Proactive slum retrofitting. Urban slum communities will become more resilient when strengthening their existing houses becomes the norm.
Build Change is working on a systems change approach for mitigating climate and earthquake-related effects on urban slum homeowners. It works with the public and private sector to address all barriers to adoption: Money, Technology, People. The right building technology must be widely available and culturally accepted; people must demand better construction practices; and sufficient money must be available and used as an incentive for safe construction.
Typical slum in Metro Manila. Urban slum dwellers are confronted by physical, economic, social, and environmental risks on a day-to-day basis. They have limited knowledge to mitigate risks before disasters strike, which makes recovery from disasters even more difficult. The project will be piloted in the Philippines, in Metro Manila, which is considered to be the largest urban agglomeration in the world and is at high risk of typhoons, floods and earthquakes.
EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA
The substandard quality of houses which is prevalent in urban slums makes its residents vulnerable to climate-induced natural disasters. Build Change is working on a systems change approach for mitigating climate and earthquake-related effects on urban slum homeowners, working with the public and private sector to address all barriers to adoption: Money – Technology – People.
We will first address people by working with urban slum communities to raise their awareness on the effects of climate-related disasters such as typhoons on the substandard houses which they live in, and the measures they can take to mitigate risks, thereby creating demand for housing retrofitting. We will then address technology by developing retrofit guidelines for low-rise houses, the most common housing type in urban slums, in consultation with urban slum dwellers. This will ensure the technologies proposed are culturally appropriate and cost competitive with existing but unsafe methods they may use to reinforce their houses. We will also pursue government approval of the retrofit guidelines to ensure there is a legal basis for housing retrofitting. Last, we will address money by exploring partnerships with government and private sector loan and subsidy programs, which can provide financing to homeowners to retrofit their houses.
This project increases the safety of substandard houses, by creating demand and providing residents the tools to mitigate risks.
The project will be piloted in in Metro Manila, Philippines at high risk of typhoons, floods and earthquakes. The government has taken steps to formalize some urban slums by awarding land title; Build Change will target these areas. Residents will be actively involved in the project, increasing their awareness to the risks of climate-related disasters, and participating in the development and piloting of technical resources to structurally strengthen their houses.
HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?
The development of pre-disaster retrofit guidelines, together with and for the benefit of the urban slum dwellers, will complement the urban upgrading programs implemented by several local government units in Metro Manila. We will work closely with the Department of Public Works to approve and adopt the guidelines. We also plan to work closely with different local government units, NGOs targeting urban slums, and architecture and engineering students for on-the-job training and research.
Community-based, pre-disaster housing retrofitting will take into account other challenge design principles:
• Plan for the ordinary, not just the extraordinary by enabling the urban slum dwellers to increase their resilience in the “new normal” of frequent typhoons, brought about by climate change.
• Consider the system by working with and complementing the efforts of the different stakeholders – governments, NGOs, slum dwellers – all throughout the process.
• Build in flexibility by designing for multiple hazards, including typhoons, earthquakes and flooding.
• Maximize limited resources by designing for existing construction practices, so that local labor can be used and existing construction materials can be re-used.
• Design for gender equality by actively involving both men and women in awareness raising, participatory design and community-based construction activities.
• Design with, not for by ensuring the active involvement and participation of slum dwellers in the process, who are considered as key players in the whole project – from conceptualization to implementati
Yes, for two or more years
I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF
Build Change is an award-winning international social enterprise that prevents deaths, injuries and economic losses in earthquakes and typhoons. We have provided technical assistance for more than 47,000 safer homes, impacting 235,000 people, trained more than 24,000 people, and created 11,500 jobs.
IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?
This idea follows Build Change’s Six Step Model for Safe Houses:
2-Research and Design Safe Houses
3-Build Local Capacity
5-Facilitate Access to Capital
6-Measure the Change
We have successfully implemented post-disaster, homeowner-driven housing retrofitting programs at scale in urban slums after the 2010 Haiti earthquake and are currently implementing a pre-disaster retrofit project in urban slums in Colombia. In both projects, we developed a code-compliant retrofit evaluation, design and implementation procedure; identified homeowners, worked with them to design a retrofit that meets their needs; partnered with the government, private sector and NGOs and provide homeowners with subsidies; and trained engineers and builders to supervise construction. We have also done a post-disaster retrofit project of wood houses in Eastern Samar, Philippines in 2014, but this is the first time that we will do a pre-disaster retrofit project in Metro Manila.
HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?
Governments often implement relocation programs to mitigate the impact of climate change on urban slum dwellers, however these programs fail because the community is not consulted in the process, and thus the projects are not successful or sustainable due to loss of income, displacement from social networks, etc. Urban upgrading programs do not disrupt social and economic activities, and they give slum dwellers a sense of stability and safety from eviction. Studies show that these people are much more likely to invest in their housing. Retrofitting is a cost-efficient tool to increase the safety of substandard houses, which are now becoming permanent in some urban slums thanks to urban upgrading programs.
