Providing Permanent, Affordable Housing Solutions to Earthquake Survivors in Haiti
August 14, 2022 marks one year since a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake devastated the south of Haiti, destroying or damaging approximately 140,000 homes and taking the lives of 2,248 people.
Build Change mobilized local staff immediately following the earthquake, to support survivors with home repairs and strengthening, improve construction practices, and save lives in future disasters in Haiti.
Build Change has taken the following key actions:
Post-disaster reconstruction to prevent future disasters
In Les Cayes, our local engineers have been supporting survivors with affordable, permanent solutions for repairing and strengthening their damaged homes. Demand for Build Change’s support is growing fast among homeowners and local officials, as we demonstrate how low-cost, long-term solutions can be deployed immediately after a disaster, to minimize reliance on temporary fixes and maximize investments, and quickly return people to homes that will withstand future disasters.
Breaking the cycle of bad construction
Most people in earthquakes die when their poorly-built masonry home collapses on them. Build Change is supporting local block makers to produce better building materials, and training builders in safe construction practices, to break the cycle of bad construction in Haiti. In the process, we are creating jobs, improving livelihoods, and spurring economic recovery in the regions that need it most. Most recently, we’ve observed that the factories we trained in the past continue to use good fabrication practices several years later, and homes built using their quality blocks withstood the seismic activity of this major earthquake.
Previously, Build Change worked in Haiti from 2010 to 2018, following the earthquake in 2010 and category-4 Hurricane Matthew in 2016. During our time in the region, our programs have supported both post-disaster reconstruction and work to prevent housing loss against future disasters.
Build Change applied our sustainable, homeowner-driven approach toward rebuilding and prioritized local capacity development and job creation in Haiti. We worked closely with homeowners, government officials, construction professionals and materials producers to upgrade technologies and common construction practices and implement low-cost improvement solutions.
Between 2010 and 2017, technical assistance provided by Build Change enabled over 3,600 households to rebuild or retrofit their homes, providing more than 7,200 people with safe housing. This makes Build Change the leading implementer of homeowner-driven retrofitting and reconstruction in Haiti, having enabled more homeowners to build or retrofit their homes than any other agency.
Build Back Better
Since 2010, Build Change has supported over 7,000 people in Haiti to live in a safe home. Following the 2010 earthquake, Build Change provided technical assistance and implemented homeowner-driven construction projects in many vulnerable neighborhoods in the municipality of Port-au-Prince (Villa Rosa, Carrefour-Feuille, Christ-Roi, Martissant), Delmas( Delmas 9, 13 and 32), and Carrefour (Tisous, Nan Cocteau).
Our rebuilding programs in Haiti have demonstrated that a homeowner-driven construction model could be successfully applied to the retrofitting of damaged housing, and scaled to reach 1,000 houses at a time.
Build Change pioneered the development of construction training centers with a comprehensive practical training infrastructure. Our “work station” method enables groups of builders and apprentices to simultaneously work on all the key elements of a disaster-resistant house, from the foundations to the roof.
With funding from USAID, Build Change set up a training program in Les Cayes in 2017 to train local builders in better construction practices, building the capacity of the construction sector to support homeowners in retrofitting or rebuilding their homes. More than 200 Haitian engineers from the public and private sectors and construction professionals, all of whom were trained by Build Change, are now able to conduct evaluations and retrofits in the event of a future disaster.
Better Building Materials
One of the reasons why so many houses collapse in earthquakes and windstorms in Haiti is due to the poor quality of construction materials used. To begin to address this problem, Build Change worked with small and medium-sized block makers to teach them how to produce higher-quality blocks, and help create demand for those blocks. This process not only supports local businesses and strengthens the supply chain, it also affects long-term change in construction practice.
In partnership with Save the Children, the Hilti Foundation, the Medicor Foundation and USAID, Build Change worked with 250 building material suppliers to improve the quality of concrete blocks produced by small and medium-sized block manufacturers to meet minimum standards for construction in seismic zones.
