After Hurricane Matthew: Assessing Damages in Moron

Build ChangeEngineering, Haiti, Better Building Materials, Post-disaster ReconnaissanceLeave a Comment

Today we drove from Jeremie toward the mountains in the middle of the Grande Anse department. On the bumpy road along the Grande Anse River we saw dozens of houses with heavy damages from the hurricane. The houses are mainly constructed with a wood frame and stone masonry. The wind force shocked the buildings, provoking the fall of the top corners of some walls and cracks near the column joints. The use of mud mortar to place the stones is insufficient to tie the stone together well. We saw houses that withstood the hurricane better when they were plaster with … Read More

Hurricane Matthew: Into Southwestern Haiti to Assess Damages in Jeremie

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The Build Change reconnaissance team for the South and Grande Anse departments is composed of 4 engineers and our driver Ken. Junior is a team leader who has extensive knowledge in retrofit and new construction in confined masonry. Gaspard is the program manager for our current retrofit and reconstruction program in Port au Prince. Herode is a trainer from the block department. Clement has been a project engineer for 2.5 years in Haiti working on house and school retrofits. We left early Tuesday morning heading to Jeremie in the southwest peninsula of Haiti. Hurricane Matthew hit the coast on October … Read More

RMS Impact Trek: Day 5 – Rebuilding Dhunkarka After the Earthquake

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I’ll start with a broad idea (not my own) that I believe is generally true: all around the world, local architectural forms have grown organically, mostly out of rural communities, in response to distinct physical environments. A few examples: throughout the floodplains of Southeast Asia, homes rise on stilts to allow the monsoon floods to pass underneath. In the Alps, steeply pitched roofs shed heavy snows. And in the arid mountains of Peru, thick adobe walls keep homes cool during the day and warm at night. In the same way, Nepal’s buildings are largely a product of the land the Nepalese inhabit: … Read More

RMS Impact Trek: Day 4 – Becoming an Observer in Eklephant and Bhimtar

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When I applied to the Impact Trek, one of the drivers of my desire to go was to see actual earthquake damage first hand. My experience with earthquake damage was numbers – how many buildings and casualties, how much loss in dollars. I’ve seen photos of damage – individual buildings, street blocks, aerial photos – but never quite connected with the reality of it all because I was so removed from it. I could look, sympathize, then move on with my day. However, being here in a remote village of Nepal, I see the scale of damage and it’s so … Read More

RMS Impact Trek: Day 3 – Retrofits in Dhunkarka

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By Alastair Norris We are now all completely submerged in Nepali time and the first four days have quickly slipped by providing in a huge mix of emotions. I completely echo the words of Christine and Matt on how much of a culture shock it was arriving in Kathmandu four days ago, but what once seemed so strange to us all now feels like the normal way of life. As Christine mentioned in her blog, the five of us parted company yesterday, with Matt B. and I heading to Dhunkarka whilst Christine, Meghan, and Matt N. went to Sindupalchowk. After 3 hours of … Read More

RMS Impact Trek: Day 2 – To the Hills in Sindupalchowk

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Nothing could have prepared me for the initial culture shock that set in while touring the streets of Kathmandu on our first day in Nepal. It may have been because I just finished a 24+ hour trip to the other side of the world and had nothing more than a few hours of airplane sleep, but I was extremely overstimulated. Walking (and driving) in Manhattan is a breeze compared to Kathmandu. To put things into perspective, imagine a narrow roadway that looks like it was designed to be a one way (partially paved) road. Now, imagine that same road being … Read More

RMS Impact Trek: Day 1 – The Other Side of the World

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Nepal.  The mere mention of the word conjures images of the lofty, snow-covered Himalayas and towering Mount Everest.  Here in Kathmandu, the world of the Sherpa feels as far away from me as everything else that is familiar and known. Now half a world away from home, I find I’m rediscovering my inherent and natural senses. New smells, strange tastes, constant sounds, bright colors, and the feel of the humid air on my skin all feel new, and overwhelm my mind.  Traffic, consisting of a whirled mixture of cars, scooters, bicycles, and daring pedestrians, moves chaotically through the winding snake-like … Read More

Day 3 & 4: Manta, Crucita and Portoviejo- A Look at Mixed Use Buildings and Sharing Knowledge

Build ChangeEngineering, Engineering explanations, Post-disaster Reconnaissance, EcuadorLeave a Comment

On May 3rd, we went with Gen. Ruiz and Ing. Flores into the barricaded area of Manta, the neighborhood of Tarqui.  This area had the most damage and was a mix of large to small commercial buildings and hotels, plus multi family and single family houses (some mixed use). Many of the small and medium sized buildings that had collapsed were already demolished and some were being taken down while we were there.   There were buildings with very different performance on the same block and the reason for the difference in performance was not obvious.  Additional investigation is needed … Read More

