Vocational Training Changes Lives

Build ChangeEngineering, NGO Partners - Haiti, women1 Comment


“I want to advise other young women like me to not choose only nursing, accounting, or secretarial work. Dare yourself to learn other trades,” Widleine George says. She stands outside in her construction training station, where she demonstrates proper techniques to trainees and oversees the masons’ progress. “I receive a lot of respect because of my position, because it’s not typically a woman’s job,” she says. “I want to advise other young women like me to not choose only nursing, accounting, or secretarial work. Dare yourself to learn other trades.” Widleine comes from Carrefour-Feuilles, one of the areas of Port-au-Prince that was severely damaged by the earthquake in … Read More

What A Little Girl Hears When You Tell Her She’s Pretty

Build Changewomen1 Comment


We are inspired by this Verizon video, described in the Huffington Post. “A new Verizon commercial cites a sad statistic by the National Science Foundation: 66 percent of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18 percent of all college engineering majors are female. People have offered many potential explanations for this discrepancy, but this ad highlights the importance of the social cues that push girls away from math and science in their earliest childhood years.”

Temporary Shelters Waste Time and Money

Gordon GoodellAdvocacy1 Comment


After the 2009 earthquake in West Sumatra, the government of Indonesia strongly discouraged the donor and NGO community from building transitional shelters, or T-shelters.  Instead, they recommended providing technical assistance and cash grants.  In Haiti, T-shelters were implemented in large numbers after the 2010 earthquake, taking time and resources away from providing a more permanent solution.  Temporary shelters may be unavoidable in some harsh climates, but most of the world is well positioned to abandon this temporary fix and move directly to permanent housing.

Retrofitting can be done fast and at low cost

Build ChangeAdvocacy7 Comments


Retrofitting, or strengthening a building to withstand the next earthquake or typhoon, is an efficient and safe way of putting existing stock back in play after a disaster.  It can be done at a cost equivalent or lower than temporary shelters.  If done in tandem with a large-scale effort to build capacity of local engineers, architects, and construction professionals, it can be done efficiently and at scale.

Donor-driven housing reconstruction: Pretty houses at high cost

Build ChangeAdvocacyLeave a Comment


The government of India (in partnership with the World Bank) had it sorted out after the 2001 Bhuj, Gujarat earthquake.  Provide a clear and simple guideline, provide cash grants in installments contingent upon following those guidelines, and provide third party technical assistance to coach homeowners and builders through the process. Why has it taken the rest of the donor and aid community so long to catch up?  After the Indian Ocean tsunami, the NGO community insisted on donor-driven housing, lured by the perceived need to get houses built quickly and efficiencies of scale.  Shortcomings of past donor-driven housing reconstruction programs … Read More

Do rental subsidies work in the long term?

Kate LandryAdvocacy8 Comments


More than half of the world’s population is now living in urban areas, increasing the risk of large-scale urban displacement due to natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis. When a city’s housing stock is damaged or depleted due to a disaster, it puts a strain on the city’s ability to respond and recover, as public and private spaces are filled with temporary shelters and the affected populations – necessary to the recovery effort – live in insecurity. This problem is exacerbated in developing countries. Rental support is an intervention gaining usage worldwide to address the need for housing … Read More

Why not build from pre-cast components? Straw bales? Used tires? Plastic bottles?

Gordon GoodellAdvocacyLeave a Comment


Homeowners don’t steal from themselves. Put them in charge of reconstructing their home, and they reuse materials.  Often they contribute their own funds.  And their degree of satisfaction is so much higher than if we give them a house that they don’t trust is safe.  We’re not asking them to use sweat equity and build the house themselves; in that case, we would miss the opportunity to train local builders who will go on to build many houses, and put money back into the local economy.  We’re talking about empowering homeowners to make their own decisions on materials and architecture, … Read More

Status update: collecting data using tablets instead of paper

Christine LaraAdvocacyLeave a Comment


Build Change has relied primarily on paper-based inspection checklists and manual filing of photographs for collecting data on homeowners, trainees, and compliance rates of houses. This system can work on small projects, but it has limitations, including time lag between data collection, interpretation, and decision-making, and opportunities for errors and corruption.  We have started an ambitious switch to digital, in partnership with the Grameen Foundation and using Taroworks and Salesforce.

