Resilient Housing in the Philippines, in the Era of COVID-19

By: Jessica Stanford, Country Director-Philippines

The COVID-19 pandemic is without doubt an unprecedented event, impacting lives, communities and economies around the world. As governments and nations work together to implement prevention, containment and mitigation measures, families from California to metro Manila are instructed to #stayhome, #shelterinplace to help curb the worst of this public health crisis.

But what if you’re one of the 1.2 billion people who live in substandard housing today? What if you’re a low-income household that depends on daily wage income now threatened by changing dynamics? How will this impact your capacity to shelter, safely in your home?

The World Bank estimates that three billion people will live in substandard housing by 2030. In the Philippines alone, 70 million people live in substandard housing, and this is projected to grow to 113 million people by 2030. Housing indicators are sliding backwards; rapid urbanization is driving precarious construction in oftentimes precarious locations.

Pembo, an informally-built community in Manila, where Build Change is working with families to protect their homes from the threat of earthquakes and typhoons.

Even as our schools, streets and open spaces empty, time does not stand still. On June 1st the hurricane season will officially start in the Atlantic. Between approximately July and November, typhoons will develop and build in the Pacific region. Earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis can strike at any time.

The Philippines ranks as the third most disaster-prone country in the world based on the World Risk Index. The country is in an area of high seismic activity, meaning future major earthquakes are likely and it endures approximately 20 typhoons a year and four to six make devastating landfall. In the final three months of 2019 alone, the Philippines was struck by two major typhoons and a series of magnitude 6+ earthquakes cumulatively impacting an estimated 4.5 million Filipinos and damaging over 1 million houses. Many thousands of families remain in communal evacuation shelters making recommended social distancing and self-isolation measures precariously difficult to follow.

When climate and seismic events strike, they dis-proportionally impact low-income families and those living in substandard housing. The solution? Support homeowners, through provision of technical, financial and policy initiatives, to strengthen their house before disaster strikes.

Before (above) and After: The Mendoza family of seven in Pembo, Manila were able to make their home safer through a house strengthening loan scheme.

There is a strong micro-finance industry in the Philippines with many micro-finance institutions (MFIs) working tirelessly to alleviate poverty and help raise the living standards of their clients and communities through the provision of financial services tailored to local needs. Through successfully combining a homeowner-driven approach to safe and resilient construction with client-centric financial services, Build Change is supporting MFI partners in the Philippines to provide house strengthening loans directly to low-income households living in substandard housing.

Set to pilot at scale from March 2020, the rate of roll out and client take up is now more uncertain as quarantine measures come into force across the nation, and the world. Even if the containment measures put in place are successful in flattening the curve and avoiding the worst effects of a public health crisis, COVID-19 will still have a dramatic economic impact on individuals, families and communities as well as businesses and governments.

Individual homeowners may need to combine government financial relief packages and stimuli with calamity or emergency livelihoods loans, where available. MFIs, having already impacted their own liquidity by relaxing repayment collections during quarantine but still facing salary outlay and interest losses to wholesale funders, will need to re-assess their clients’ ability to repay and cope with increased delinquency rates and re-financing needs. All of this will take focus away from the essential, longer-term benefits of safe, resilient housing and slow down the implementation of urgently needed prevention measures in this area.

Build Change is therefore championing to work with government housing agencies, major development banks and others to review financial service options, either directly to homeowners or through well-established community MFI partners, to support households to strengthen their homes, ahead of the 2020 typhoon season and beyond.

Build Change’s global team is poised and ready to spring back into action to protect these at-risk communities, and many others, as soon as the public health situation allows. As the onset of COVID-19 has emphasized, in times of crisis, when #stayhome and #shelterinplace is the recommended course of action, there is a heightened need for everyone to have a safe and resilient house to call a home. This is Build Change’s mission, and YOU can help us make it a reality!  Safe housing is a human right, every day and especially during these extraordinary times.

Safety Starts at Home: An Update from Build Change Regarding COVID-19

Dear Friends of Build Change,

With millions in self-isolation or quarantined around the globe, homes are the front line in the battle against COVID-19.

