Build Change, an international nonprofit organization, is working to “greatly reduce deaths, injuries and economic losses caused by housing collapses due to earthquakes in developing countries.” In short, it envisions a world where all homes are earthquake resistant, so that no one has to live in an unsafe environment and face the devastation of losing their entire home after an earthquake.
The organization was founded by Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, who holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering and is passionate about sustainable construction. Currently, the organization works in China, Colombia, Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines, some of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world.
In the Sichuan Province of China, Build Change has constructed over 1,000 earthquake-resistant homes. The organization personalizes each design for the specific homeowners and also takes steps to ensure that locals are educated about what makes houses vulnerable so that disaster can be avoided.
Xiao Qianghui, a villager from Minle in the Sichuan province, attested to the positive change the organization can make. “I’m a bit surprised that Build Change would come here because Minle is such a remote village. Elizabeth [Hausler] is the first foreigner who has ever come to Minle. But, of course, I welcome Build Change’s suggestions and help. What they’re doing here is very good. Before Build Change came, I thought I’d be living in this tent for the rest of my life.”
In Haiti, disaster-safe construction is especially important as the country is still rebuilding from the overwhelmingly deadly 2010 earthquake. Over 2,500 builders in Haiti have been trained by Build Change to incorporate earthquake and hurricane-resistant techniques into local infrastructure.
Efforts are made to ensure that each home is built in the context of its location. Build Change has said, “Understanding local materials, tools, skills, cultural preferences and market forces is key to identifying small changes that can make a big difference in construction quality and safety.”
In addition to building disaster-resistant homes through its own programs, Build Change is making efforts to expand the availability of information about resistant construction methods. “Earthquake-resistant construction,” the organization has said, “will become common only if the right technology is locally available, widely known, and culturally accepted.”
Build Change has done significant work across the world disaster-proofing homes in developing countries and has undoubtedly saved families from experiencing the devastation of losing a home following an earthquake.
– Emily Jablonski
Sources: Build Change, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation