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 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

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.  

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 - HaitiLeave a Comment

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 StrandElizabeth, Build Change historyLeave a Comment

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 ChangeGordon, EngineeringLeave 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

Why don’t we use premade homes?

Build ChangeGordon, EngineeringLeave a Comment

The problem we have at Build Change is that the destruction in the wake of major natural disasters is so huge and the need to rebuild is so great, that we don’t have enough hands to rebuild it all. Teaching local people how to build an entirely new, unfamiliar structural system, whether it is earthships, plastic bottle homes, or precast concrete panels, adds unnecessary work to an already enormous task. Instead, we choose to work within the systems and designs the local builders already know and use. We teach about lateral systems and connections, which make structures able to withstand … Read More