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Build Change

Build Change, a Denver-based nonprofit systems change catalyst, prevents housing loss caused by disasters.

Founded in 2004 by civil engineer Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, Build Change’s philosophy is distinguished by a homeowner-driven, cash-plus-technical-assistance approach. More than nine out of ten natural disaster-related deaths occur in developing countries and especially in overcrowded, unsafe neighborhoods where housing does not meet basic codes for resilience. 

Post-disaster, NGOs and government agencies often rebuild in ways that are not culturally appropriate or even earthquake resistant. By mobilizing people, money, and technology to transform systems for regulating, financing, building, and improving houses around the world, Build Change puts resilient communities within reach. 

In addition, the organization places an emphasis on supporting women. Build Change employs women trainers and engineers, leading to an increase in the number of mentors and role models for girls, while also working alongside female homeowners, brickmakers, builders, and other community members to encourage female participation in resilient construction practice. 

Using simple, culturally appropriate, and cost-effective retrofitting techniques, Build Change has overseen the construction or reconstruction of more than 90,000 homes and schools, often revitalizing entire neighborhoods in Haiti, China, Nepal, and around the world. 

In Nepal, Build Change has used a combination of technologies (such as AI, ML and VR) to advise the government on resilient housing policy, as well as directly support the recovery of rural communities following a 2015 earthquake. As of 2021, Build Change’s work in Nepal had resulted in more than 150,000 safer people.

Throughout 2020, Build Change piloted a comprehensive technology platform to enable housing evaluators and contractors to digitally assess at-risk homes and strengthen them on behalf of the Government of Colombia’s Casa Digna, Vida Digna program. By the end of 2020, even amidst the pandemic, more than 3,500 homes had been assessed.

In 2021 Build Change released its flagship publication, The Build Change Guide to Resilient Housing: An Essential Handbook for Governments and Practitioners, which consolidates Build Change’s experience developing home improvement programs in 24 countries since 2004.

We had a chance to talk to Dr. Hausler to hear her thoughts on how to make a more resilient world on Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.

15 | A Homeowner-driven Approach to Rebuilding After Disaster


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2017 is "Sorry" by Comfort Fit. The break music is "New York Samba" by Bob James & Earl Klugh from their album "Cool."