REZO: Network of Certified Construction Professionals
REZO (which means “network” in Haitian Creole) was designed and initiated to help develop Haiti’s informal construction sector and provide safer, better-quality homes for Haitian families.
The program has provided small-scale Haitian builders and block-making business owners with access to technical and administrative support and incentives. Through partnerships with the Haitian private sector and access to training, REZO has become a robust model of how public-private partnerships can make sustainable strides toward a safer future.
REZO has supported its affiliates to lead the development of better building practices in Haiti, and experience growth well beyond the industry average. Affiliates have succeeded in reducing production costs, increasing sales and vastly increasing concrete block quality. Program highlights between 2014–2017 include:
- Sustained quality improvement for every REZO blockmaker
- 25% growth and 200 new jobs
- 60% increase in affiliates’ sales: over 12 million good-quality blocks sold, enough to build over 22,000 safer homes
- Hundreds of good-quality block producers and builders within 2.5 km (1.5 miles) of Port-au-Prince
- 1,000,000 people reached through nationwide marketing and disaster-risk campaigns
- 1,500 workers trained
In addition to its work supporting post-disaster reconstruction, Build Change has worked to prevent building collapse against future earthquakes. Build Change developed 82 new and retrofitted retaining wall solutions to help keep water, earth, and buildings in place in the event of a future earthquake in Haiti. Furthermore, over 20,000 homes have used the Yellow House Repair Guidance, which Build Change has provided detailed and extensive comments on.
Build Change worked with the MTPTC to develop the National Retrofit Guidelines for Haiti. These guidelines are now used throughout the country and are promoted by the government as the new standard for making safer buildings.
Government officials are a key component to prevention, as they are ultimately responsible for implementing and enforcing building codes. Build Change trained 57 government officials to oversee such codes, and supported their capacity growth to implement safer building standards. In 2016, Build Change opened an office in the Northern Haiti-an area that had not been majorly impacted by a operations in this way, we worked to minimize the impact that future disasters might have on lives, livelihoods, and education in this region.
Build Change supported two committee-driven school retrofits in Haiti, including the upgrading of evacuation routes and classroom lighting and ventilation, with the aim of meeting the recommendations of the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFP) whenever possible
The retrofits were safely implemented in multiple phases to accommodate school schedules, and the work was efficiently split between several builders in order to reduce disruption to students. School committees were required to hire builders affiliated with REZO, our network of certified construction professionals whose expertise means the amount of supervision needed was significantly lowered.
Build Change completed a collaborative project with the MENFP in 2017 to build the capacity of their engineers to conduct structural assessments of all of Haiti’s public schools. This project enabled the MENFP to assess the retrofit or reconstruction needs of all schools across Haiti, in order to prioritize those most in need and incorporatie that information into their next budget and planning cycle.
Design Review and Construction Supervision
Build Change offers design review services to other agencies, including generating detailed drawings, bills of quantity, technical specifications, and construction quality checklists. In addition, Build Change offers construction supervision services, and train-the-trainer courses for construction supervision and homeowner-driven reconstruction. Build Change has provided inputs on houses, schools, and community centers designed and built by Haven Partnership, CAFOD, the French Red Cross, CARE, J/P HRO, and Save the Children.
Support Our Work
We are seeking partners in the following areas:
- Corporations and foundations
- The private sector, including engineers, builders, producers, and construction materials producers and suppliers
- Financing and insurance institutions
- Public sector institutions, including public works agencies and municipal engineers
- Implementing partners, including NGOs
The Blue Dawn Foundation
Region and Risks
Haiti is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world. A powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010 killed 230,000 and destroyed 250,000 buildings. In 2016, Category-4 Hurricane Matthew resulted in further devastation. Thousands have lost their lives in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake of August 2021, though the full extent of the earthquake’s impact is not yet known. The majority of housing is not earthquake- and hurricane-safe, making the population highly vulnerable.