‘Build Change’ Saves Lives by Helping Emerging Nations Develop Disaster-Resistant Buildings

It was during the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India which killed more than 20,000 people, that Elizabeth Hausler realized there were practical solutions that could lower the risk of death.

In developing countries, the greatest cause of death in a natural disaster are because of collapsed buildings, Hausler says, “it’s not the earthquake that kills people, it’s a poorly built building. And this is a man-made problem so there must be a man-made or woman-made solution.”

Hausler, a trained civil engineer who is also a skilled brick, block, and stone mason, founded Build Change in 2004. Based in Denver, Colorado, the non-profit organization works with governments and the local community in emerging nations to take preventative measures to improve safety in the event of a typhoon, earthquake and other natural disasters.

Due to limited resources, many governments lack the ability to have and enforce building standards within their region. Build Change assists in helping create building standards while also introducing technology to streamline the inspection process. Significant change in governmental policy in regards to building codes has been made in Haiti, the Philippines, and Colombia because of Build Change’s program.

A vital part of the organization’s vision is to empower the homeowner. They do so by creating informational marketing campaigns, through billboards and advertisements, which distribute general safety guidelines to the public. Training is available so owners can implement disaster-proofing strategies that are tailored specifically to the needs of their homes. This model gives flexibility so that it can apply to different countries. The organization also provides financing in the event of a disaster, and the loans offer an incentive for homeowners to build their homes up to the appropriate standards.

Credit: Skoll Foundation
Credit: Skoll Foundation

Build Change also provides comprehensive training to builders, engineers, and government employees so they can retrofit buildings in preparation for a disaster. As a result, it is estimated that they have helped 245,026 people, created 12,000 jobs, and trained over 25,000 people. They are currently active in Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines.

Credit: Skoll Foundation

The organization is the winner of this year’s 2017 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. By 2024, Build Change has committed for empowering 10 million people to have safer schools and homes. To learn more about their efforts, please visit the Build Change website.

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