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< prev - next > Disaster response mitigation and rebuilding Reconstruction pcr tool 11 defining standards (Printable PDF)
Defining Standards for
People-Centred Reconstruction
On January 12th 2010, an earthquake measuring
7.0 on the Richter scale struck Haïti, killing
222,570 people. Less than two months later,
on February 28th, a quake measuring a massive
8.8 hit the Concepción region of Chile but killed
562 people. Both earthquakes affected heavily
populated areas so how was it possible that an
earthquake nearly a hundred times stronger led
to 400 times less casualties. A major factor in
this was Chile’s adoption of high quality building
standards that incorporate requirements for
disaster-resistance. These are both applied properly,
and affordable for the Chilean people to comply
Haïti also has standards, but they are more
lenient than those in Chile. Furthermore,
these standards are often poorly implemented,
(with inspection turning a blind eye) and most
importantly unaffordable for the large proportion
of the population to comply with. The lesson from
these two disastrous events is that good building
standards can save lives, but they need to be
properly implemented and inspected, and above all,
Poverty is still widespread in the developing
world and there is ample evidence that with
disasters of a similar size, poor countries suffer
more than rich countries. Similarly, the poor in any
country tend to suffer more than the rich (see PCR
Tool 10: Quality Control). Poverty is a key factor in
determining what level of building quality people
can afford. Countries define that level of quality
through a regulatory framework that includes acts,
regulations, standards etc. (see the section on
Definitions for details on the various components).
Within those frameworks, standards are the most
important component to define disaster resistance.
Unfortunately, many of the regulatory frameworks in
place in the developing world borrow heavily from
the developed world, making them inappropriate
and unaffordable for the poor. Furthermore, disaster
resistance can be inadequately covered by the
frameworks, but including additional requirements
would reduce affordability further.
Unaffordable standards are a likely factor to add
to the loss of life from disasters. In many countries,
sub-standard housing is considered illegal and can
be demolished by the authorities. Therefore, home
owners who know they will never be able to meet
the standards are often inclined to under-invest
in housing, as they risk losing such investments.
They may not even make the small improvements or
carry out the proper maintenance that could help to
reduce their risks.
Donations of aid for reconstruction are high
following large-scale disasters. This influx of money
can help to overcome affordability problems and
enable the reconstruction of housing that meets
disaster-resistant building standards. Out of
hundreds of people interviewed after the tsunami
in Sri Lanka, 41% answered that housing built
afterwards had much better walls and 58% said it
had a much better roof than the house they owned
before the disaster; it often was larger too. The
question, however, is whether people can maintain
the standard of building if they expand their house
in the future, or build a house for their children.
How sustainable are standards that need to be
heavily subsidised?
After observing the impact of disasters
on buildings (see PCR Tool 3: Learning from
Disasters), we know that some of the traditional
ways of building in many countries do stand up
relatively well to disasters. Also, with limited
improvements such vernacular technologies
can become even more disaster-resistant. Thus,
the timber frame (dhajji dewari) houses of rural
Pakistan, which were on the decline before a
Improved quincha, used here in reconstruction after an
earthquake in Chincha, Peru, is proven to have good earthquake