architect's office in Katmandu, and with the contractors and day laborers (who are often illiterate) in the countryside. In this sense, it is suggested that through the introduction of basic software and hand-held devices, information can flow not only from the funding organization's office in New York to the architect, or from the architect to the job site, but from the job site to the architect and READNepal office as well. In this way, communication is improved and the architecture has the potential to be more localized. Power is distributed and knowledge flows not only from top-to-bottom, but from bottom-to-top, from day laborer in rural Nepal to architect in Kathmandu to New York office worker.The thesis offers not a concrete solution but rather an understanding that while potential exists, there is much more to be done to bridge the gap that exists between clients, architects, and constructors in societies where gaps exist between those who have access to high technology and those who do not.