More than perhaps ever before, our homes are the center of our lives, and our retreats (forced or not) from an uncertain world.  My hope is that wherever your home is, it is a place where you feel safe riding out this disaster.  I know that I am increasingly grateful every day for a safe home, for a yard my son can play in, for our health, and for a grocery store where I can still buy food (if not toilet paper).

But I am also reminded of the many people worldwide for whom self-isolation is even more daunting than it is in many parts of the United States, because of unsafe construction.  If you don’t feel safe in your home, you won’t stay there.  Poorly built housing makes public health emergencies worse, especially in informal neighborhoods that also lack water and basic sanitation.  Protecting people from disasters through resilient building is not just good construction policy—it’s good health policy.  And that’s why, even in the middle of a pandemic, Build Change’s work remains vital. 

When this disaster began to unfold in early February, my immediate concern was for Build Change’s staff and the communities where we work.  Resilient building—and building the trust to do it well—requires a commitment to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. So we’re no strangers to taking swift action when it’s needed.

We first ensured that any staff person that had been in contact with an infected person immediately went into self-isolation. We purchased masks for our entire global staff for their (and others’) protection. We brought engineering staff that were assessing community needs abroad back to their home bases safely.  All of our in-country offices as well as our Colorado headquarters have transitioned to work from home, to the fullest extent possible.   Like many other organizations, our calendars that were once full of in-person meetings and events have gone empty to attempt to reduce the transmission of the virus.   

All of these actions were necessary to protect our staff and communities.  However, we need to look no further than a few weeks from now to the start of hurricane and typhoon season to understand the urgency of the work we were forced to leave unfinished (for now!) on the ground:

  • In the Philippines, Build Change is enabling community-based microfinance institutions to scale new house strengthening loan products so that more low- and- middle income families can have the option to make their homes safe before disaster strikes.
  • In Colombia, Build Change is working with the Government of Colombia to roll out a technical assistance platform that will allow the Government of Colombia to rapidly assess 600,000 poorly-built homes for resilient home improvements. These improvements also include things like sinks and kitchens and toilets that are critical for families to have proper basic hygiene—exactly the sort of thing that is more crucial than ever before if we are to fight COVID-19.

Our global team is poised and ready to spring back into action to protect these at-risk communities, and many others, as soon as the public health situation allows.  In the middle of this crisis, we will apply our creativity remotely to continue to innovate and serve our communities however we can.

In the coming days and months, I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how Build Change is responding to COVID-19, and I hope you’ll do the same with updates from your life and work.  ALL OF US HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY in building the more resilient future to come.

Stay Safe,

Elizabeth Hausler, Ph.D.

CEO and Founder

Build Change

Designing the Future: An Interview with the Nepal Architecture Interns

Architectural Interns with their supervisors at the Build Change Kathmandu Office. Left to Right, Front to Back. Aastha Sigdel, Ayusha Joshi (Design Support Team Leader- New Construction), Sandesh Devkota, Salina Pradhan (Technical Liaison Coordinator), Astha Panta, Suresh Twanbasa, Dikshya Pokhrel.

Over the past year, Build Change, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) provided placements to five architectural interns from Tribhuvan University. The five students gained invaluable experience while assisting Build Change and UNOPS with their work in Nepal.

The Architectural department at Tribhuvan University requires students who are in their third year to undergo an intern placement for a minimum of 90 days, with the potential to extend depending on the needs of both Build Change and UNOPS, and the availability of the students. A marking schedule was provided by the university and the marks given by supervisors at Build Change and UNOPS contributed to the interns’ overall course mark. The aim of the placement was to give the students exposure to a wide range of different architectural techniques and concepts, allowing them to build on their architectural knowledge and skills in a meaningful way. The placement also provided architectural support to the Build Change and UNOPS teams, across all of their operations.

The 5 interns: Astha Panta, Suresh Twanbasa, Aastha Sigdel, Dikshya Pokhrel, Sandesh Devkota were divided between the Build Change and UNOPS teams with a rotation between the organisations halfway through the placement.

After the students completed their placement and before they returned to university, Sujeena, (a Communications Officer from Build Change) caught up with them to chat about their experience.

