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).
Mostly residential street in Tarqui, Manta
Many of the small and medium sized buildings that had collapsed were already demolished and some were being taken down while we were there.
Three story building being demolished. Manta, Ecuador
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 to see really why some had collapsed and others did not.
There were several green-tagged residential buildings in the area – particularly along one street. Though one of the homeowners there was telling us that they didn’t know if the green tag for their house was correct because although the exterior looked undamaged, they said many of the walls inside were damaged.
Green-tagged houses in Tarqui, Manta.
Tuesday evening we presented a seminar with Ing. Flores in Manta, open to the public. We spoke about our experiences in housing reconstruction following other earthquakes and Ing. Flores presented on the Construction Code.
Lizzie presenting in Manta
On Wednesday we headed to Portoviejo and stopped in Crucita, a coastal town along the way. Overall Crucita had very little damage compared to Manta to the south and Canoa to the north. A local business owner told us that only 6 houses had significant damage. Walter interviewed a builder there to find out about local construction practices.
Walter interviewing a local builder, Oriol, in Crucita.
We then visited downtown Portoviejo, the area in the city with the most damages. There were not many 1-2 story houses, but some were damaged, particularly when mixed-use. There were many taller, larger and mixed-use structures, which were damaged in many cases.
Damaged 4-story mixed use buildings in Portoviejo.
We then presented a similar seminar as the previous night with Ing. Flores, but in Portoviejo.
Juan presenting in Portoviejo at the Technical University of Manabi
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.
Team in Jama on the street surveyed: Ing. Flores, Walter, Lizzie, and Juan
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 wood-framed buildings, we saw the most damage (wall and partial roof collapse) in the upper levels of buildings where wood and masonry infill walls were mixed. This is probably because the wood walls were not sufficient to resist the larger load imparted by the adjacent heavier masonry infill. Houses with wood only walls at the upper level generally performed well, with minimal damage (some movement at the floor level at some column joints) except where it appeared the wood was deteriorated and not well maintained.
The concrete frame with infill building fully collapsed at the ground floor level (hinging at the ground floor columns) and the infill was damaged. It was not directly observable, but it was likely that the ground floor had more open area in the from elevation, creating a weak/soft story condition.
Concrete frame with infill – suspected soft/weak story collapse
In Jama, we also observed some damages to schools – site wall collapse and building wall collapse.
In general it seems people have a more negative impression of the concrete buildings and are more comfortable with wood after the earthquake, because of the difference in performance and survivability. We saw a comparative example on the ride back to Manta, when a 2-story concrete frame with infill police station was heavily damaged, and the adjacent wood housing across the street was fully usable, without damage.
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.
Juan and Walter from the Build Change team with Ing. Hermel Flores in Canoa, Ecuador
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 earthquake. The records from these sensors are being retrieved and processed. We’re looking forward to the report on those coming available soon to see how they compare with what we observed along the way.
We stopped in Canoa and checked in with the COE, the emergency operations committee. They reported that 9 of 17 rural schools in the area collapsed or had significant damage and that both of the two urban schools were damaged and not useable. Many of the collapsed buildings in town had been hotels, rather than houses, but houses were also significantly damaged.
We visited one of the schools in town, William Fletcher, with the municipal engineers. It had three different two-story classroom buildings, all were reinforced concrete frame with infill. There were also two seismically separate stair towers, with minimal damage. One of the classroom structures, blue and white, had minimal damage and could likely be easily repaired and retrofit. (Although, one of the damages was parapet collapse, which could be highly hazardous to students below.) The other two buildings were more heavily damaged, and one of them had noticeable residual drift. The damages included failure of the ground floor columns at the base and at the top below the floor beam, failure and cracking of the masonry infill, and failure at the intermediate beam connection to the column.
You could see that the frame columns were smaller in the more heavily damaged buildings (green and yellow), and the infill was not covered in cement plaster as it was in the blue and white building. These differences may have contributed to the difference in performance.
Many houses in the town were constructed of timber framing with masonry infill. Another common housing type was concrete frame with infill. We saw examples of damage in both and Walter interviewed several homeowners.
In one case, the house was timber framed with brick infill. During the earthquake, the masonry failed at one side of the ground floor, the wall collapsed and the corner post became disconnected from the floor, causing the rear corner of the house to partially collapse. The homeowner wants to rebuild his house in the same way, but with one exception – he would not use brick infill, but all wood walls instead. He thought that would be less hazardous in another earthquake.
