Eva, a homeowner in Padang Alai, Indonesia, experienced the 2007 and 2009 earthquakes that hit the region killing in total more than 1,200 and damaging more than 143,000 structures in the region.
Both times Eva's house was severely damaged, but the
2009 earthquake completely changed her perspective. She said, "I was terribly scared because my baby was alone in the bedroom and reaching her was difficult as I could not even stand; I had to
crawl to reach her. Fortunately I was able to get her out safely from the severely damaged house." She and her husband wondered what they could do to live safely. Their only option was to keep making repairs the best they could.
Fortunately Build Change came to her community to offer technical assistance. She attended a training course and she received a small incentive payment of about US $30 paid in installments based on meeting minimum standards for earthquake safety during the reconstruction. Eva explained, "At first I didn't understand the function of diagonal bracing, but Build Change explained it to me in plain language, so although I was blind about technical things, I came to understand the function completely. Now I can breathe easily knowing my house is earthquake-resistant and I am completely proud of it."
Build Change Indonesia: Building Back Safer
Erwin A.K. Guciano has been actively making a living as a builder for over 10 years. Unlike many other builders in the area who don't have a formal background in construction, Erwin is a builder who graduated from two universities in Lampung with a diploma in civil engineering. Technically he knows many things about construction, both from college and experience.
There was, however, one thing missing from his university education: how to build earthquake-resistant houses.
I feel tremendous satisfaction when I am able to build safe homes for people to live in."
Build Change offered lessons in constructing homes which would withstand earthquakes and hurricanes, and Erwin said that he enjoyed each lesson so much he didn't want to miss any. He stated, "More homeowners are aware of earthquake-resistant construction now, and it's my chance to change from awareness to action by building earthquake-resistant homes."
Since he attended Build Change's builder training course, he has already built five earthquake-resistant homes – and plans to build many more as homeowners now want him to build their homes.
“Thank you for bringing safety to my house.”
Agung’s curiosity brought him to a complete awareness of the
importance of earthquake resistance housing, and now he is
taking an action to build his own earthquake-resistant home.
He never thought that observing the construction of his parents’ house would affect his thinking about safe construction. “I was 17 in 1995 when my parents' house was built and I remember like it was yesterday. Having always been interested in construction, I clearly recall asking the builder, Pak John, about the purpose of the lintel beam - something quite new for me”.
Although Agung had no formal construction education, he loved to read technical construction books borrowed from his engineer friends. “I decided one day that I would build my own earthquake-resistant home since I had already seen the destruction caused by several major earthquakes in the area. Thanks to Build Change, I am now in the process of making it come true”. Build Change supervisors came to his house when it was still a foundation and Agung’s home become one of among 609 houses that received Build Change's technical assistance, and Agung became one of candidates to receive an incentive.
Among the advice Agung received from a Build Change’s supervisor, he particularly remembers that the stirrups must have the hooks and it must be placed in rotation. "My builder and I immediately followed this advice and furthermore followed many of the standardized procedures outlined in the Build Change earthquake resistance construction booklet. “I am more than happy to spend more money since it’s worth it for the sake of my family's safety. Besides, it’s better to spend more money now than I have to rebuild my house over and over again”. Many people in the area could attest to this wisdom who have had to build their houses for the 2nd or even the 3rd time.
When we asked him what he thinks about incentive we would give him, he said “Of course I am really thankful for the incentive as well as the assistance, but most importantly, I thank you for bringing safety to my house”
China: Empowering Villages by Monitoring Construction
Sichuan, China was hard-hit by last year’s earthquake. Most of the villagers’ homes have been destroyed, and many have only now begun to break ground on their new houses. Foundations have been dug on either side of the dirt road on which we’re standing, and the contractor’s crew is at work laying a base of concrete and stone.
“Three wheelbarrows of sand and gravel to one bag of cement,” Chen Ting observes, satisfied that the contractors haven’t changed the mix since she arrived earlier in the day and openly watched the contractors at work.
Daily site inspection is a key aspect of the technical assistance package that Build Change provides to homeowners in developing countries who have lost their homes in earthquakes. “As part of our monitoring, we’ve developed a checklist that site inspectors complete on a daily basis, to make sure contractors are following Build Change guidelines,” says Build Change founder and CEO, Dr. Elizabeth Hausler.
Since Build Change began working in Minle two-and-a-half months ago, it has provided homeowners with other aspects of that technical assistance package, including a training about proper construction practices and how to sign a good contract with a contractor.
Build Change has also offered homeowners the option of having Build Change draw the layout for their new homes, a process that allows homeowners to articulate their preferences and needs for their new home, as well as ensuring that earthquake-resistant design aspects will be incorporated. Drawing layouts for homeowners further allows Build Change to estimate construction costs rapidly, which assists homeowners in budgeting for a house that meets their space requirements, as well as being earthquake-resistant and affordable.
Build Change is just beginning its roll out of its on-site inspections and, in advance, Chen Ting is conducting scaled down monitoring of the construction already underway. Chen Ting’s monitoring has a two-fold purpose: (1) to make recommendations to the contractor if the work doesn’t meet Build Change guidelines and, if it does meet guidelines, (2) to reassure the villagers, already traumatized by last year’s earthquake, that their house construction meets minimum standards.
In addition to checking the contractor’s concrete mix, Chen Ting inspects the house foundations already dug, measuring their depths to ensure that they’re deep enough and their perimeters to ensure that the contractor is adhering to the Build Change layouts selected by the homeowners. “I’ve never worked for a non-profit before,” says Chen Ting, “but I feel like, at Build Change, I have an opportunity to do good work and help people.”
We pass a homeowner standing by her partially built house. An older woman, she hails Chen Ting to complain that the contractor is using broken bricks in the masonry in her walls. Chen Ting calms the woman, telling her she’ll test the bricks. She lays two bricks parallel to each other, almost a brick’s length apart, and then she places a third brick perpendicular to, and on top of, the other two. She then stands on the third brick, balancing on one foot.
“Elizabeth [Hausler] taught me this,” Chen Ting says, “if the brick can withstand the weight of your body, it’s strong enough for a single story building.” Chen Ting reassures the woman that the contractor is using durable bricks, and the woman accepts her assessment.
“Of course, Build Change’s assistance is excellent,” says Xiao Qianghui, a villager whose house foundation was among those that Chen Ting measured. “We welcome their suggestions and help.”
“Now that we’ve been trained about good construction practices,” says Yang Shifu, another villager who benefited from Chen Ting’s monitoring of the work on his foundation, “we can inspect the site ourselves, and if we have questions, we can ask Build Change.”
Empowering homeowners to drive the process of rebuilding an earthquake-resistant house with their own funds and technical assistance from Build Change is Build Change’s ultimate goal. That homeowners in Minle are doing just that is extremely gratifying. “When we see villagers taking responsibility for good construction of their houses, we know we’re achieving that goal,” says Hausler.