The Dish

Build Change: Earthquake Resistant Buildings


Build Change is a non-profit social enterprise that promotes safer construction in earthquake-prone regions of developing countries. They provide training on how to design and build earthquake-resistant homes, emphasizing involvement from everyone in the construction process from homeowners to engineers. By reducing the chance that a home will collapse during a future disaster, Build Change aims to save lives and help prevent massive economic losses.

Earthquakes don't kill people, poorly built buildings do.

After a major earthquake in a developing country, Build Change has found that agencies typically build masses of houses that are not always culturally appropriate nor sustainable, in the local construction sector. Often, the homeowner is only minimally involved in the decision-making and construction process. The opportunity to build local capacity is often missed, and in many cases, the houses built after the funding and technical assistance cease are not earthquake resistant.

To overcome these challenges, Build Change had developed a 6-step strategy towards the goal of building safer homes:

Learn First

Build Change begins with forensic engineering studies after earthquakes to learn why some houses in a region collapse, and others not. This process is all about learning from the past to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.


Build Change looks at local building practices to learn about what kinds of houses are being built and where improvements can be made. They have learned it's easier and more effective to make minor, low or no-cost changes to existing ways of building, rather than to introduce completely new building technologies to an unreceptive community.

Build Local Skills

Next Build Change determines the best way to disseminate solutions and skills to local engineers and builders. The best designs in the world will not save lives if they are not built properly, or if engineers are unfamiliar with how to design them.

Stimulate Local Demand

This step focuses on making solutions affordable and easy to implement, so as to be able to convince rural homeowners with little money to invest in building a safer house. It is important to leverage the window of opportunity that exists right after an earthquake disaster, to avoid re-buildling similarly unsafe conditions.

Facilitate Access to Capital

Build Change partners with governments and financing institutions to provide access to capital that is contingent upon meeting minimum standards for construction quality.

Measure Change

The final step is to make sure that people are building safer houses even after Build Change has left the community. Seeing homeowners building safe houses with their own resources, and not simply living in houses built for them, is the true test of sustainable long-term change.

By promoting safer skills throughout the construction chain, Build Change creates a permanent, sustainable change toward safer, earthquake-resistant homes, while bolstering local economies and building individual skills. Since 2004, Build Change has trained more than 20,000 people in Bhutan, China, Guatemala, Haiti and Indonesia in designing and building safer homes, resulting in 80,000 people living in safer conditions.

To learn more about Build Change and how you can help, visit

Builder Training in Haiti
Builder Training in Haiti
Student Training in Indonesia
Student Training in Indonesia
Homeowner Training in Indonesia
Homeowner Training in Indonesia
Builder Training in Haiti
Builder Training in Haiti