Sujeena: Hello and welcome. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me this afternoon. First, could you tell me a little bit about the work you have been doing during your placement? 

Dikshya: I have been working on the Socio Technical Facilitation Consultancy (STFC) project; in this project I have been assisting with the designing of new houses and other junior architect roles as necessary within the project.

Aastha: I have been working on the illustrations for the pictorial guide for retrofitting. This guide is a step-by-step picture guide to how to retrofit a traditional Stone Mud Mortar House (SMM). Working on this guide has helped me understand the complexities of how to retrofit a house, and has helped me learn how to draw elements in Sketchup.

Sandesh: I have been working on designing houses within the Autodesk Revit BIM software, this is a software that was new to me so I have enjoyed learning how to use the software to draw houses. I have been impressed by how easy the software is to learn and the quality of the work that I am producing with it.

Suresh: I have been working on designing a police station with UNOPS. I’ve found the process fascinating, there are many different concepts involved in the design. Compared to designing a house, it is a comparatively long process.

Astha: My work was on the STFC project and designing new houses for the earthquake affected communities of Nuwawkot.

Sujeena: How have you found the placement here at Build Change and UNOPS?

Dikshya: It is far more exciting and dynamic than I ever expected, I have really enjoyed both the atmosphere and the experience! Also the team members within Build Change that I have been working

closely with have been very supportive and approachable, especially Kriti. She has been able to take the time to explain things to me to make sure that I understand concepts.

Astha; For me, it’s been a very enjoyable path of learning about the reconstruction guidelines and the role that Build Change has within that. What drawings a homeowner requires, and what the process is of making those drawings from start to finish.

Sandesh: I have been impressed by how efficient and streamlined the process is to get a drawing to a homeowner. Everything is properly organized and managed and from initial request to quality check, to me it’s very smooth and efficient.

Astha: What I really enjoyed while at Build Change and UNOPS is how approachable the staff are, I never felt like my questions were trivial or irrelevant. I was able to ask anyone in the office a question and they would take the time to answer it.

Suresh: This placement has given me the opportunity to learn different types of architectural styles that are used in rural housing. Before I started my placement I did not know how to design and draw rural houses as all my focus had been on drawing modern, contemporary houses. I look forward to being able to use these skills that I have learned in my career.

Sujeena: What has been your favorite part of the placement?

Astha: For me it was the variety of work and the fact that the work never got boring. Because we were constantly shifting between departments and organizations, I was constantly learning and being challenged with new concepts and techniques.

Suresh: For me it was the innovative use of the Dashboard to assign work to each off us, how the dashboard keeps the progress recorded of all the drawings in one centralized place so that we could see what needed to be done at all times. Also the process of using Technical Support Centres (TSC’s) to provide remote communities with information about reconstruction and be the ability of the TSC’s to provide house drawings to the homeowner.

Dikshya: How collaborative the work here is, working at Build Change is very much a team effort. You need to think of the destination and the best way to get there as a team.

Sujeena: Do you know what you would like to do after university?

Astha: I have really enjoyed my placement with Build Change and UNOPS working on houses and police stations. With my placement I wanted to experience and be part of something that was new to me. This placement has given me that challenge. After I finish my studies I am interested in getting a job within a commercial architectural firm and have a few companies that I am interested in working for.

Suresh: The social enterprise, non-profit aspect of this placement was one of the main reasons that I applied initially. I was interested in seeing what help I could provide to the earthquake affected homeowners. It has been a very personally fulfilling placement because of that. It was also has furthered my belief that after I finish my studies I would like to work for a non-profit or a charitable cause. I’m not sure what direction that will take, but I have certainly enjoyed the charitable aspect of my role here.

Astha: I hope to be able to use the techniques that I have learned here around earthquake resistant housing and rural housing for my career, I certainty have a developed a greater appreciation and understanding of these techniques and would like to further refine my knowledge.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today, I wish you all the best in your future studies!

