Table 1. Sixteen cases, reported in academic studies, are analyzed to draw analytical generalizations. Two main approaches and five possible scenarios are also identified.
Keivani and Werna argue for multiplicity in the provision of housing, that is to say, in the sharing of responsibilities and the organizational arrangements between the participants involved in housing initiatives. The participants might come from the public sector, the private formal sector, the private informal sector, or the residents and their community organizations. Previous research in our Group shows that procurement has a direct influence in the general performance of the building process (Mohsini, 1991, 1992, 1995; Abdel Meguid, 1997; Katsanis, 1998). In the specific case of post-disaster housing, we can also argue that both the organizational arrangements and the distribution of responsibilities have a direct impact on three important aspects in housing provision for the lowest-income families: (i) the institutional policy that lies behind the project; (ii) the level of local participation in decision-making; and (iii) the level of systematization of the building process. Figure 1 shows the general tendencies we found in reconstruction projects with regard to these three aspects.
Figure 1 also illustrates the two (plus one) paradigmatic processes in which housing policies habitually fall (we have added, as number 1, spontaneous self-help, since it is adopted when other approaches prove to be insufficient):
Informal processes of spontaneous reconstruction. It is well known that
permissive and flexible legislation (often actually indifferent towards
housing needs of the poor) has resulted in the fact that fifty percent
of the low-cost housing provision in the Third World is developed by
the spontaneous initiatives of the residents. In the same way, evidence
shows that survivors (particularly those in the lowest-income groups)
usually begin their own reconstruction process shortly after the disaster
(Davis, 1981). This case corresponds to scenario A, in blue.
1 also shows that, as was suggested in the first article, enabler
policies are frequently associated with a community-based approach,
placing a strong emphasis on self-help and the participation of the
informal sector. On the other hand, provider policies frequently
focus national and international initiatives on more technically sophisticated
processes where the formal sector and specialized labor develop methodical
processes of production.
|More local decision- making||
|Less local decision- making||
Less methodical processMore methodical process
Figure 1. Categorization of a group of reconstruction projects showing relationships between the organizational design of the reconstruction strategy and the different aspects of the building production process. The two main approaches are identified with green and gray. The possible scenarios presented in Table 1 are shown with letters (from A to E), and the different examples are represented by numbers, corresponding to the order in Table 1.
Observation of different cases also demonstrates that participation in local decision-making varies according to the organizational arrangement of the strategy used. It is important to highlight here that the general tendency of low-cost housing reconstruction strategies has been: the more provided and methodical the process, the less local decision-making is permitted for affected residents. This tendency is not surprising; in fact, Reinaldo Da Silva demonstrates that while in spontaneous self-help, the users make the majority of decisions (including designing the project and the administration of it), in organized self-help, the participation is almost exclusively restricted to the provision of labor (Da Silva, 1980).
However, we argue that it is possible to reverse this tendency in reconstruction strategies. In fact, we attempt to demonstrate here that an important contribution can be obtained with a strategy based on a pluralist approach. This approach aims to cumulate the positive results that can be obtained from previous strategies. In other words, we can suggest that this new approach might obtain the advantages of a community based approach at the same time as it obtains the advantages of a methodical process of industrialized building.
Let us deal first with the concept of decision-making in a pluralist approach. Obviously, decision-making needs to be accompanied by offering 'options of choice'. Indeed, in the successful after-disaster rural reconstruction in 1999 in Colombia, the NGO in charge emphasized a policy where survivors assumed the responsibility for choosing the most appropriate solution for each particular case from a package of alternatives offered. These alternatives attempted to satisfy a great variety of needs and expectations. The evaluation of the program concluded that the positive results obtained were, in a great measure, due to this approach towards the community (Lizarralde, 2000).
It is well known in the post-disaster management literature that significant advantages can be obtained through the participation of the community in decision-making (Anderson, 1989; Davis, 1981). Although the same principle has, in theory, been transferred to post-disaster housing initiatives, its application has not always been sufficiently applied in practice. Evidence in the literature shows that rather than options of choice at different levels of the building process, it is choice at the level of the provision of labor which has been implemented - with more or less emphasis on self-help programs. Da Silva (1980), on the other hand, reminds us that self-help is much more than simply providing labor. According to Da Silva, there exist five potential types of self-help during the building process: (i) self-project preparation; (ii) self-project management; (iii) self-production of components; (iv) self-build; and (v) self-financing. Obviously, the participation in these five aspects can be combined to increase the involvement of the community.
