Monthly Archives: January 2014
Foreword. With the Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda that devastated the Visayas coastal regions in 2013, cities and towns’ local government units including the national government itself were caught unprepared for the “storm surge and powerful winds which unroofed buildings and demolished houses; humans and animals drowned or flew to their deaths. The Philippine government has appointed a “Rehabilitation Czar”, former senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, who himself admits, it will be a tough job, but doable. We especially share and dedicate this blog to all who are working on the reconstruction, restoration and rehabilitation of the communities, towns and cities destroyed by probably the planet’s worst weather catastrophe. The message is “building back safer” – with sustainable building principles during reconstruction not only to improve resilience to natural hazards in the future, but also to ensure that the opportunity is seized to shift towards buildings and structures that are as energy efficient, low greenhouse gas emitting and climate-mitigating as possible.
It is important to integrate the principles of sustainability strategically from the earliest stages of rebuilding in order to avoid major failures during reconstruction. The key best practices based on experience from recent disasters and catastrophes in Asia should be kept in mind at all stages of reconstruction, summarized below:
1. Learn from experiences, which dealt with effective and efficient reconstruction, and from traditional building technologies which survived disasters. Many mistakes can be avoided by observing and finding out what concepts and, in particular, what construction practices, functioned well before a natural disaster occurred. Traditional knowledge and building practices have often evolved over long periods of trial and error, and are often both practical and resource efficient.
2. Establish and maintain a well-functioning project-management process
A well-functioning management process is the backbone for the success of any reconstruction project. Contracts, roles and responsibilities should be clarified as early as possible.
3. Ensure local participation in decision-making processes
The active participation of local stakeholders in crucial decisions throughout the project process fosters a strong sense of ownership and acceptance for the project, and helps to facilitate care and maintenance of buildings following construction. This is especially true if the users are also the owners of the houses; rented-out dwellings tend to deteriorate more quickly than do owner-occupied homes.
Relevant stakeholders – future house users, community leaders, responsible public authorities, service providers, etc. – can deliver important information and provide support that may be crucial to the project’ success and sustainability.
Ideally, relevant stakeholders should be consulted during the early project-definition phase, as well as during planning and implementation phases. This can be done through a stakeholders‟ workshop”, during which invited stakeholders set project criteria and develop ideas.
At this stage, the responsible local governmental reconstruction agency can also be consulted in order to ensure their support.
4. Anchor the project in the local context
Projects should be anchored in the local context by taking any or all of the following measures:
– Exploring the availability of local know-how
– Considering traditional/cultural requirements
– Working together with and not against the local authorities
– Cooperating with local service providers
– Using high-quality local materials when possible
– Building on and optimizing local construction technologies.
Anchoring reconstruction projects in the local context can contribute measurably to community buy-in and a project’s success and sustainability. Local institutions and organizations included in the project process are strengthened and improved.
5. Coordinate with other donors to identify potential synergies
Responsible local authorities should coordinate all ongoing and planned reconstruction activities, at least at community level. In addition, however, project officials should contact other development organizations (international and national) to determine jointly the geographical and social distribution of reconstruction schemes based on local needs. Identifying and monitoring the reconstruction activities of other donor organizations and ensuring your project is complementing, not duplicating, other efforts can save financial and other resources. Normally, there are reasonable opportunities to economize on costs of access roads, water and sanitation systems and other infrastructure. Donor coordination can also help to ensure the equitable distribution of reconstruction benefits to communities, especially to areas that are less politically popular.
6. Determine communication and knowledge-sharing strategy
Maintaining effective communication among all the stakeholders is crucial. Numerous sources have reported incidences of hostility towards development agencies by beneficiaries. There has been a lack of clear and regular communication between implementers and future users about options, plans, actions, responsibilities and difficulties encountered in the course of reconstruction projects. It cannot be overemphasized that all agencies owe beneficiaries the opportunity to know what is being discussed, planned, negotiated, rejected or accepted on their behalves. The internationally accepted guidelines of the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP) provide successful lines of communication. (See ALNAP, 2005, An ALNAP Guide for Humanitarian Agencies, Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action, UK.)
It is also important to ensure regular reporting and documentation of positive and negative experiences. This is important not only for any necessary handing-over to future project managers, but also for the sharing of lessons learnt at international and local level.
7. Develop a risk strategy
Developing a strategy for how to overcome any potential risks to the project is essential. Risk strategies safeguard the project’s continuation, completion and, ultimately, its sustainability.
Strategies should be developed with relevant local stakeholders. The strategies should define how potential obstacles – whether political, economic, security-related or from subsequent disasters – should be tackled.
8. Conduct regular monitoring and evaluation (M&E)
Regular self-monitoring and evaluation is critical for measuring the progress of reconstruction projects. M&E can be carried out in a rather simple fashion by selecting key indicators (amounts of money spent on different activities, amounts of materials used and timeliness of completion of activities) and then collecting measurements and summarizing them on a regular basis (weekly or fortnightly).
If any indicator shows a deviation from the budget or from construction plans, then the cause for the deviation should be identified, so that remedial measures can be taken. In addition, an external evaluation can assist by providing a second and independent assignment on crucial issues. M&E can be complemented with “impact monitoring”, which is used to assess the environmental and social impacts of project activities. Impact monitoring provides valuable information about whether the project is in conformance with best sustainability practices (and if not, how it can be improved). Impact monitoring is also very useful for building the project partners‟ credibility with the local community, national authorities and international donors.
9. Choose the lifespan of houses to be built
Selecting temporary or permanent shelter options has a huge influence on the house design as well as the project’s implementation procedures, budget and time-frame. It is important to decide early in planning for how long the houses should last.
10. Provide adequate temporary shelters
Reconstruction programs that are seeking to produce quality results require time for realization. While housing projects are being developed, displaced residents need adequate temporary shelters that ensure humane living conditions and enable residents to re-establish life as quickly as possible. Program budgets should anticipate this need.
11. Consider reusing and recycling temporary housing components for permanent houses to be built in the future components such as well-maintained sanitary and kitchen facilities can be reused in new reconstructed houses; good-quality materials such as steel beams can be reused also.
12. Consider the overall development concerns and priorities of your organization
Most organizations involved in reconstruction activities have internal guidelines and standards for their activities, including environmental policies. Ensuring that your organization development goals, procedures and priorities are integrated into your project from the start can help to align projects with sustainable reconstruction objectives and avoid unnecessary costs.
13. Follow principles of bio-climatic and adaptable design
Buildings should be designed to be thermally comfortable in their climate zone with no or minimal need for mechanical heating, cooling or ventilation. Buildings should also be designed to enable occupants to modify or “tune” their buildings to suit their particular functional requirements. Adaptable design enables this by, for example, promoting strong structural design with flexible interior space-planning.
Source: Principles of sustainable reconstruction
An excerpt from UNEP Sustainable Building & Climate Initiative
Author: Claudia Schneider
Sustainable Building and Settlement Development Specialist
Skat – Swiss Resource Centre and Consultancies for Development
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