Build Change and Simpson Strong-Tie Announce New Excellence in Engineering Fellow


Media Contacts:

Michelle Nicholson                                 Shelby Lentz
+1-812-369-5037                                  +1-925-560-9068       

International Nonprofit Social Enterprise Build Change and Global Structural Solutions Leader Simpson Strong-Tie Renew Joint Fellowship for Engineering Excellence and Introduce 2019-2020 Fellow

Denver, Dec. 19, 2019- Build Change and Simpson Strong-Tie are excited to introduce the recipient of the 2019-2020 Excellence in Engineering Fellowship: Tim Hart.

This is the third year of the Fellowship, resulting from the continuation of a successful partnership between international nonprofit social enterprise Build Change and global structural solutions leader Simpson Strong-Tie. Complementing the Simpson Strong-Tie goal to design solutions for making structures safer and stronger, the fellowship allows innovative engineers the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to Build Change programs as well as support other engineers’ professional development in developing nations around the world.

This year’s fellow, Tim Hart, has 30 years of structural engineering and building construction experience. He’s a graduate with honors from the Architectural Engineering program at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and a licensed civil and structural engineer in California. He also served as past president and board member of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California.

“Build Change’s mission and values are in line with my own. I want to use my skills as a structural engineer to directly help people who are vulnerable to catastrophic loss from climate disasters. It’s a man-made problem with a man-made solution, and I want to be a part of that solution,” noted Hart.

Hart is currently Engineering and Design Services Director for Build Change. Prior to joining the organization’s senior management team, he worked with Build Change as a structural engineering consultant since 2005 providing engineering designs, peer reviews and technical assistance on Build Change projects in 10 different countries, including onsite work in Indonesia, Haiti and Nepal. He also volunteers time and expertise developing design and construction manuals and co-writing papers on confined masonry construction for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) Confined Masonry Network.

“We’re very pleased to have Tim bring his years of technical expertise and dedication to service to the 2020 Fellowship role. Our first two Fellows brought lasting positive impact to developing areas in Colombia, Philippines and Haiti, and we’re looking forward to the continued work Tim will do to promote safer, stronger design and construction methods,” said Simpson Strong-Tie Vice President of Engineering Annie Kao.

Hart is the third professional to hold the Build Change-Simpson Strong-Tie fellowship. October, 2019 marked the completion of the tenure of the second fellow, Juan Carlos Restrepo. Hart, like his predecessors, will chronicle his fellowship experiences on the Simpson Strong-Tie Structural Engineering Blog at

About Build Change

Build Change (@BuildChange) currently works in 18 countries to prevent loss of life and property in earthquakes and windstorms.  Because of Build Change’s work over the past 15 years, 332,000 people are living and learning in safer homes and schools.  Rather than wait until the next disaster strikes, Build Change has rapidly scaled its prevention work, convincing governments of countries like Colombia, Guatemala and the Philippines that safer housing needs to be a national priority.  Build Change is also a leader in the use of technology to help local engineers quickly diagnose what retrofits are needed to make a home safer.

The Founder and CEO of Build Change, Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, is one of the world’s foremost experts on resilient building and post-disaster reconstruction.  Her leadership of Build Change has grown the organization to over 200 staff on three continents.

About Simpson-Strong Tie

For more than 60 years, Simpson Strong-Tie has dedicated itself to creating structural products that help people build safer, stronger homes and buildings. Considered an industry leader in structural systems research, testing and innovation, Simpson Strong-Tie works closely with construction professionals to provide code-listed, field-tested products and value-engineered solutions. Our engineered structural products and systems are recognized for helping structures resist high winds, hurricanes and seismic forces. They include structural connectors, fasteners, fastening systems, lateral-force-resisting systems, anchors, software solutions, and product solutions for repairing, protecting and strengthening concrete. From product development and testing to training and engineering and field support, Simpson Strong-Tie is committed to helping customers succeed. For more information, visit and follow us on,, YouTube and LinkedIn.


A Study into the Participation of Females in On-the-Job Training Delivered by Build Change and UNOPS

By Marie Meenan

In “A Study into the Participation of Females in On-the-Job Training Delivered by Build Change and UNOPS”, Meenan examines the factors which promote and inhibit female participation in masonry construction in Nepal.