SMS as a cheap, fast way of sharing information on safe construction

Christine LaraAdvocacyLeave a Comment


“It helps to solve problems during construction and adds to my knowledge to make good choices during building.” This is the feedback from Tukiran, a homeowner Build Change is supporting to rebuild safely after the July 2013 earthquake near Takengon, Aceh.  Preliminary indications are the text messaging is a simple, fast, inexpensive method for sharing information about the basics of safe construction.  More efforts are underway to further quantify the impact.

Girls in STEM: White House Science Fair

Build ChangewomenLeave a Comment


Girls in STEM, featuring young women scientists and engineers who wowed the President and the nation at the White House Science Fair in February, shines a spotlight on these extraordinary young role models and their exciting projects — ranging from a machine that detects buried landmines, to a prosthetic hand device, to a lunchbox that uses UV light to kill bacteria on food. http://www.whitehouse.gov/stem  

World Economic Forums and World Urban Forum

Build ChangeUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Build Change CEO Elizabeth Hausler Strand recently attended both the World Economic Forum on Latin America and the World Economic Forum on East Asia, connecting with economic issues related to our disaster risk reduction program in Colombia and our post-disaster recovery programs in Indonesia and the Philippines. Build Change presented at the World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia in early April to encourage the use of retrofitting as a cost-effective approach that makes buildings safe and fosters community resiliency.

$500 million on a temporary solution

Gordon GoodellGordon, NGO Partners - Haiti2 Comments

Our Chief Operations Officer took this photo in Haiti today. “T-shelters” or “transitional shelters” are a popular solution in post-disaster situations. They’re built to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, to keep residents from being displaced again. They are expensive and subtract funds which could be used for retrofitting damaged homes or rebuilding homes. A family is living in this t-shelter, which is three years old now and clearly deteriorating. By some estimates, the [2010 earthquake in Haiti] killed 200,000 people and made 1.3 million homeless overnight by destroying or damaging 172,000 homes or apartments. But the new projects do not necessarily … Read More

How did Build Change get started?

Elizabeth Hausler StrandBuild Change history, ElizabethLeave a Comment

Indonesia_EngineerTraining (800x600)

Written by Elizabeth Hausler Strand I started Build Change 10 years ago with the mission of reducing deaths and injuries from housing collapses during earthquakes.  It was the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj, India that inspired me – most people were killed because their house collapsed on them.  It is possible and affordable, even in an emerging nation, to build houses and schools that don’t collapse in earthquakes or hurricanes – it’s a man-made problem with a man-made solution.  By building safe buildings, we reduce the need for emergency services, wound care, infection prevention, and so on.  But we don’t actually … Read More

What’s wrong with this picture?

Build ChangeGordon, NGO Partners - ColombiaLeave a Comment


By Gordon Goodell, Build Change Chief Operations Officer Feb. 27, 2014 Years before I came to Build Change I worked on a mountain rescue team. The first rule for rescue is “My safety, and the safety of my team.” At Build Change we work to limit our risk to the extent possible by ensuring that all buildings we use are seismically safe. By the nature of what we do, most of our staff at Build Change spend a lot of time in zones of high seismic hazard. We make our best effort to ensure that offices and other buildings rented by … Read More

Is it safe to build houses from straw, tires, or plastic bottles?

Build ChangeEngineering, GordonLeave a Comment

Sure, if they’re designed and built to be safe in earthquakes At Build Change we mostly teach people to build masonry houses or timber houses. We do not use plastic bottles, tires, straw bales, earth bags, or any number of other approaches which have been touted as environmentally-friendly, cost-effective methods to rebuild devastated areas. Why? What’s wrong with homes made from waste materials? Or plastic bottle houses? Or straw bale houses? Well, nothing, really. A lot of argument goes on over whether one building system is better than another, particularly in the seismically active zones where we work. There are … Read More