The structure presented by Da Silva seems to be pertinent to discuss users participation in post-disaster reconstruction programs, particularly because frustration from reconstruction programs has come not only from the technical aspects of construction, but also at the level of architectural design, organizational design, logistics and, indeed, many other stages of the process (see the introduction of the article Models of Reconstruction Projects). If we follow the structure proposed by Da Silva, we can argue that a pluralist approach can be assumed at five different levels:
Evidence exists to prove that great users participation in decision-making can be coupled with a systematic use of processes of industrialized construction. It is important to remember that the building industry in North America has, through the do-it-yourself move, paired an industrialized (and very methodical) process of manufacture of building components with strong users participation in decision-making.
The fact that post-disaster self-help initiatives are mostly targeted to basic upgrading and reconstruction whereas the do-it-yourself move is particularly associated with the renovations sector, usually at very different economic levels, makes it risky to compare both processes in terms of contribution to the building industry.
in developing countries has had a different consequence in terms of
decision-making than the do-it-yourself move. If it is true that in
North America industrialized products have facilitated users participation
in building activities, in developing countries organized self-help
has been frequently associated with a building process that is almost
entirely done in-situ. This practice usually takes long periods for
construction and makes use of small components made in an artisan way
(some examples of this are the technologies based on adobe bricks, guadua
or earth). In the cases in which a greater deal of systematization
has been introduced to organized self-help (in contrast to aided or
informal self-help) the result has been the repetition of a standardized
model that inexperienced labor force can copy without compromising the
disaster-resistant standards. Obviously, this kind of standardization
contributes very little to respond to particular needs of the residents.
are aware that it is obviously inaccurate to see self-help exclusively
as a way of involving the survivors in the reconstruction process. Defenders
of self-help argue that training programs give residents skills to satisfy
their accommodation needs in the future and skills to participate in
jobs related with construction. Both of these aspects might be important
contributions in the long run. However, if industrialized products combined
with the do-it-yourself move has guaranteed that a great variety of
easy to assemble/install products are now available in the
market for relatively unskilled labor in developed countries, in developing
countries it has still to be proved that organized self-help can contribute
to pre-occupancy flexibility and adaptability.
approach to multiplicity requires the careful observation of particular
needs in terms of financing, physical space, type of education and training,
presentation of the information, materials available, technologies available,
among others. We will not deal in detail with all of these variables.
However, in order to illustrate the main argument of this paper, we
will examine seven variables that can directly contribute to increase
the range of choice and thus to reach more groups of survivors. The
first five variables are related with project preparation and the last
two with project management. These variables are:
Defining the outputs;
Defining the Outputs.
post-disaster scenario requires building initiatives judiciously coordinated
with mitigation actions at multiple levels. Observation of international
cases shows that projects targeted to low-cost permanent housing must
be articulated with other outputs such as:
As a matter of example, post-Mitch hurricane reconstruction in Choluteca, Honduras, illustrates that the success of a housing project is dramatically altered when public services are not efficiently provided in coordination with shelter solutions, (see Anderson, 1999). In Choluteca, a relative success was achieved in shelter provision; however, according to Francois Audet, the local head of CECI (the development group that coordinated the projects) [residents] may be living in the best house theyve ever had, but weve got 5,000 to 6,000 people living in the desert without latrines, potable water or electricity.
How to deal with immediate needs after the disaster while not affecting long-term development is a problem that has particularly exercised specialists in disaster management. However, according to the literature, very few imaginative solutions of outputs targeted to reduce the immediate loss after the disaster (providing protection and minimum comfort to affected families) avoid compromising the long-term sustainability of the project or, even worse, creating dependency towards external solutions. The successful core-housing project in the Philippines, carried out after Typhoon Sisang in 1987, is an inspiring example of an alternative solution to overcome this particular situation. In this case, a four units modular system that grows according to the upgrading opportunities of the residents makes use of locally available materials. A training program supports the project in order to achieve a continuum building process, ranging from providing emergency protection to permanent housing. According to the resources of the family, this core-shelter is not only designed to be extended in area but also is conceived to be upgraded from indigenous materials to more permanent and resistant materials (Diacon, 1992).
