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 familiar structural systems, we avoid the need to teach builders a 100% new way to make a house. After all, they already know 85% of how to build a house correctly, they own the right tools, and they know where to get the locally produced materials. Local people want to live in homes which look familiar. We teach builders that last 15%, about lateral systems, so the homes they build can withstand the sideways movement from an earthquake or high wind. Investing in the last 15% of knowledge is a much more efficient use of time and expertise.

Making small changes to existing designs uses what the builders know already, and these changes have a much better chance of “sticking,” of becoming a permanent part of how builders build by virtue of being familiar. Our trainings mean that builders have 100% of the knowledge they need to rebuild the homes that were destroyed, replacing them with homes that will keep residents safe.