Inside a slum dweller's home in an urban slum in Pandacan, Metro Manila. The two-room house only has a floor and two walls: the other two walls and the roof are recycled tarpaulins. Two adults and five children live in this house.
Typical alley in an urban slum in Pandacan, Metro Manila. On the right you see a small concrete house that doesn't have columns, putting it at risk of collapsing on the house's residents during a typhoon or earthquake. The house, as well as those on the left, also do not have roofs that are strongly secured to the walls, putting them at risk of blowing away during a typhoon.
Typical house in an urban slum in Pandacan, Metro Manila. You can see the plywood walls have been severely degraded, and the roof is at risk of coming off in a typhoon because it's not tied strongly enough to the walls.
A typical alley way in an urban slum in Pandacan, Metro Manila.
This is an excerpt from Build Change's residential Design and Construction Guidelines, which are an image-based tool to help homeowners build safe houses. It shows an example of using locally-appropriate technology, using accessible images, tips and instructions to help the homeowner and builder use safe construction practice.
Unlike some retrofit programs, we do not enter a community and directly retrofit houses ourselves or through contractors, but focus instead on the long-term goal of building local knowledge to design and retrofit safe houses, and forming government partnerships to provide regulatory oversight. We use locally available and appropriate materials and build on existing technology that is acceptable to the community in order to create a permanent change in construction practice.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?
While government-administered home loans may be available for some residents, we would like to explore further financing options available to vulnerable communities from the private sector.
We want to determine the best way to involve government engineers in the inspection and oversight to ensure the quality of construction. We also want to involve architecture and engineering students in order to develop a pool of trained professionals with skills in disaster-resistant design and construction. They can also serve as “ambassadors” for safe construction in the community, identifying strategies to generate demand and measuring drivers to foster a behavioral change in construction practice.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?
Retrofitting is fast and economical, and it provides a way to address existing sub-standard houses that may be salvageable but are unsafe for occupation in their current condition, however technical information on how to retrofit residential houses is not widely available or accessible. In soliciting feedback from the target community – urban slum dwellers – the retrofit guidelines developed will be appropriate to the local context and made accessible to those who will use them. Furthermore, we will seek government approval of the guidelines, which will establish a legal basis for residential housing retrofitting.
HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?
We met with the homeowners and members of the barangay council in an urban slum in Pandacan, Manila and presented our idea. Although some of them have concerns on the security of tenure due to the proposed urban planning project of the local government (which needs further research), the majority expressed their willingness to retrofit their houses since they feel that the present condition of their houses make them vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters. As expected, funding is a real concern for most of them; and though they are open to apply for loans from the government and private financing institutions, their capacity to pay may be a challenge since some of them do not have regular sources of income. We will consider whether retrofits can be done incrementally, utilizing small tranches of funding over a longer period of time, and we will also look for funders to provide a grant for some of the retrofit expenses.
Members of the barangay council (the sub-municipal level of government) watch a video about retrofitting. After a lively discussion, all members agreed that retrofitting is a priority in their barangay because of the risks they face from disasters, namely flooding, typhoons and earthquakes.
A slum dweller in Pandacan, Metro Manila describes for her neighbors and Build Change the challenges she faces from natural disasters, in particular typhoons and flooding. All of the meeting's participants were eager to retrofit their houses, and wanted to take an active role in the construction process so they could understand what's needed to make a strong house.
The homeowners also want to participate and be trained in the whole construction process so they can provide supervision and feel confident in the safety of their house. They were very excited about the development of a construction guideline which they think would be very helpful to them and the whole community in the long-term, especially since some of them might not be able to retrofit in the near future.
WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?
We believe that urban slum communities will become more resilient to the effects of climate change when, instead of relocating communities, strengthening existing houses becomes the norm. We will conduct community awareness-raising activities on the effects of disasters and the need to retrofit substandard houses. We will develop pre-disaster retrofit guidelines, seek government approval and request to incorporate it to their programs to reach more people. We also plan to use this model in other countries susceptible to climate change and advocate within the international disaster risk reduction community for the use of retrofitting to prevent deaths and loss of livelihood during disasters.
How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?
The proposed idea will complement the urban upgrading programs implemented by the national government agencies such as the National Housing Authority, Social Housing Finance Corporation, municipal and barangay-level government (LGUs) like the cities of Manila and Pasay, international and local NGOs like Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga, and the private sector such as banks and telecom companies. These programs provide assistance to slum dwellers in Metro Manila to improve basic services, help secure land tenure, and access financing through community-managed mortgage schemes, grants or loans. Build Change’s proposed program leverages these urban upgrading efforts to ensure that the opportunity to build local knowledge and skills in safe construction practice is not missed.
In addition, Build Change leads the Resilient Cities work stream of ARISE Philippines, where we will further engage government, NGOs and the private sector to support pre-disaster retrofitting in urban slums.