Written by Elizabeth Hausler Strand
I started Build Change 10 years ago with the mission of reducing deaths and injuries from housing collapses during earthquakes. It was the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj, India that inspired me – most people were killed because their house collapsed on them. It is possible and affordable, even in an emerging nation, to build houses and schools that don’t collapse in earthquakes or hurricanes – it’s a man-made problem with a man-made solution. By building safe buildings, we reduce the need for emergency services, wound care, infection prevention, and so on.
But we don’t actually build houses for people. We work from the top down with governments to develop building standards, and from the bottom up by hiring and training local engineers, builders, and building materials producers. We work directly with homeowners and families so that they are empowered to make decisions about materials and architecture, and oversee their construction.
So far, we’ve trained over 22,000 people in the basics of safe construction in Indonesia, China, Haiti, Bhutan, Guatemala, Philippines and Colombia. Over 230,000 people are living in safer buildings because of our work. We’ve created over 10,000 jobs in the construction sector and we are continuing to emphasize the role women play in engineering, design, construction supervision, and materials production. We’re now working on both schools and houses, most of our work has been after a disaster, but in Colombia in particular, we’re working with homeowners to retrofit their buildings before the next earthquake.