Retrofit Type Design Approved: A Turning Point in Nepal’s Reconstruction!

completed retrofit house

An estimated 500,000 Nepali earthquake-affected homeowners in Nepal can now choose to retrofit their damaged homes. In doing so, an estimated 2.5 million lives would be made safe from future earthquakes and 30 megatons of construction materials, and 1 billion USD could be saved. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) approved the retrofitting type design submitted by Build Change for stone masonry buildings in mud mortar on June 4th, 2017, after review by Technical Committee including representatives from the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) and leading Nepali structural experts. By approving this retrofit type design, the Government of Nepal opens the door to retrofitting being used at scale by homeowners across the earthquake affected areas to seismically strengthen their earthquake damaged houses. This is a turning point in the history of Nepal’s reconstruction, as for the first time, a clearly defined … Read More

Damages from the Pidie Jaya Earthquake: School Assessments and Checking in on Build Change-advised Houses

Day 4 – 22 December 2016 in Pidie Jaya District Today we had a chance to join the government team that conducts assessments for school buildings. Their team is divided into three groups, each with an engineer from the Ministry of Public Works, and a representative from each of BPKP (Financial Investigation Agency of Aceh Province), BNPB, and DepEd Pidie Jaya. The team will assess 54 schools that are reported to have high or moderate damage by the school staff. Schools which are deemed highly damaged will be demolished and replaced with a temporary emergency school. We split our team into two, Danny and Didi went to assess some nearby villages, and Ani joined the government team for school assessments to learn how the government assessment process works. Ani and the government team visited 5 schools. Some schools showed no … Read More

Aceh Earthquake Response Day 3: Brickmakers and Damaged Buildings in Meredeu & Bandar Baru Sub-districts

  Today we visited two more affected sub-districts in Pidie Jaya. In the morning we went to Bandar Baru sub-district and visited two schools. The buildings are confined masonry, and include teacher housing. Walls have collapsed in a few of the classrooms and the library building. The damage that we found in those two schools are quite similar to the damage at the schools we visited earlier in the week: cracks in the walls near windows and doors, and separation between columns, beams, and walls. One of the buildings with teacher housing has metal roof framing and metal sheet roof covers. We then went to Jie-jiem village, one of the most affected areas in Bandar Baru sub-district. According to the village leader, there are 77 damaged houses- about 60% houses in the village. The majority are confined masonry houses, and … Read More

Reports after the Pidie Jaya Earthquake – Day 2 : Damages in Pidie Jaya and Trianggadeng

In the morning we went to the Pidie Jaya District to meet with the head of the district’s Department of Education (DP). On our way there, we observed some damaged buildings, most of which had suffered wall, column beam, and roof collapses.             We met with representatives from the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and Save the Children. They are collaborating to build 13 emergency school buildings. They are currently completing structural assessments and intend to complete the construction by December 25, 2016, as requested by the President. The designs have been prepared by the Ministry of Public Works.                 We then assessed four schools in the Trianggadeng sub-district, which is one of the areas that was most affected. Three of them are comprised of confined masonry buildings, and … Read More

Damages from the Pide Jaya Earthquake Day 1: Bieruen District

Our reconnaissance team is composed of 3 Build Change staff and our driver Danu. Danny is the technical team leader for our current better brickmaking program in Lubuk Alung, West Sumatera. She also led the technical team in our previous technical assistance program in Aceh Tengah in 2015. Elwahyudi is a technical supervisor who is also currently involved in the better brickmaking program with Danny. We left Sunday at noon from Padang and flew to Medan. We then drove for about 10 hours to Bireuen, one of the three districts that were affected by the earthquake on December 6th in Pidie Jaya. There is no damage in the city and we saw no wood framed buildings. We went directly to Samalanga sub-district, the most affected part of the district, which is about 1 hour from the city. Here, we started to … Read More

After Hurricane Matthew: Investigating Housing and School Damages in Beaumont & Les Cayes

Today we visited the city of Beaumont located between Jeremie and Camp Perrin in the mountains. We met the Mayor of Beaumont, who described a similar situation as that in Moron. The main street of the town was not very affected by the hurricanes. The majority of the houses and commercial shops are made from unreinforced masonry with heavy roofs. We went with a municipal agent to visit the outskirts of the town. In this area, ­ 80% of houses were made from wood frame and stone masonry infill and 20% were constructed from unreinforced masonry. We saw again here that wood framed houses are much more damaged. The stone masonry is unable to resist the wind force, and we did not see wood cross bracing in the walls. People who lost their home are either staying in an unreinforced … Read More

After Hurricane Matthew: Assessing Damages in Moron

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 cement mortar. Foreman are using untreated wood to build the frame with a spacing of typically 1m. The wood elements are not saw lumber, but generally round wood approximately 7-10cm diameter. On the most damaged houses we saw that the … Read More

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

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 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 … Read More

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

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 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 … Read More

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

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 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 … Read More

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

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 … Read More

Saving Lives through Retrofitting in Colombia

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 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 … Read More

Vocational Training Changes Lives

“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 … Read More

Is it safe to build houses from straw, tires, or plastic bottles?

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 really only two things that matter: 1. Can the house be built so that it is safe? 2. Will people want to live in it? All the other questions and issues can be rolled into these two. If the necessary … Read More

Why don’t we use premade homes?

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 the horizontal forces of earthquakes and high winds. The lack of essential lateral systems, like diagonal bracing or connections between roof, walls, and foundation are nearly always the missing factor that led to the tragedy of collapsing buildings. By using … Read More