Housing policies in Latin American countries have been strongly criticized for concentrating almost exclusively on home-ownership, neglecting the potential of rental housing as a favorable solution for numerous lowest-income families (see Gilbert, 1997; Gough, 1998). According to Gilbert, in Colombia, a rental housing policy is badly needed, given that 34 per cent of urban families rented homes in 1993 [ ] Certainly, no Latin American government has built housing for rent in the past 20 years [ ] most governments have failed even to mention rental housing in their policy statements. Observation of reconstruction cases shows that the approach differs very little in post-disaster initiatives. In fact, (and this probably due to the strong emphasis placed towards self-help) UNCHS projects reported in Human Settlements and Natural Disasters (1989) failed to recognize rental housing in the objectives of the project-based programs, at least in a explicit way.
argue that a pluralist approach requires the identification of different
groups (targeted markets) according to their expectations
and their real-time possibilities of acquisition: Three groups might,
then, be considered: (i) potential new home owners; (ii) potential new
land owners; and (iii) potential renters.
Published in Harvard Design Magazine in 1999 Vikram Bhatts report of the Indian Aranya housing project developed in the eighties is an illustrating example of architectural flexibility in housing projects for low-income families (Bhatt, 1999). Bhatt associates the success of the program with the fact that special emphasis was made on the mix of different income groups, and providing different sizes of lots placed on different sized streets to support mixed-use living and commercial activities. This sites-and-services project addresses the diversity of street activities. More than just a transportation channel, the street is a place for work, shopping, and commercial activity, as well as the setting for social and religious ceremonies. Also several domestic activities [ ] occur outside individual house plots (see figure 2).
Following in the steps of Bhatt (1999) we can suggest that in the study of reconstruction strategies, one should stress the importance of considering architectural multiplicity at four levels: (i) plot sizes (and even forms); (ii) different housing designs (in cases where designs are done or suggested by professionals); (iii) flexibility to adapt the house to different initial-occupancy needs; and (iv) flexibility in the house to grow in the future according to evolving needs or desires of residents.
|click to enlarge||click to enlarge|
Above: Figure 2. Aranya project in India. Model of typical sector. Note the diversity of housing solutions shown, the variety and quality of the public spaces and the general multiplicity of the architectural solution. (source: Bhatt, 1999)
Below: Figure 4. Study of typical mesones for the housing project in San Salvador (conducted by the Cooperative Housing Foundation, CHF). (source: Solo, 1991)
Above: Figure 3. General layout of the CIDA-CECI self-help based reconstruction project after Mitch (Honduras, 1999). Even relatively successful in its construction, this rubber-stamped project is characterized by great monotony in the spread low-density layout, absence of community spaces and lack of variety and sensibility in the design.
Below: Figure 5. General view of the CIDA-CECI project in Honduras (1999). Source: <http://www.Colorado.EDU/hazards/wp/wp103/annexb/pic12.html>, March 19. 2001.
click to enlarge
Reaching the possible different scenarios.
Literature on post-disaster housing has particularly concentrated on projects of reconstruction of single-family detached housing. However, research shows that disasters affect different groups of residents with different needs and characteristics. Because this variety of affected population is scarcely discussed we suggest that it is important to develop a systems analysis of the different possible scenarios of reconstruction. Furthermore, we will argue that reconstruction strategies must address particular solutions for each of the scenarios proposed. We mentioned, in the introduction, that there are four main groups to be catered for in post-disaster scenarios: 1. Non-affected housing. 2. Housing affected by the disaster but that represents safe conditions for the residents (repairing the house is more effective than reconstruction). 3. Housing affected by the disaster that cannot be occupied because it represents unsafe conditions for the residents (repairs are more difficult or more expensive than reconstruction; affected residents in this group might be homeowners or renters). 4. Pre-disaster deficit housing and homelessness.