In response to the 2015 Ghorka earthquakes, Build Change and UNOPS implemented two programs to help rebuild safer homes: 1) the Vulnerable Family Assistance and Targeting (VFAST) program in Dolakha district, 2) and the Social-Technical Facilitation and Consultation (STFC) program in Nuwakot district.

Both programs take a homeowner driven approach to earthquake reconstruction, focusing on engaging the entire community and raising awareness of earthquake related risks. Both programs pay particular attention to the vulnerable members of the communities —women, children, people with disabilities and those who are socially marginalized. As part of these programs, UNOPS and Build Change provide On-the-Job Training (OJT) events to teach important construction techniques to skilled and unskilled masons and thereby empower families to gain future employment. While the number of female masons trained by governmental and non-governmental organisations post-earthquake has been relatively low (approximately 10%), there has been high female participation during these OJT events. The VFAST and STFC OJT events boast 64% and 35% female participation rates respectively.

Prior to the analysis Meenan describes the adverse effects of the Ghorka earthquakes and the impact on the female society. She hones in on the importance of women in the reconstruction efforts, the issues and challenges faced during the process and analyzes the gaps, strengths and opportunities for women’s engagement.

Using available data and interviewing participants from both programs, Meenan examines which factors encourage and discourage female training.

In the VFAST program, female participation varied within different castes/ethnicities, which is suggested to be attributed to different cultural practices and values. For example, the Janajati caste possessed the highest percentage of female participants at 73%, whilst the Brahmin/Chhetri caste had the lowest,  recorded at 54%.

The main reason women participated was because of the opportunity to take part in paid work and learn useful skills relating to construction. It gave the women confidence and provided a potential source of independence. However, to maintain these benefits,  further opportunities needed to be available within their home village so that they could run in parallel to their household responsibilities.

A key message of Meenan’s report is that teaching communities how to build their own affordable, earthquake resistant houses is critical—not only as a post-disaster measure to re-house people, but as a preventative measure for protection against the inevitable future earthquakes.

Meenan hopes her findings can be used in future reconstruction projects in Nepal and further afield.

Please find the full report here:

A Photo Diary of My 5 Months with Build Change in Nepal

By Marie Meenan

Above the Clouds During my First Field Visit to Syangja


I was initiated into Nepal with a field visit to the Syangja district to witness the work that Build Change are conducting. There I was blown away by the breathtaking views. Each site boasted a unique scenery, every new location as stunning as the last. Trees cascaded down the mountains, the sun pierced the clouds and rhododendrons dotted the paths. We arrived at one site above the clouds and left after they dispersed, revealing the impressive valley below. I was in awe of the sights that the owners of these homes witness every day.

The views, however, weren’t the only thing that fascinated me. At each site, I was intrigued by the large number of female masonry trainees. Having studied mechanical engineering, I am starkly aware of the disparity between males and females in engineering and construction, and so the number of women I witnessed on sites was heartening. Speaking to Build Change engineers in the field, I discovered that there is high male migration into Kathmandu and out of the country. This obviously contributes to the significance of women in reconstruction after the 2015 earthquakes, but I wanted to know more. As Nepal is a very patriarchal society, women’s roles have little perceived value, despite obvious and vital contributions.  When I requested data from the Vulnerable Family Assistance and Training (VFAST) and Socio-Technical Facilitation and Consultation (STFC) projects, I discovered that female trainees amounted to 64% and 35% of the totals respectively, both far surpassing the target for female masonry trainees set by the government (which is a mere 10%). This sparked a curiosity in me which brought me to the field to interview trainees, past and present.

A Group of Interviewees from Dolokha

In Nuwakot and Dolokha, the districts where the VFAST and STFC projects were located, I conducted a number of interviews. The women there praised the training, saying it brought them the opportunity to learn a skill, something which many of them reported they had never been given the chance to do before. Many of their husbands were working abroad, but all were supported by their families. Many of these women speculated that family pressure may discourage more women from taking part, with one woman even commenting that women from more economically stable families may not feel the need to participate in income-generating activities.   These women were different though. They were all motivated to develop a skill of any kind, exercising their abilities to earn a wage, contributing to the economy of their villages, and gaining independence.

