Using local techniques and materials, Build Change tweaks construction practices to make homes earthquake and hurricane resistant. The organization currently operates in three neighborhoods in and around Port-au-Prince, and aims to construct and retrofit about 1,500 new buildings by July. It has capacity to continue to do 1,500 additional structures every six months.
Once [founder Elizabeth] Hausler completed her PhD in civil engineering at U.C. Berkeley, she went to India on a Fulbright fellowship to study post-earthquake reconstruction and noticed two contrasting approaches: The first, led by the Indian government, provided grants to let homeowners rebuild for themselves, with a requirement that they adhere to a few simple building standards.
“And then you had the NGOs,” says Hausler, “some of whom were really supportive of this approach, but others who were doing it the old way—just coming in and building the same house for everyone and not really taking into consideration the homeowners’ preferences.”
The top-down approach led by outsiders fared much worse than the inclusive, bottom-up one that allowed homeowners to control their own reconstruction.