The third group is, in fact, far from being a homogeneous one. Residents might be homeowners or not, the context can be a rural or an urban, the house might be demolished to build a new one or might be reconstructed using the affected one in part, etc. It is because of this variety of options that we suggest the analysis of four different cases, which represent different alternatives. Please click here: http://www.GRIF.UMontreal.ca/pages/a2body.html to see the different cases and sub-cases.
This variety of possibilities suggests that a complete reconstruction policy requires tackling the demand of both provisional and permanent housing for each of these cases and possibly finding a way to tackle them within one systematic approach to the whole reconstruction task.
Very little evidence of the use of innovative and creative typologies in post-disaster housing is reported in the literature. The after-earthquake housing program in the Lio Village in Flores, Indonesia, carried out by the central Government, represents a remarkable failure due to the fact that traditional housing typologies were ignored. This case, reported by Gunawan Tjahjono (1999) in an article published in Environments by Design shows that not considering traditional typologies is a costly decision even in the lowest-income groups, particularly during the most difficult times of crises.
sites-and-services projects have been criticized for leading to rubber-stamp
like projects where repetition, overcrowded houses and inappropriate
distribution of private and public spaces are frequent (Bhatt, 1999).
Self-help initiatives, that in response to a desire to avoid industrialized
standardized designs attempt a better response to individual needs have,
in many cases, not demonstrated the expected results. In many of these
cases, unskilled labor is trained to develop a simple housing form that
they can easily repeat without reducing disaster-resistant standards.
During the time of construction, and in order to share the same interest
in the construction of all the houses and to avoid particular preferences
and disputes between participants, families usually do not know which
house will be assigned to them. Houses are only assigned when the project
is finished, and therefore it is difficult to believe that particular
needs will be addressed before the occupancy of the houses. CIDA-CECI
self-help reconstruction program after Mitch (1999) in Honduras exemplifies
all these difficulties. Relatively successful in the building aspects,
this monotonous and repetitive settlement of detached single-family
houses can be characterized by its spread low-density layout, absence
of community spaces and lack of sensibility in the design of the units,
as mentioned above (see figure 3).
cooperative housing project in San Salvador (conducted by the Cooperative
Housing Foundation, CHF) shows the positive results that can be achieved
with a sensitive approach to traditional typologies. CHFs approach
to traditional mesones in downtown San Salvador enabled
over 150 families to be housed in their own former meson sites by using
an innovative approach of construction with the informal sector (see
figure 4). By comparison, other approaches to the reconstruction of
mesones, which were directed by municipal authorities, are reported
by Tova-Maria Solo (1991) as less successful after introducing changes
in the traditional layout of the units that were impossible to match
with the economic viability of the project.
Housing literature is explicit in the advantages that can be obtained in terms of affordability and sustainability of low-cost housing when mid-rise typologies are used (see Shoenauer, 1994). However, this is an option that has been frequently underestimated in reconstruction projects. We consider that a re-evaluation of policies is needed to examine the potential contribution of mid-rise typologies in post-disaster programs.
There seems to be a general consensus in the literature regarding the provision of different resources to the affected community. Indeed, evidence shows that reconstruction programs require addressing different needs of the survivors according to their existing (and very often insufficient) resources. Some of those resources might come in the form, for example, of materials, loans, subsidies, tax incentives, education and tents. This approach is perfectly illustrated by the remarkable initiatives taken during the post-earthquake Colombian reconstruction in 1999 to encourage the participation of large and well-established construction companies in the disaster area. In this ambitious program of rural housing, the Colombian authorities established numerous corporative and individual tax incentives targeted to promote employment opportunities in the affected area and to facilitate economic recovery. In fact, the organization responsible for the reconstruction program registered the creation of nearly 10 000 jobs one year after the disaster. Furthermore, with support of the private sector, an exhibition of seventeen model houses permitted the broad promotion of prefabricated buildings and prefabricated components, and demonstrated the interest of building companies in participating in the program.
Reconstruction resources might come from national or international sources. Despite the skepticism of some scholars towards imported technologies, technology transfer and international intervention, research demonstrates that international cooperation can be conducted in a way which supports local long-term development.
partnership to deal with building initiatives is not new in the literature.
W. E. Hewitt demonstrates in a recent article published in Habitat
International (1998) that increasingly, local governments
in developing countries are entering into partnership arrangements with
their counterparts in the developed world as part of an attempt to come
to grips with problems associated with rapid urban expansion.