The role of women in disaster recovery and prevention is paramount. Too often, needs in these highly stressful situations are generalised, and women’s unique requirements are neglected. This is particularly short-sighted seeing as women and vulnerable people are disproportionately affected by disasters, whether it be in terms of mortality, or post- disaster, when the risk for human trafficking rises. The unique dangers women face are further exacerbated by gendered roles, where many women perform domestic activities inside vulnerable houses prone to damage and collapse. It is therefore crucial that women are given opportunities to gain independence. The substantial role women play in the reconstruction and retrofitting projects conducted by Build Change gives them this opportunity.

Laxmi, a training participant and interviewee from Charghare, Nuwakot
Maya, a training participant and interviewee from Nuwakot

My time in Nepal has been an unmatched adventure. Spending 5 months away from my friends and family, with an unfamiliar cuisine in a vastly different culture has awakened me to a diversity I am lucky to have experienced. I witnessed Nepal’s new year (the fifth new year to be celebrated that year) where young men pulled a colossal pole to the ground with ropes within an unmoving crowd in Bhaktapur, and tried traditional Newari food in Kirtupur (leaf tripe bag with bone marrow and chilled intestine).

I travelled on some of the most dangerous roads in the world, which felt like a three-hour ride on an old roller coaster. I para-glided in Pokhara over the famous lake with mountain views, which I can only describe as a seat in the sky. I camped beside the Trishuli River and stopped off during a site visit in an orange grove. We were engulfed by the citrusy smell and I was amazed by how the extensive grove was hidden by a modest home.

Masses of People Celebrating Nepal New Year
Men Sorting Oranges at the Huge Orange Grove on my Way Back from My First Field Visit
The View From Kirtipur Where I Tried the Newari Food
Celebrating Holi- The Festival of Colour

During Holi, the festival of colour, we were bombarded by children throwing water balloons and everyone smearing colourful powders on our faces. At a field visit to Kavrepalanchok, we stopped at the Namo Buddha Monastery and Stupa, where a reincarnation of Buddha supposedly gave his flesh to a starving tiger.

Every day boasted a colourful sunset, visible from the rooftop of my guesthouse (despite the pollution).  The vastness of Kathmandu seemed endless, blanketing the earth with disheveled shapes and uninterrupted colours.  Kathmandu’s cacophony of sounds are etched in my ears; dogs barking, incessant horns, and daily parades and weddings.  I am sure I will still hear them back home.

I have really adored my time here. The memories I have gained from Nepal are fondly embedded into my life and character, and the experience that volunteering with Build Change has given me will influence my thoughts and decisions for a lifetime.

The View From the Build Change Office
Hidden Building Near the Stupa
Full View of the Mountains During Hike to Chisapani
The Impressive Boudhanath Stupa
An Abandoned Building at Chisapani (Easy to See Why it Was Abandoned)
Rowing Boats on the Lake at Pokhara with the Mountains Close Behind


About the Talk

Durable housing for a resilient future. Around the world, natural disasters destroy thousands of lives and erase decades of economic gains each year. These outcomes are undeniably devastating and completely preventable, says mason Elizabeth Hausler — and substandard housing is to blame. It’s estimated that one-third of the world will be living in insufficiently constructed buildings by 2030; Hausler hopes to cut those projections with a building revolution. She shares six straightforward principles to approach the problem of substandard housing: teach people how to build, use local architecture, give homeowners power, provide access to financing, prevent disasters and use technology to scale. “It’s time we treat unsafe housing as the global epidemic that it is,” Hausler says. “It’s time to strengthen every building just like we would vaccinate every child in a public health emergency.”

This talk was presented at “We the Future,” a special event in partnership with the Skoll Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.

Download Transcripts
About the Speaker

Dr. Elizabeth Hausler is the Founder and CEO of Build Change and a global expert on resilient building and post-disaster reconstruction. Elizabeth’s strategic direction and leadership has grown the organization from a few employees in 2004 to over 230 strong working on three continents in 2018. Her emphasis on rebuilding to withstand future disasters has distinguished Build Change from its peers, won international honors and profoundly influenced global development policy by making resilience a major consideration for reconstruction efforts in an era of ever-increasing natural disaster risks.

