Interesting thread. I've been involved in constructing a 4 story building + basement in Ktm. I'm a recent PhD in Earthquake engg. from Berkeley (SEMM), studied structural mechanics at MIT (Course 1) and Georgia Tech (CE), and also have some background in Architecture and Interior design. Since I have some background on the topic I'll put in my two cents. Let me start with a short story.
I was at a party a few years ago and I overheard two good looking girls talking to each other as they were leaving. "This party sucks" said one to the other. "Yeah, it's full of engineers" said the other. And off they went, I presume to a party that was more fun (well, fun as defined by the rest of the population - I'm sure the party was plenty of fun to all the engineers attending).
In terms of the slides and this conversation - I think it's very fun... for intellectuals [who] discuss nepal. But I think we need to be honest with ourselves. Are we discussing this for the sake of discussion or do we want to make real changes. If it's the former, then I think this conversation is appropritate and one that I'm very comfortable and familiar with.
However, if we want to make real changes, if we are really interested in saving lives and help Nepalis change how we build our buildings (and yes schools) then we need to dig deeper. There are plenty of places to get information and papers on proper building mechanics and methodologies, many times for free in journals and online. There is plenty of good talent in Kathmandu, both for building and designing EQ resistant structures. That's not the issue.
The issue is how we present this to the public. We need to make safety attractive. Proposing that we make our buildings regular/symmetrical in shape does NOT help anyone. The public does not care about ductility demands and natural periods *yawn nor do they need to know about it. Instead we have to be able to sell attractive buildings that are also safe which in turn will bring in more rental income to building owners because... the building is attractive and safe. It's taken some cajoling but this is the building I'm involved in currently - http://spaces.sobenepal.com/mondrian
. Notice that it's not symmetrical - in fact it's from the De Stilj movement which totally avoids symmetry. It took more work but this building is EQ resistant as well. It goes back to my story about the girls leaving the party. It takes more work but to engage the rest of the population EQ engineers have to understand and incorporate affordability, good design, and practicality in addition to hard earthquake engineering research to make any changes.
This way everyone wins. Kathmandu will have better looking buildings which will make living here more bearable (most of the time I want to gouge my eyes out with all the new construction going on here with no effort towards design) while also killing much less people next time an EQ hits Ktm. And engineers will be seen less as the dorks we all really are (“substantial change in the application of technology to the many facets of earthquake disaster management for saving the lives of Nepali people" - anyone who says "many facets of earthquake disaster management" in public is a dork) and attract more people of the opposite sex while also being able to have "intellectual" discussions. Everyone wins!