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Sheltering From A Gathering Storm—Why Should We Explore Shelter?

By Kate Hawley
Team Lead of The Sheltering From a Gathering Storm Program
LEED AP. Economics Research Associate, USA


Sheltering From A Gathering Storm Program

Why explore shelter systems? How important a role does shelter play in the realm of development? It’s an interesting thing to think about, really. In our homes, we work, educate, practice, play, and grow – and we seek refuge during extreme events. Shelter to many is the single largest single investment we make during our lifetime. Not surprisingly, shelter accounts for the highest monetary losses in climate related disasters[1]?

That’s why we, the Sheltering Research Team, investigated the role that shelter plays in the daily lives of low-income households and how these households are making decisions to adapt to the growing threat of climate change. Our team investigated the impacts of key climate hazards experienced in South Asia and Southeast Asia.

  • In Pakistan, we explored what extreme temperatures might do to households in locations just outside cities.
  • In India, we looked at that role of flooding and how households are already choosing to raise the levels of their houses.
  • In Vietnam, we investigated impacts of the typhoons on poor households in peri-urban areas.

Through these hazard lenses, we were able to understand how households experienced past events and with the help of our climate science team, we were able to look at what those impacts might look like in the future as climate becomes more and more of a threat. Drawing upon consultations with local households, city planners, and key partners, our research team identified strategies that households are currently employing to prevent losses of their assets, both to their house as well as to their goods.

Risk Reduction Framing: The graphic below reflects the interactions at the individual shelter level. Read more here


Call for Innnovation: Resilient Housing Design Competition in India and Vietnam

In Vietnam and India, we hosted The Resilient Housing Design Competition, which charged architects, engineers and planners to think outside their traditional boxes and design culturally acceptable, innovative and resilient designs. These avenues produced a plethora of ideas that households can employ to reduce their overall losses by combatting flooding and typhoons. From there, we pushed forward to find out which strategies would be the most cost-effective, with consideration of when and how these strategies could be implemented.

Interestingly enough, the resilient housing designs that won the competition were both cost-effective in flooding and typhoon scenarios. In Vietnam, the housing design included changes in the roof design, inclusion of a safe room, and more (see the winning design here). These added features increased costs, but the scenario tests resulted in high economic returns from investment. Considering the fact that Da Nang experiences typhoons every two to three years, which can be very damaging for households, this investment is worthwhile. In India, we expanded the potential strategies that households utilize to reduce flooding impacts and investigated different options including a climate resilient house (see the winning design here).

Here we highlight the resilient systems of this winning design entry.

Winning design from India


—Winning design from Vietnam

Rising Temperatures

In almost all of the strategies, the returns to investments are high, resulting in most households already choosing to adopt [many of] these strategies, even when government incentives do not exist. In Pakistan, temperature increases proved to be more challenging. Most interventions that try to reduce temperature in a house can only reduce those temperatures experienced during the height of the day. From the research, the climate science showed us that temperature minimums (the lowest temperatures throughout the day) are not decreasing at all. In fact, they are projected to increase in the next 20 to 50 years, which will put continued stress on households to adapt. The only current way to reduce temperature minimums is through active cooling interventions (e.g., air-conditioning). In almost all of the cases, the strategies for mitigating temperature is only effective in the hottest location in Pakistan; however, with climate impacts added, these technologies become important for other locations. The research shows that temperature increases due to climate change will be devastating. Heat reduction techniques are only cost-effective because the heat expenditures that average households pay out will increase, not because the technologies become cheaper. Most of these households will not be able to afford to cool their homes.

Interventions at Work

We are seeing households in Vietnam adopt these resilient typhoon designs through a program facilitated by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Vietnam case shows us that if households have access to subsidized loans from the government, they willingly take that loan and invest it in the construction of safer shelter designs—protecting their assets from future climate disasters.  In India, many of the households have raised their plinth, and added shelves and hooks on walls to raise valuables out of the floodwater’s reach, but those who can’t afford these strategies are left behind.