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 another just east of the area, “AMIL” recorded a maximum acceleration of 51.04 cm/s2 (approx. 5%g). As a point of comparison, the new Norma Ecuatoriana de la Construccion (Ecuadorian Construction Code) considers the seismic zone factor, Z, to be 0.4. For a Type D soil, that would result in a peak ground acceleration of 0.48g for the design spectrum (475 year return period earthquake). So the recorded motions indicate the accelerations were about 5-10% of the design basis earthquake for Guayaquil, fairly low.
We spent the day driving toward Manta. In Guayaquil, the housing was generally taller than once we were out of the city. The residential buildings were typically concrete frame with block infill, or confined masonry in some cases.
Guayaquil, Ecuador- Confined Masonry Example
As we drove further from the city along highway 482, the housing types became more variant. Instead of columns and beams built from reinforced concrete construction, we also began to see houses that were heavy timber frame or even steel frame, with infill. The infill varied too, from concrete blocks, solid bricks (often turned vertical on their narrow edge), or hollow clay tile.
We only started to see significant signs of earthquake damage as we approached Montecristi, a town just east of Manta. However, once we arrived in Manta, the damage was evident and areas of the city were barricaded for safety.
We saw similar housing types in Manta as we had seen on the drive. Several timber frame with infill houses were heavily damaged. Probably the masonry did not have good connections with the frame and it was also not strong enough to resist the earthquake – causing failure of the masonry and separation from the frame. Sometimes it appeared that the collapsing masonry tore down other parts of the building with it, such as the roof or floor.
Manta, Ecuador – Damaged timber frame with infill house
Separation between the different parts of the building due to poor connections between elements was a common type of damage observed. The connections were not strong enough to keep the building tied together in the earthquake.
Several residential buildings suffered from soft/weak story failure.
We also saw failure or damaged front walls where they cantilever out over the facade below. The vertical discontinuity this causes can create stress concentrations at the overhang and increase flexibility at the base of the overhanging wall – leading to cracking.
We see very similar types of buildings to these from Manta everywhere around the world where Build Change works. It’s always hard to see communities suffering from these disasters. We hope these vibrant towns will be able to recover from this disaster quickly, while rebuilding safer, more resilient communities.
“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 in a safe house and he will help retrofit others.
In partnership with Caja de la Vivienda Popular (CVP), the Swiss Re Foundation, and RMS, Build Change is now launching a pilot retrofitting project that will reach 50 houses. We are currently training CVP staff and contractors in retrofitting, to build permanent local skills. Then, the retrofits will begin and our staff will support those projects with technical assistance in design and supervision of construction.
We look forward to making at least 50 families safe in the next few months, and many more in 2016.
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) talking to the owner when the quake hit. I have never seen people fly down steps so fast once what was happening sunk in! I actually saw the (minor) out-of-plane movement of the stone and mud mortar wall (about 15″ wide) when I got outside. I’m happy to say that house is still fine and habitable after the earthquake and the aftershock.
We were still there a short time later when the M6.3 aftershock hit. A couple of already severely damaged houses collapsed further. The relatively undamaged houses remained intact.
Several resulting landslides on the road made leaving the village a bit tricky. We expect to encounter more landslides during our drive to Sindhupalchok, northeast of Kathmandu, to see how we can support the rebuilding process in that region.”
Our thoughts are with the families in other areas who lost loved ones to this second earthquake.
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 to encourage local communities to use these safer building materials.
To keep children occupied while their parents learned about safe building techniques and better brickmaking at this event, we held coloring, drawing, and writing contests.
Little 8-year-old Fatimatuz wrote about her experience in the 2013 earthquake that destroyed her home:
“My younger sister and I were playing a cooking game, and the earthquake happened. We ran to the door, but we could not open it, fortunately then my father carried both of us outside. After that we set up a tent. I have to be strong. It is really fun to sleep in the tent. There are 7 people who live in it.”
“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 2010. She started her masonry career as an apprentice, in an intensive six week training program run by Build Change in partnership with Centre d’Etude et de Coopération Internationale (CECI).