Day 2 (Part 2): Canoa and Jama- Analysis of Damaged Homes and Schools

Lizzie BlaisdellEngineering, Engineering explanations, Post-disaster Reconnaissance, EcuadorLeave a Comment

After Canoa, we next headed north to Jama, another coastal town.  In Jama we selected a street in town and compared the building type and performance of each, one-by-one.  There were 7 houses, some with commercial space below.  Six houses were wood framed, 2-stories, and one was reinforced concrete, 3-stories. Of the wood framed, 5 had masonry infill at the ground floor and 1 had bamboo lath with plaster overlay at the ground floor.  Four had wood only walls at the upper level while two had mixed wood and masonry infill walls at the upper level.  In general of the … Read More

Day 2: Canoa and Jama- A First Look at Damaged Schools

Lizzie BlaisdellEngineering, Engineering explanations, Post-disaster Reconnaissance, EcuadorLeave a Comment

This morning we met with Ing. Hermel Flores, owner of Hermel Flores Construcciones and former chair of the Ecuatorian Chamber of Construction, and General Florencio Ruiz Prado, Director of Citizen Security for Manta, in Manta.  We discussed our activities, the situation and the presentation they coordinated for us to give on Tuesday and Wednesday, in Manta and Portoviejo, respectively. Ing. Flores traveled with us next up north towards the epicenter.  The coast of Ecuador is in the highest seismic zone of the country.  There are RENAC sensors located up and down the coast which recoded the accelerations in the recent … Read More

Day 1: Guayaquil to Manta- A First Look at Damaged Houses

Lizzie BlaisdellEngineering, Engineering explanations, Post-disaster Reconnaissance, EcuadorLeave a Comment

May 1st was our first full day in Ecuador, after landing in Guayaquil on April 30.  Our team has three members: Traveling from our Bogota office there is Juan Caballero, architect and Director of Programs and Partnerships for Latin American, and Walter Cano, structural engineer and Project Engineer for Colombia.  From the U.S./headquarters there is Lizzie Blaisdell, structural engineer and Director of Engineering. In Guayaquil, we saw little evidence of an earthquake.  According to the preliminary report on the Instituto Geofisico website (http://www.igepn.edu.ec/) a strong motion sensor near Guayaquil, “AGYE” experienced a maximum ground acceleration of 23.04 cm/s2 (approx. 2%g) while … Read More

Saving Lives through Retrofitting in Colombia

Build ChangeUncategorized, Engineering, retrofitting, ColombiaLeave a Comment

Click here for link to Autodesk Foundation video. “We can build buildings to withstand earthquakes. The knowledge and technology are out there. We just have to make it accessible to everyone.” – Elizabeth Hausler Strand, Founder & CEO, Build Change In Colombia, we are working with city governments, the private sector, and homeowners to repair and strengthen homes before the next earthquake strikes. Retrofitting saves lives by ensuring that houses will protect families and children from future natural disasters. We started out retrofitting a single house in Bogotá, Colombia, to provide an opportunity for local training and to demonstrate feasibility. Jorge Prada’s family now lives … Read More

Second Strong Earthquake in Nepal: Build Change Team Unharmed

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A second strong earthquake struck Nepal on May 12, 2015. We are relieved to report that our team reported in and they are unharmed. The families in the small village they were in when it struck are also unharmed. “We are all fine. At the time of the first M7.3 earthquake near noon, we were in a very remote village, Thulo Guan, Balthali, an hours’ drive from Kathmandu on a rutted, narrow dirt road along a cliffside. No one was hurt in this village. We were standing on the 2nd floor of a relatively undamaged house (newer construction from about 2008) … Read More

Community Education in Takengon, Indonesia

Build Changewomen, Country, Indonesia, Better Building Materials, Bricks

Over 150 adults and 100 children participated in our Better Building Material community event in Takengon, Indonesia in December 2014. We have been working with 200 local brick-makers, mostly women, to help them produce better quality bricks. Houses and schools built with poor-quality bricks or concrete blocks are likely to collapse during natural disasters. Better bricks and concrete blocks make safer houses and schools. We provide on-the-job training for small businesses that manufacture bricks and blocks to improve the quality of their products. We also offer business skills training in management, budgeting, and more efficient manufacturing techniques. We conduct public outreach … Read More

Vocational Training Changes Lives

Build ChangeEngineering, NGO Partners - Haiti, womenLeave a 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

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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 GoodellAdvocacyLeave a 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

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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

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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 the efficiency of scale.  Shortcomings of past donor-driven housing reconstruction … Read More

Do rental subsidies work in the long term?

Kate LandryAdvocacyLeave a Comment

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