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  • Awarded: 2017
  • Issue Areas: Economic Opportunity · Environmental Sustainability · Livelihoods · Living Conditions · Responsible Supply Chains · Standards
  • Countries Served: Colombia · Guatemala · Haiti · Indonesia · Nepal · Philippines
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    About the Organization

    More than nine of every ten natural disaster-related deaths occur in developing countries.  Many of these occur in overcrowded and unsafe neighborhoods where housing is likely to collapse—as in the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed more than 230,000. Faced with such calamities, international aid agencies often move in to build new housing as fast as possible. That process can cause even more damage by relying on international contractors whose products are not culturally appropriate, disaster resilient, or affordable.

    With an emphasis on prevention, Build Change trains homeowners, local builders, engineers, and government officials to construct or retrofit disaster-resistant houses and schools in emerging nations vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons.

    Build Change makes the work affordable by leveraging cost savings through standardized retrofitting designs, existing subsidy and incentive programs, and partnerships with local universities providing seismic engineering experts. It works with governments and development agencies to promote standards, building codes, and financial incentives for disaster-resilient construction.

    Unsafe housing, particularly informal housing in developing countries, causes hundreds of thousands of deaths in natural disasters.

    Build Change promotes cost-effective retrofits to make communities safer.

    Build Change helps homeowners enhance both the safety and the value of their homes, and helps local builders and engineers develop capacity and offer value.

    Policies and incentives to make homes and schools safer before disaster strikes saves lives and make post-disaster relief more effective.

    Ambition for Change

    All homeowners in risk zones have access to and awareness of incentives and subsidies for disaster-resistant construction. Governments value and enforce building codes and safe-construction practices. Communities are prepared and protected in advance of disasters.

    Path to Scale

    Policy change, Training, and Independent Replication

    Build Change invests in demonstration, capacity building, and policy uptake. Independent replication by relief agencies. Local and national investments in changed approaches to building safety.

    Dr. Elizabeth Hausler learned the brick-laying trade working summers by her father's side in Plano, Illinois. With her passion for building, she became a skilled brick, block, and stone mason with a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She was drawn to the human centered problem solving of engineering. During a Fulbright Scholarship to India to study rebuilding efforts after an earthquake in Gujarat, she was moved to see that vulnerable communities globally can build permanent safe housing. When she returned from India, she received an Echoing Green Fellowship and founded Build Change in 2004. Later that same year, she partnered with Mercy Corps to help build disaster-resistant homes in the wake of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Build Change has since helped build homes in China, Haiti, Nepal, and the Philippines. A decade after its founding, Build Change was inducted into the UC-Berkeley Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • Build Change’s work has enhanced the safety of more than 230,000 people, more than half of them in Haiti, through construction and retrofitting of more than 46,000 homes, schools, and other buildings, and has created more than 12,000 jobs.
    • Build Change has driven building code changes and government policy improvements in Haiti, the Philippines, and Colombia.
    • More than 20 relief organizations have replicated the work with training and capacity building programs and by adopting Build Change’s disaster resilience model.


    Kate LandryDirector of Programs and Partnerships, Philippines, Build Change

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