After passing the exam at the end of her apprentice training, she began working as an intern under masons building in Carrefour-Feuilles. After this intern period of on-the-job training, she enrolled in our builder training program to become certified in safer building techniques. Very quickly, she managed her own team of construction workers. It wasn’t long before we asked her to lead the training program in which she had once been a student.
“I’m going to school on weekends to learn civil engineering.”
“I’m very happy, and I feel good working in such a supportive environment,” says Widleine. “I’m looking ahead, beyond masonry,” she says. “I’m going to school on weekends to learn civil engineering.”
After her contract with Build Change is over, she will go to school full time. From masonry intern to certified builder to instructor, Widleine is on a path to become a civil engineer.
“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.
“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.
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.
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, and learn the basics of safe construction so they have peace of mind their house is safe.
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 programs are chronicled here.
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.
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.
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 between the immediate, emergency shelter phase and the long-term recovery efforts. Typically, a cash grant equivalent to one year’s rent is provided to a family to facilitate their relocation from internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or temporary housing while they secure a permanent housing solution. Rental subsidies have been used following disasters in both developed and developing countries, notably in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. At the time of writing, rental support was being considered as a recovery option in the Philippines to respond to Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), which struck the Visayas region in November 2013.
Rental support programs can have a positive effect in post-disaster recovery efforts. Families that benefit from such programs generally increase their physical security, and their relocation from IDP camps or temporary housing eases a strain on the affected city’s infrastructure and recovery efforts. The infusion of cash also supports economic and physical recovery – in Haiti for example, one study found that 77% of landlords used the rental support to upgrade their houses.
Its positive effects, however, are largely limited to the short term stimulus described above. Rental support programs do not build resilience in the local housing sector and can have adverse long-term effects, most regrettably by driving unsafe repairs or upgrades on already insecure housing to meet the demand for rental accommodation, or by encouraging new construction in informal neighborhoods. Rental support programs typically do not offer technical assistance to landlords to ensure that repairs, upgrades and new construction are done safely, missing a big opportunity to increase the safety of the local housing stock and foster a change to safer construction practices.
Furthermore, the short duration of the rental support means that families will potentially be looking for housing again in a year’s time. This is a concern, because the donors providing rental support programs (local governments and their implementing partners) no longer have a responsibility to the affected population. In Haiti, one study found that only 25% of families stayed in their rental accommodation for a second year after their subsidy had lapsed. The remaining 75% either couldn’t pay rent without the subsidy or had difficulty with the landlord, and so they needed to find other solutions. A small portion of families tried to return to the IDP camps and were forced to erect informal housing on precarious hillsides or unclaimed land, but the majority turned to the general market. Due to delays in permanent housing programs and lack of widespread technical assistance for homeowners engaged in self-recovery, few safe, permanent housing options were available to accommodate these families.
Based on its experience with post-disaster rental support programs, Build Change has the following recommendations for donors and implementing partners considering rental support programs:
Support the whole housing sector, not just landlords that can accommodate relocated families. Raise public awareness about safe construction, and provide technical assistance to support the safe repair, upgrading or reconstruction of houses. This may include direct support to homeowners, training programs for community builders and local construction professionals, and/or capacity building of local government officials to inspect and permit residential houses.
Optimize rental subsidies by using them as leverage to foster safe construction. Treat cash grants as incentive-based financing for homeowners to repair, upgrade or rebuild their house, and provide technical assistance to encourage adoption of disaster-resistant construction practices. Be sure to include technical assistance in the project’s budget.
Whenever possible, improve the supply before inflating the demand. Permanent housing reconstruction can begin immediately following a disaster – damaged houses can be retrofit quicker and more cheaply than transitional shelters can be erected, and new houses can be rebuilt as soon as the rubble is cleared. Set the conditions to increase the supply of safe housing before launching a rental support program.
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.
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.
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 house earthquake victims, over 200,000 of whom still live in tents or in the three large new slums.
In total, the new projects, with homes for at least 3,588 families, cost 88 million dollars. (In contrast, international donors and private agencies spent more than five times that amount – about 500 million dollars – on “temporary shelters” or T-shelters.)
Our staff is still evaluating houses for retrofit in Port-au-Prince. We’re currently doing evaluations in Kanpèch. These evaluations help us determine what interventions a structure needs in order to be earthquake-resistant.