Philippines deployment

Philippines deployment

Kiru Balson, Building Futures Group, BRE shares her experiences during a 4 week deployment to the Philippines.

13 August 2014 Kiru Balson, Building Futures Group, BRE shares her experiences during a 4 week deployment to the Philippines. Funded by BRE and working with Shelter Cluster Philippines, this supports the reconstruction efforts to repair the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) which destroyed 580,000 houses and damaged an additional 550,000 houses. That means that more than 1.1 million houses have been severely damaged or destroyed. The shelter cluster in the Philippines in response to Typhoon Haiyan is convened by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in cooperation with the government lead, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). As co-chair of the shelter cluster, IFRC has deployed an inter-agency Shelter Coordination Team (SCT). The SCT identified the need to deploy an additional Technical Advisor from BRE at the Philippines for a month to support the rebuild activities by the IFRC. Kiru is providing support in a number of areas, including the developing technical briefing notes on key building materials being used in the response, such as Nipa, Amacan, Concrete, Coco lumber and bamboo. The material information sheets are aimed at non-technical agencies who are engaged in construction. This guidance will consider issues of material sourcing and the supply chain, potential environmental impact and how to minimize this from sourcing to final disposal; Processing considerations and guidance; Design and construction consideration as per the national building codes. The deployment also offers the opportunity to evaluate the implementation of QSAND (Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters - This has been developed by BRE and IFRC as a self-assessment tool to promote sustainable approaches to relief, recovery and reconstruction after a natural disaster. Its key objectives are:
  • To guide and inform the decision making process in a disaster-affected community, promoting more sustainable approaches to shelter and settlement activities.
  • To provide a coordinated framework for identifying and, where relevant, assessing the sustainability of solutions in the relief, recovery and reconstruction of disaster-affected communities.

Kiru reporting on Week 1 says:

“On Friday I went to a couple of sites. One was in a fishing village and the other was an inland area. The fishing community had 20ft of storm surge and the other about 10ft. In the fishing village, a local charity is building transition/temporary homes – in reality permanent – using best practice in typhoon resistant construction techniques. Local materials – coco lumber, bamboo and nipa - are used extensively and fishermen and women are being trained to build using best practice approaches. Part of my visit was to learn best practice in using local materials nipa and coco lumber. I managed to get as much info as I could with the help of Mr. Butch who is overseeing this project. The other site I visited follows what they call as “core shelter’ approach i.e. a shelter with strong structural elements. The idea is that the community would be able to install walls (usually made of very light weight materials like bamboo/plywood) in the event of any future disaster. The team was following precast construction method to control quality and deliver homes quickly. This is a good practice approach to delivering a concrete framed core shelter to time and quality. However there is scope for improvement including the curing timescale for concrete, method used for vibrating concrete, transporting the pre-cast frame and some of the roof construction details for typhoon resistance. I also had meetings at two local universities. I met the Head of College of Engineering at the Eastern Visayas State University, Tacloban. They have agreed to provide help with understanding local standards and best practice in construction materials. The Department of Architecture in San Carlos University in Cebu city has invited me to give a talk about BRE and what we do. In summary, there is a lot to learn and plenty of scope to inform best practice in materials and construction. I could see number of other political and infrastructure challenges to overcome. The community appear to be very cheerful and moving on. People love basketball, just like cricket in India and football in England. I saw people fixing up a basketball post (s) with whatever they could find and the street became the arena!!! This is heaven if you like seafood. Although I need to educate people to see fish and other sea food does not count as vegetarian. Luckily there are lots of bananas, mangoes and clean water ??."

Kiru reporting on Weeks 2&3 says:

“I have completed the research on Concrete and concrete hollow blocks. The technical team provided a positive feedback on my work. I also completed my research on the third material - Nipa palm roofing. I gave a talk to the University of San Carlos, Department of Architecture – Institute of Planning and Design titled Built environment and Sustainability Assessments. The talk covered current research works by BRE, including Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters (QSAND). For this, I received a certificate of appreciation and publicity via facebook! To my surprise, the Director of the department gave me a copy of a BRE publication dated from the 1980s – Cyclone Resistant Houses in Developing Countries. They are using this as a learning resource!! I have a copy of it now - never heard of this before. BRE’s research work from nearly 25 years ago still has got a role to play here. There was a request to see if it is possible for the University to become one of the research centres on resilience based in the Philippines, and also whether we could do some wind tunnel testing on one of their designs. Time was also spent building collaboration between Shelter Cluster technical team and the Eastern Visayas State University at Tacloban City. They have agreed to come on board as part of the technical working group for Concrete and Hollow blocks. I visited four sites on Bantayan Island, each working on range of approaches in delivering shelter solutions. From compressed lime and cement blocks, to prefabricated portal frame solutions. The general issue being the quality of materials used, knowledge of basic construction good practice and awareness on disaster resistant construction in typhoon areas. The material information sheets I am developing will form the foundation for agencies with regards to good practice and the local references and standards that should be used. I had an initial meeting with the Department for Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regarding QSAND, which was followed by a bigger meeting with 15 staff. The department has offered to invite over 60 municipalities to attend the training planned in Tacloban for October 2014. This training is open to multiple stakeholders - agencies, national and local government and Universities. Overall the reception for QSAND has been positive and should lead to good representation. Wrapping final reports and debriefing for the team in my final week. Will be home on Sunday ”  

Kiru reporting on Week 4

"This is the last week of my deployment. I can’t believe how quickly the time is gone!! I summarised all my findings into four key documents for concrete, concrete hollow blocks, nipa and plywood. This was presented to the Shelter Cluster Philippines, Technical Co-ordinators in the debrief session. The feedback I have had been positive. Currently, a consultation process is underway with local government and key implementing humanitarian agencies to review and contribute to the design and content of the information sheets. These documents will form part of core technical reference for the agencies. The technical team will then publish all the resources developed thus far by the cluster (Recovery Shelter Guidelines, 8 Build Back Safer key messages, etc) into a booklet which will be distributed to Municipal focal points in the regions affected by Typhoon Yolanda. It will also be published on the shelter cluster website ( This deployment provided an opportunity for BRE to gain first-hand experience of the activities undertaken in relation to building shelters, coordinating actions and implementing measures to build resilience in communities. The findings from this BRE deployment will be disseminated to all interested stakeholders in Resilience 14. There are a number of barriers to the uptake of knowledge in this area, not least, the difficulty in disseminating and sharing learning between the wide range of stakeholders. Going forward, the BRE Centre for Resilience has an important role to play in supporting the knowledge management in this sector. Research and Development in partnership with Universities is needed to further the existing knowledge on shelter delivery process, challenges faced in terms of building technology, materials and construction, environmental and socio-economic impacts of shelter programmes on communities after completion. Will miss the amazing Shelter Cluster Philippines team and the local dark rum ?"