Build Change 2019 Annual Report 15 Years of Building Better Before (and After)

Dear Friends,

15 years—what a milestone! Since 2004, Build Change has improved the lives of nearly 500,000 people through a safer home, a job, or training across 24 countries. We've made almost 80,000 buildings safer, and in so doing, have transferred resilient home-building knowledge to more than 140 organizations worldwide.

From the remotest mountain village to the densest urban block, Build Change is designing money, technology, and policy solutions to meet the needs of homeowners, the private sector, and governments alike. In just a decade and a half, Build Change has gone from a handful of staff in one country to the go-to expert on disaster-resilient housing in the developing world. In 2019, Build Change:

  • Achieved scale in our Nepal post-disaster program. By working throughout all 32 earthquake-impacted districts for nearly 5 years, as of April 2020, Build Change had protected more than 120,000 people;
  • Inked a partnership with the Government of Colombia to offer technical advice and bespoke technology solutions that will facilitate 600,000 resilient home improvements nationwide by 2022;
  • Saw the culmination of 10 years of programming in Haiti and also expanded our reach across the Caribbean, supporting various small island state governments to ensure the continued recovery of the most vulnerable communities from the disastrous 2017 hurricane season;
  • Built the technical capacity of microfinance organizations in the Philippines to offer resilient housing loans for the first time, following the launch of a market study and pilot programs successfully proving the demand for new home-strengthening financial products;
  • Advocated for safe housing as a human right on event mainstages and social media, raising awareness of housing as a public health issue well before COVID-19 highlighted this parallel.

In the middle of these uneasy times, Build Change knows that the only constant is inherent in our name: change. Over the past 15 years, Build Change has continued to change with the times, while permanently changing the communities that we work in for the better. THANK YOU to the donors and partners that have committed to our vision of a more equitable world, in which resilience is a pillar of every community and a safe home is every person’s birthright. I couldn’t be more proud of all that we’ve achieved together, and where we’re going next.

Disaster Prevention and Advocacy for Safe Housing

Preventing disasters from unnecessarily destroying lives and property requires a special recipe: technology, money, and people. In 2019, Build Change deployed all three ingredients for impact in some of the most at-risk countries on the planet, while baking more technology into the mix than ever before.

Dr. Elizabeth Hausler signs a partnership agreement with the government of Colombia in May, 2019.

In Colombia, Build Change signed a partnership with the government to become an official technical advisor for the Casa Digna, Vida Digna (Decent House, Decent Life) program, which aims to provide safe home improvements for 600,000 houses by 2022. In addition to structural interventions, the program also includes improved sanitation, which is critical in the fight against infectious diseases like COVID-19. In this role, Build Change, with support from technology partners Autodesk and Fulcrum, began the process of making the construction value chain in Colombia as efficient and effective as possible so the program can reach its ambitious goal.

At the same time as this national endeavor, Build Change also worked closely with the City of Bogota’s flagship risk management agency to raise awareness of resilient building in 15 neighborhoods. Meanwhile, because of Build Change, the City of Medellin invested over $2 million in home improvement subsidies for structural interventions in extremely vulnerable homes.

Build Change staff member Anna Pavan (right) trains the staff of local municipalities in Guatemala on the principles of seismic evaluation and resilient home building.

Elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean, Build Change successfully completed the Barrio Mio Scale Up program for preventative home strengthening in Guatemala with Project Concern International (PCI), supported by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. In Haiti, the REZO (meaning “network” in Haitian Creole) program continued to provide services as a business incubator for block-makers and small building contractors, increasing the number of REZO affiliates and supporting these independent entrepreneur block-maker and builder affiliates to grow their businesses successfully despite the turbulent year.

Moving to the Pacific region, Build Change’s work in the Philippines has always balanced the country’s need for disaster prevention with ongoing disaster recovery. In 2019, Build Change worked with four microfinance lenders to build their technical capacity and develop resources to facilitate resilient housing loans for low-income homeowners ahead of the scaling of these new financial products in 2020.

Members of a local neighborhood governing association get their first look at the "Tibay Balay" mobile app in the Philippines.

Simultaneously in the Philippines, Build Change also created a safe schools construction monitoring app with Plan International to better enable community engagement. Together with the Philippines Red Cross and the German Red Cross, Build Change also provided technical support on the creation of a new early action protocol for typhoons, linked with innovative forecast-based financing approaches.

