Backpackers are aiming to trek the highest of peaks in the Himalayas, but find little or no place to rest during their journey. Since these trekking routes are open only for a couple of months in the year, Can sustainable lodgings be erected that consume minimal energy when in use and hibernate during the rainy and harsh winter months, thus saving energy ?

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Design Philosophy:

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The Hibernating Hut is a concept of integrating a built structure with a flexible and adaptable design so that it is applicable to various different sites along the trails throughout the Himalayas. So, when the lodging starts inhabiting trekkers, the solar panels start to conserve raw energy from the sun, fuelling up the fireplace, heating the water for its consumption and livening up the hibernating hut. Since the hut has to undergo harsh weather conditions, the structure may retract and completely close to protect the permanent staff persons and equipment during the monsoon and winter months.

For the ease of construction, the composition of locally available materials and materials that can be transported to site easily are used for minimal energy consumption. Using local masons and materials would help in developing localized economy of the region and decrease the cost of these multiple hibernating huts used across the Himalayas.

The hut is integrated with in-house water heating systems, power generation and waste management systems to minimize impact on the environment.



Construction: Material availability, Transportation & Economy

Local materials like stone and wood are used as a part of the built-up structure. Building the core structure with locally available materials reduces the transportation cost and increases the ease of construction in remote locations. Pods/ Secondary structures; metal sections and fabric/textile are transported to the site either by the local people or by the trekker themselves.

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The core structure is built out of stones that are abundant in the region. Stone has always been in use in most of the structures built in high altitude regions since historic times. To reduce the embodied energy and increase the resistance towards harsh weather; it is used in the main supporting structure of the built-mass. Wood is also available and has been used for framing the roof. To reduce the consumption of wood, walls and roof are designed as one and require lesser building material. To supplement the wood framing, metal sections have been used in conjunction. The retractable pods inspired from the generic tent offer individual/ singular resting spaces to the travelers; these pods are designed to accommodate lighter material/ textile that trekkers can carry along. The main structure allows the trekker to plug his/ her sleeping structure to the main built-mass. This design intervention promotes self-sufficiency and efficient use of resources. However, there are built-in pods in the main structure as well to provide space for the elderly and specially-abled.

Structure: Skeleton to Surface

The stages represent the transition in construction from the stone walls erected on site from locally available materials; wood and metal frames; slate roofing and panelling to the textile pods brought in by the trekkers.

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Stone: Buttresses, walls are made from locally available stone to form the core structure.

Wood: primary roof framing is made from local wood to support the roof panels.

Metal: metal sections are used as the secondary framing to support walling panels and provide structural integrity.

Slate: slate is used for roofing. It provides water-proofing and sufficient thermal mass to reduce heat losses.

Fabric: is the most material used in tents. This also provides the flexibility to use the sleeping pods as required.

Planning and functionality:

1.     Entrance/circulation: the central spaces comprises of entrance lobby which can be used by the trekkers temporarily for resting.  The lobby is connected to the restrooms and can be used separately without disturbing the in-house residents.

2.     Kitchen/equipment storage: kitchen integrated with clay stove / hearth forms the primary function of the central zone. Heat generated from the cooking and similar activities is used for heating the overall structure. To reduce heat losses; hearth is placed centrallyto create buffer from the surrounding environment. The equipment storage is planned at the entrance for ease in use and to minimize internal circulation.

3.     Common area/gathering place: this zone is used as a gathering place by all the in-house residents, to hold lectures and give guidelines to the trekkers.  Apart from interaction, the space is used for serving food and leisure.

4.     Twin sharing zone: this is a semi-private zone that can be segregated from the common area with the use of sliding-folding doors. This space is meant to be used by a couple of fellow trekkers and is primarily used for resting and reading.

5.     Retractable sleeping pods: dedicated for personal use, the space is primarily used for sleeping and personal storage. The pod is retractable and is only used if there is any occupancy.

6.     Restrooms and toilets: the toilet block is accessed from the common area and is kept separate from the habitable structure. It is planned towards the exterior for ventilation and
is equipped with an integrated water heating system.


Zero occupancy:
During winter season; all trekking routes are closed down temporarily. In such cases, when accommodation of staff is only required, the structure retracts completely minimizing the exposed surface area to the surrounding environment and to protect itself  and the inhabitant from the extreme weather conditions.

Partial occupancy mode:
During the season when trekking routes start to open up for the visitors, partial occupancy takes place. The accommodation is designed with retractable pods on the periphery for singular occupancy. So, a part of the hut gets used as requirement; this in turn reduces maintenance and conserves energy.

Full occupancy mode:
During the spring/summer seasons, the number of trekkers increases manifold. At this time, the structure opens up completely, to accommodate a maximum of 16 people with private sleeping pods. The central place serves as the resting/eating space for passer-by trekkers.


The ingenuity of the design is a response to the harsh climate and lack of resources resulting in an inward-looking structure with a low foot-print.

The central portion of the roof is sloped towards South to gain maximum sunlight. Photovoltaics are placed on the roof to generate basic electricity. The North side is highly insulated to reduce heat loss to the surroundings. The smoke is vented through two chimneys at the centre that provide centralized heating within the structure. Kitchen is ventilated through the same vertical shafts, with clay stoves below for cooking.

The proposal acts as a self-sustained model. Water is stored in an underground tank that catches the run-off during monsoons. An integrated solar collector heats the water using the solar energy and supplies to the shower areas. The grey water from the basins and bathing areas is filtered before percolating into the ground. Leach pit decomposes the human waste naturally and perforates the clean water to the ground.



The hibernating hut is a step taken towards innovation of a very efficient and energy-saving stay. The design takes form of a permanent shelter that could easily be built with the use of locally-available materials and liven up at the arrival of travellers and hibernate until they visit the place again! Such a cost and maintenance free design will help us reduce carbon footprints, save energy and help enthusiasts discover yet so many unexplored regions of this world.