Millions of people worldwide live in substandard-quality houses which make them vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters. These homes are often built by low-income families without proper skills or training to ensure their home is built properly, forming tightly-packed informal neighborhoods of unsafe houses in urban areas.When a moderate earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, tens of thousands of unsafe houses in informal urban neighborhoods collapsed, killing 230,000 people. To prevent a similar catastrophic loss of life in the future, we work with local and national governments and other stakeholders to provide training in designing and implementing retrofits of unsafe houses to local builders and engineers. We also work to facilitate access to funds for retrofitting.
Repairing and strengthening damaged or unsafe buildings is a process called “retrofitting”. A retrofit building meets earthquake or windstorm engineering standards and will protect families and students from those natural disasters.
Retrofitting is less expensive than new construction and dramatically less expensive than reconstruction after a disaster with the accompanying costs of emergency aid and temporary housing—not to mention the tragic loss of life.
Training to Retrofit
We provide homeowners in marginalized, informal neighborhoods with technical assistance to retrofit substandard houses.
We train local builders and engineers to provide that assistance and to work with government officials in order to establish structural assessment and retrofitting guidelines. This encourages a permanent shift to safer construction practices from all aspects of the construction chain.
We work with municipal and national governments to codify retrofitting techniques to expand the capacity of the domestic construction and engineering sectors to implement disaster-resistant construction practices.
Access to Financing
Increasing urban sustainability through retrofitting requires creating demand for disaster-resistant housing. A house is a significant financial investment, and homeowners will not demand safe housing if cost makes it inaccessible.
To fund these retrofits, we facilitate access to financing. Retrofitting buildings or building them safely is a wise financial investment and the best way to prevent deaths, injuries, and economic losses from a natural disaster.
We partner with local governments to provide access to microloans and financing for homeowners to retrofit their existing home to be safe. These loans are contingent on receiving technical assistance from our staff of local engineers to ensure these buildings meet safety standards.
Access to microfinancing allows homeowners who would otherwise be unable to afford the process of retrofitting their home to feel safe and secure.
Build Change is partnering with the Colombian government to leverage existing housing subsidy programs to create incentives and provide the access to capital needed to retrofit homes.
In the spring of 2016, Build Change began working on pre-disaster retrofitting, initially targeting families living in urban slums in Metro Manila, which is prone to earthquakes and typhoons.