An illustrative example presented by Hewitt shows the effective results
of the development assistance arrangements between the cities of Sao
Paulo, Brazil and Toronto, Canada. In this example, information and
technology sharing facilitated, at a very low cost, the transfer of
a successful housing strategy in Toronto to contribute to alleviate
the well-known housing crisis of the Brazilian city. Once again we argue
that more effort is needed to involve pre-disaster research and international
cooperation initiatives in post-disaster low-cost housing reconstruction.
Information and education.
As in the case of resources, there seems to be a general agreement among scholars towards a broad provision of information and education for the improvement of unsafe building practices. Ian Davis Disasters and the Small Dwelling (1981) (incidentally a publication where an extreme approach against industrialized imported solutions is adopted) presents convincing arguments concerning the importance and great responsibility of the media in a post-disaster scenario. Education and information are required not only for the affected community but also for the media themselves, potential donors and, of course, for the decision makers. In the context of a pluralist approach, where residents carry a great responsibility of choosing between possible solutions, an appropriate delivery of qualified information is the base of the reconstruction strategy.
Post-disaster low-cost housing provision is more than a technological
problem. A successful reconstruction program targeted to low-income
groups must not only consider the hard factors of reconstruction
(directly related to the building process) but also the soft
factors (not traditionally related with the building process, but crucial
to attaining long-term development). Some of those soft
factors are: education, information, training, employment opportunities
for the affected community, economic recovery, etc.
A reconstruction strategy must, ideally, be established before the disaster
occurs. International exchange of information and research must be promoted
and transferred to reconstruction policies in advance, in order to guarantee
an appropriate response in times of crisis.
3. The success of a low cost housing reconstruction project is directly related to the provision of multiplicity and choice. In this way, the transfer of a great deal of responsibility for choice and decision-making to the affected community is related with the acceptability and the long-term sustainability of the project.
keywords for the acceptability of a project are: choice, flexibility
and adaptability and they must be considered in the architectural,
technical, economical, and functional aspects of the project. Note that
flexibility stands here for the short-term options (even before occupancy);
whereas adaptability stands here for the long-term possibility to modify
the dwelling after the occupancy of the project.
A reconstruction program requires (i) the coordination of national and
international participants and resources and (ii) the articulation of
soft and hard factors of reconstruction. Therefore,
a careful organizational design is indispensable for the success of
Only assessing the demand for physical accommodation hardly leads to
solving the housing problem of developing nations. The solution requires
a general policy that includes: (i) the provision and distribution of
land; (ii) the provision of public services; and (iii) the provision
of community services (schools, churches, retail, health centers, etc.).
Research demonstrates that some characteristics that appear spontaneously
in informal settlements have not been seriously considered in housing
initiatives targeted to the lowest income sector. Furthermore, research
shows that incorporating these characteristics might positively influence
the long-term sustainability of a post-disaster reconstruction project
(which is our subject here), and therefore, their potentials should
not be underestimated in low-income housing reconstruction strategies.
We want particularly to refer here to four of these characteristics:
The mix of families from different incomes;
A post-disaster reconstruction project requires the coordination of
local and external resources, and both of these resources must be optimized
to attain the long-term development of the affected community. However,
if planned in advance before the disaster, international aid can, at
the same time, be favorable to the particular interest of donor nations.
Rather than dismissing industrialized building because of certain extreme
approaches which have often been adopted, we consider that industrialization,
and particularly open systems of prefabricated components (if properly
implemented) can positively contribute to achieve the sustainability
and requirements of a post-disaster reconstruction scenario. A systemic
view enables technology to be mobilized for appropriate short, medium
and long-term community reconstruction, achieving a continuum of techniques
that articulate local and external solutions.
9. Within the systemic view, post-disaster reconstruction can also be seen as a continuum from immediate relief to long-term rebuilding.
summarize, we can say that while more research is needed to develop
a coherent international cooperation strategy, there is
already enough evidence to believe that a pluralist approach might overcome
many of the difficulties found in current reconstruction approaches.
Research is badly needed to broaden the current spectrum of approaches
to post-disaster housing activities for developing countries, particularly
in terms of project preparation, project management, production of components,
construction and financing.
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