Watch and Learn More

Retrofitting for Prevention (Colombia) A 3-minute video that shares the stories of Nohelia and Maria, residents of informal neighborhoods in Medellin, who decided to retrofit their homes to reduce their risk of collapse in the next earthquake. [Spanish with English subtitles]

Usha’s Story: A Retrofitted Nepali Home This 10-minute video, produced with the financial support of DFID, has been seen by more than 70,000 people in Nepal. It documents Usha Didi’s decision to retrofit her house as well as the final product and impact on her family. [In Nepali with English subtitles]

Virtual Reality Tour of Eklephant, Nepal Take a virtual tour through Eklephant Village in Nepal! In partnership with Autodesk, Build Change has adapted Revit® software to rapidly design retrofits for similar types of buildings, greatly reducing the time required for design and gathering cost estimates.

AI for Retrofitting (Call for Code) A team of developers, coders, and volunteers from Build Change in Nepal were among the top three finalists in the global Call for Code Developer Challenge, a prestigious worldwide competition sponsored by IBM that seeks to identify and promote creative digital approaches to disaster relief and preparedness. In this video, the Post-Disaster Rapid Response Retrofit (PDR3) team shares their innovative application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) code to assess structural criteria on damaged buildings following natural disasters.

Economic Progress and Disaster Resilience (Philippines) A 3-minute video animation of the potential for retrofitting and economic development in Pembo, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Closing the Protection Gap In 2018, RMS and their client volunteers visited Build Change communities in Nepal to deploy their skills and expertise to help solve practical community development challenges.

Building Change in Partnership Autodesk and Micro Documentaries joined forces to produce this two- and- a- half minute mini-documentary about Build Change and its mission to save lives in earthquakes and typhoons by building disaster-resistant buildings.

Report: Building Back Housing in Post-Disaster Situations:

Report: Build Back Better-Strategies for Societal Renewal in Haiti:

Report: Seismic Retrofit of Housing in Post-Disaster Situations:

Partnership with the World Bank for Global Resilient Housing:

We the Future from TED, Skoll Foundation and United Nations Foundation

Build Change CEO Delivers Vision of Housing Resilience at TED Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 25 — Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, Founder and CEO of Build Change, delivered an impassioned TED Talk to the organization’s “We the Future” conference in New York, joining thousands of other social entrepreneurs and activists in calling for a renewed commitment to building housing resilience and battling poverty in the developing world.

The marquis event at the TED World Theater in Manhattan celebrated the 73rd annual opening session of the United Nations General Assembly.

“It’s time we treat unsafe housing as the global epidemic that it is,” Hausler said. “It’s time to strengthen every building just like we would vaccinate every child in a public health emergency.”

Around the world, natural disasters destroy thousands of lives and erase decades of economic gains each year. These outcomes are undeniably devastating and completely preventable, Dr. Hausler said, and substandard housing is to blame. It’s estimated that one-third of the world will be living in insufficiently constructed buildings by 2030; Hausler hopes to cut those projections with a building and retrofitting revolution. She shared six straightforward principles to approach the problem of substandard housing: teach people how to build, use local architecture, give homeowners power, provide access to financing, prevent disasters and use technology to scale.
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Engineers and Architects: Design a Safer Future for Millions with the Tools of Our Trade

“In the last decade, 5 million people have lost their homes and over 500,000 died in earthquakes and hurricanes…We often blame the earth, or climate change, but the truth is these disasters are largely man-made, and completely preventable. Most of the time earthquakes and hurricanes don’t kill people, badly built buildings do.”
Elizabeth Hausler, Build Change CEO

Competition breeds creativity! The XPRIZE Foundation’s famed “SpaceX” challenge underscores the power of competition to encourage innovation. Read More

Global Program for Resilient Housing Marks Important Shift Toward Prevention

World Bank Global Program for Resilient Housing launch

World Bank and Build Change Introduce New Global Effort to Prioritize Structural Integrity and Retrofit Substandard Housing in Disaster-Prone Regions

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 3 – Build Change and the World Bank on Wednesday launched a major new initiative aimed at improving the safety and structural integrity of millions of homes in the developing world, many of them built with haphazard materials and informal methods that leave them particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events, earthquakes and other disasters.