In the Cook Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu, on behalf of the Asian Development Bank, Build Change worked with Guy Carpenter to complete a diagnostic study on the feasibility of retrofitting for those island nations, complete with financing and insurance options.

Globally, Build Change’s advocacy for safe housing reached a broader audience than ever before in 2019. From the launch of Dr. Elizabeth Hausler’s TED Talk to a Facebook Live interview at the Skoll World Forum to a viral video with Freethink Media, Build Change constantly drove home the message that housing should be safe, accessible, and equitable.

Dr. Elizabeth Hausler during her keynote message at Autodesk University-Las Vegas.

In November, Dr. Elizabeth Hausler delivered an inspirational keynote at Autodesk University-Las Vegas on Build Change’s innovations powered by Autodesk software to a packed crowd of nearly 13,000 engineering and design professionals.

All of these international efforts were in addition to the grassroots advocacy our talented staff do as a part of their programs every day.

Post Disaster Recovery

In Nepal, Build Change continued its largest recovery effort to date, working at scale across all 32 districts that were impacted by the 2015 earthquakes. Through 21 technical support centers, 23,000 homeowners received advice on resilient home-building. Working in partnership with the government and its partners, Build Change trained government engineers to provide technical assistance for home strengthening to 100,000 homeowners entitled to a $1,000 subsidy.

By April 2020, thanks to Build Change and its partners, more than 120,000 people in Nepal were living in over 24,000 newly constructed or structurally strengthened houses.

Concurrently, in the Caribbean, Build Change expanded its focus in order to help countries in the region continue to recover from the 2017 hurricane season through a potent combination of technical assistance and technology.

In Dominica, Build Change created a custom housing management information system (MIS) for the Government’s Housing Recovery Project designed specifically to enable government teams to screen, select, register and support 1,700 priority families to repair their homes following Hurricane Irma. In Sint Maarten, Build Change worked in collaboration with the World Bank and the Sint Maarten National Recovery Program Bureau to complete technical assessments of hurricane damaged single family houses and pave the way for their repair, retrofit, or reconstruction in 2020.

In Mexico, at the request of the World Bank’s Global Program for Resilient Housing, Build Change completed a study of existing housing in the region of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, which was heavily damaged by an 8.2 earthquake in September, 2017.

Based on this analysis, Build Change recommended the creation of a retrofit subsidy to improve housing resilience to disasters, as well as to improve the local population’s basic standard of living.

In Indonesia, technical assistance for the reconstruction of homes in Palu damaged by the 2018 earthquake and tsunami continued through various knowledge sharing sessions with both government and non-government agencies, as well as in local media.

Scaling Disaster Resilient Engineering with Information Technology

By 2019, Build Change had become a highly sought after partner, not only for high-quality engineering and technical advice, but also for the innovative information technology that goes with it hand-in-glove. In Nepal, the Surakshit Ghar mobile application, which has now been downloaded over 30,000 times, continued to be key to scale, enabling homeowners in even the most remote areas to choose from several hundred disaster resilient house designs, and download the one which best suits their needs as they engage in the reconstruction of their earthquake-damaged house.

A family in the Philippines explores the new "Tibay Balay" mobile app for home strengthening.

In a collaboration between country programs and a Kathmandu-based coding hub, Build Change created the mobile app “Tibay Balay” for the Philippines, with the support of Czech Republic Humanitarian Aid. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, Build Change created and field-vetted “Rumah Aman”, a safe house awareness mobile app funded by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

In 2019, Simpson Strong-Tie and Build Change continued their partnership on the lifesaving "Fellowship for Engineering Excellence".

Certainly in 2019, the link between information technology and engineering was stronger than ever before. The 2018-2019 Simpson Strong-Tie Fellow for Engineering Excellence, Juan Carlos Restrepo, worked closely with staff in Colombia and the Philippines to create more effective engineering processes and translate these into information technology enhancements. Tim Hart, Build Change’s Engineering and Design Services Director, who has more than 30 years of experience in resilient building, was named the Simpson-Strong Tie Fellow for 2019-2020. Tim’s focus is on continued engineering excellence with a specific emphasis on advocacy for safe building.

Board Members (Top Left to Bottom Right): Sig Anderson, Dr. Erin Bradner, Dr. Martin Fisher, David Friedman, Grace Hanson, J.D. (Board Chair), Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, Hemant Shah
Through the power of virtual reality, a homeowner in Nepal sees what her new home will look like when construction is finished.
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Build Change, Autodesk, Inc., John Rae/ UNOPS