Build Change is a Denver-based non-profit that promotes disaster-resilient construction methods in earthquake and typhoon-prone areas of the developing world. Using simple, culturally appropriate, and cost-effective retrofitting techniques, Build Change has overseen the reconstruction of thousands of homes, often revitalizing entire neighborhoods in Haiti, China, Nepal, and around the world.
The organization provides technical training to municipal engineers and local builders, identifies and coordinates funding sources, and provides skills training to homeowners so that they may make responsible decisions and supervise their own rebuilding process.
Their philosophy is distinguished by a homeowner-driven, cash-plus-technical-assistance approach. Historically, much of post-disaster reconstruction is driven by top-down decisions made by large international NGOs. Build Change maintains a commitment to let homeowners make the critical decisions about their own rebuilding.
Build Change’s approach is necessarily fluid – rebuilding programs must fit within local contexts. But their process can be distilled into six basic steps:
Build Change invests significant time during the beginning of the rebuilding cycle to get to know a local community and its resources. Build Change especially emphasizes the human resources which might exist in a community: who are the local builders? Who are the engineers? What capacity do the local universities have?
Design Disaster-Resistant Houses
Build Change engineers understand that the principles of anti-seismic construction are well-settled. In order to design disaster-resistant housing, an engineer must marry established anti-seismic engineering with local materials and resources.
Build Local Skills
Training is probably the most essential dimension to Build Change’s programming. Frequently a disaster-affected community already has a body of masons, welders and builders. Typically, what is needed is supplemental training which can help local methods evolve to include anti-seismic techniques.
Stimulate Local Demand
One lesson the organization learned in Haiti was that demand for safe building was critical to ongoing recovery efforts. Many of the masons trained in Haiti had trouble finding work once they had completed their training, merely because the demand for safe building didn’t exist on the consumer side. Build Change therefore facilitates media and public awareness campaigns so that consumers will understand the benefits building safely.
Facilitate Access to Capital
A central plank of Build Change’s philosophy is making sure that willing builders can access capital necessary to build safely. In developing world contexts, which often don’t have rigid or enforceable building codes, good practices slip away easily when homeowners are denied access to capital. A homeowner or a builder may want to build safely, and may know how, but without easy access to financing, substandard options prove the only option.
Measure the Change
In order to continually advance the work, Build Change maintains a commitment to metrics and analytics. Build Change has remained continually involved in all of their projects throughout their history, consistently evaluating their own programs and maintaining contact with their beneficiaries in order to solicit ongoing feedback.
We had a chance to talk to Dr. Hausler on April 6, 2017 to hear her thoughts on how to make a more resilient world.