Urban resilience to natural disasters


Informal settlers account for 25% of Metro Manila’s 20 million residents. Many families live in houses that are substandard due to poor workmanship and poor quality materials.

The Philippines ranks as the third most disaster-prone country in the world, and poor quality housing makes these families vulnerable to natural disasters.

500,000 CHF
JUNE 2017 - MAY 2019

It is believed that up to 500,000 houses in the capital are at risk of collapse in the event of a severe natural disaster, while in the City of Makati’s low income neighbourhoods alone, conservative estimates indicate there are 145,000 people living in substandard houses.
Build Change, with the support of the JTI Foundation, aims to assist families living in informal settlements in Makati to increase their physical, economic and social resilience to the impact of natural disasters by strengthening their homes.

To do this, the project will address three key main barriers to safer construction techniques – money, technology and people. People who do not have enough money to build safely, won’t (money); the right technology must be locally available, understood and cost-competitive with existing but unsafe ways that people build (technology), and finally someone has to want the house to be safe (people).

To help address these barriers, Build Change has found that substandard houses can be ‘retrofitted’ (structurally strengthened) to be more resilient to natural disasters, using cost-effective and culturally appropriate technology.

In a pilot phase, Build Change developed and tested pre-disaster retrofit solutions in Makati – supported by interest from local government and residents; as well as models to generate demand for retrofitting and provide access to financing.

To help develop further and roll out solutions, the JTI Foundation is now supporting Build Change to retrofit 90 houses during 2017 and 2018, benefitting 450 people. Alongside this, the project will develop resources, innovative financing mechanisms and partnerships to enable public and private sector organizations to continue to retrofit a total of 250 houses in 2019, scaling up to at least 500 houses per year thereafter.

At every stage of the project, the technical resources developed will be made available to local residents, builders, local NGOs and government officials, helping to ensure the program’s long-term sustainability. Maintenance of the newly retrofitted buildings into the future is an important outcome, and will be assured by the training and awareness component of the project, and by the in-kind contributions of the beneficiaries to the retrofit process.

Overall, the project hopes to foster a shift in building culture to enables safer construction that can eventually impact thousands of informal settlers living in urban areas across the Philippines.

Build Change is a Denver-based international, award-winning non-profit social enterprise that aims to saves lives in earthquakes and typhoons. Their mission is to greatly reduce deaths, injuries, and economic losses caused by housing and school collapses due to earthquakes and typhoons in emerging nations. The JTI Foundation has partnered with Build Change since 2015.