“It’s time that we look at resilient housing as a public health emergency,” said Build Change CEO Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, who was among those who addressed an audience of global housing experts gathered to celebrate the launch at World Bank headquarters. “This is easy, and it’s cost effective. We know why these buildings collapse in earthquakes, we know how to retrofit them.”
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Build Change CEO Discusses Power of Government Partnerships During UN General Assembly Week

scaling pathways

Dr. Elizabeth Hausler Highlights Build Change’s Experience Working with Governments on Three Continents to Build Safe, Sustainable Housing

Build Change CEO Dr. Elizabeth Hausler joined an esteemed group of social entrepreneurs, policymakers and donors in a panel discussion to explore how best to harness the power of partnerships between nonprofits and government agencies.

The Sept. 26 event marked the launch of the new Scaling Pathways initiative, a partnership of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Skoll Foundation, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Mercy Corps and Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). Scaling Pathways published a new report, “Leveraging Government Partnerships for Scaled Impact,” as part of the event.
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Democratizing Access to Technology & Automating Workflows in Colombia

Autodesk’s Latin America Marketing Program Manager, Juan M Martinez, Senior Data Scientist, Patty Svenson, and Forge Product Manager, Philippe Videau went to Colombia as part of a pro bono project to support Build Change, an Autodesk Foundation grantee, as they set out to retrofit homes in earthquake prone cities. Juan is originally from Bogota, but Patty and Philippe had never been, so why did they go? Read More

Going the Extra Mile, to Rebuild Nepal…

International Women in Engineering Day 2018

To live far away from home, in a different community and culture, and contribute towards a nation’s rebuilding after a disaster requires courage, character and determination for any young person. In Nepal’s traditionally patriarchal society, it can be especially challenging for young women to seize such opportunities. On top of this, success becomes even more challenging within an industry such as engineering which is still perceived in many countries as a “man’s profession.” After Nepal was struck by the disastrous earthquakes in 2015 however, many Nepali women engineers have come to the forefront of reconstruction, significantly helping homeowners in rebuilding their houses and strengthening their affected communities.Read More

The Happy Face of Retrofitting – Corina Sutter in Nepal

Corina Sutter is Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs at RMS, and is based in London. She joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Corina’s account of her time in Nepal.

When you think about strengthening a building to make it more resilient to seismic events, does “retrofitting” come top of mind? And if you have heard of retrofitting, do you know why it is more cost-effective and in many instances more suitable than simply rebuilding? This awareness challenge is what Build Change faces in Nepal; with regards to retrofitting not everyone is aware or convinced — yet.

Thanks to RMS and their partnership with Build Change, I had the fantastic opportunity to spend a few days with their team in Nepal to learn more about their local initiatives. Prior to the trip, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of Build Change’s way of working and their impact on societies within which they operate, and was looking forward to better understanding what particular emphasis and challenges they see in the context of Nepal’s socioeconomic and political environment.Read More

Using Catastrophe Models to Promote Resilience

Tom is a Senior Product Manager in the Model Product Management team, focusing on the North Atlantic Hurricane Model suite of products. He joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Tom’s account of his time in Nepal.

2018 Trekkers in Kathmandu

2018 Trekkers in Kathmandu

Arriving in Kathmandu for the 2018 RMS Impact Trek, I was already aware of the many years that RMS has provided support for Build Change and its work in areas worst hit by catastrophic disasters. Our first day in the Build Change office was a crash course in their local objectives and challenges. Day Two saw us on a field trip to nearby Kirtipur to survey common building practices. It was a lot of information to process and it was not immediately clear to me what “impact” we could make during our short visit.

But it was later in the week — when, admittedly, the jet lag finally wore off — that I finally caught on.Read More

A Tour of Kirtipur – Callum Higgins in Nepal

Callum Higgins is senior product analyst at RMS, and is based in London. He joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Callum’s account of his time in Nepal.Read More