As a research team, we chose to investigate shelter because of its prominent role in all of our lives. We can save people’s lives, educate our children, start our business and grow our ideas if we provide safe, climate resilient shelters for our communities. This research proves that smart designs and innovative strategies might be our best chance towards climate resilience. But, also, certain climate stresses challenge our current set of strategies, and we must challenge ourselves to develop new pathways for us to adapt.

[1] Comerio, 1997

For more information and access to all of the 30+ resources from this program (discussion papers, synthesis report, case studies, policy briefs, technical reports) please visit: http://www.i-s-e-t.org/SHELTER




Interview with Marcus Moench and KGNU Radio “Planning for more superstorms”

Originally posted on http://howonearthradio.org

Marcus Moench, Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, Boulder

LISTEN (20 Minutes)  The Institute for Social and Environmental Transition does a lot of work globally regarding flooding and climate and environment protection.    Speaking with Jim Pullen, their president, Marcus Moench, says Boulder has fared pretty well, though it faces challenges.

The main flood areas, the infrastructures through Central Boulder has functioned enormously well.  The underpasses and things like that.  We face, as everyplace does, a huge challenge particularly along minor streams, where it’s impossible to keep the vegetation clear, to keep culverts the size you want.  And where there are contrasting interests.  For example, if you have a grate in front of a school such as Flatirons school that protects kids from falling into the culverts, but at the same time it becomes the first thing that clogs and floods the street, the minute any flow comes down. “

But Moench says that even in usually arid Boulder, we can learn lessons from wetter climates, such as those in Asia:

All the infrastructures, the water heaters, the sewer, things like this, The water supply stuff is located much higher up.  The electricity.  We put a lot of that infrastructure into our basements.  And as people are mucking out here, that’s one of the largest costs a lot of people will face is replacing that water heater, that dryer, the stuff that’s in the basements. “

For a list of resources for people in our communities dealing with these disasters, check KGNU


Sharpening our focus on urban disaster risk reduction


Stephanie Lyons and Tho Nguyen, ISET-Vietnam

Efforts in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Vietnam to date have primarily focused on rural areas and often employ effective community based disaster risk management (CBDRM) methods, yet there is an intensifying need for better DRR approaches in urban contexts. In a country experiencing rapid development, many communities in urban and peri-urban areas are increasingly vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters.

Policymakers, practitioners and researchers met in Da Nang in April at a workshop organized by the Disaster Management Center (DMC) and the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET) Vietnam to share their knowledge and experiences in both urban and rural DRR.


At this event, 14 cities from across Vietnam came together with government agencies, NGOs and researchers to exchange experiences and identify current challenges and potential solutions for improving urban DRR in Vietnam.

Key points raised during the workshop

  • Current disaster management policies and efforts focus largely on emergency response and disaster recovery, and less so on risk reduction, prevention and adaptation. Major natural hazards and disasters around the world over the past decade – including Hurricane Katrina in 2005, typhoons in 2009, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake – highlighted that governments can be immobilized by disasters, and recognition of this has helped shift perspectives towards the need for greater expertise in urban DRR.


  • Existing laws, guidelines and interventions relevant to DRR – such as the National Green Growth Strategy and Construction Law – are not sufficiently coordinated or synchronized, do not fully address or facilitate DRR in urban areas, and do not provide comprehensive or effective mechanisms for multi-stakeholder and cross-sector coordination and information sharing. Policymakers must carefully consider the appropriate levels of delegation for decision-making, from the local to the provincial and national levels. In particular, local authorities should be able to access and apply up-to-date information and data to inform their DRR planning.
  • While the established approaches often used in the field (such as CBDRM) are highly instructive, urban contexts demand tailored approaches to community engagement, and local knowledge must play a central role in building resilience over the long term. Many communities throughout Vietnam are already accustomed to dealing with natural disasters, and this resilience should be recognized as a strength. However, it is crucial to actively engage community members in DRR decision-making and education about risks, prevention, and response mechanisms.
  • Urban DRR implicates a wide range of stakeholders, including governments at all levels, international donors, civil society, academia, business, and local communities. Concerted private sector engagement in DRR planning and implementation is still limited, despite the significant potential for businesses to play a more central role in supporting more effective urban DRR. There is a need to clarify the incentives for deeper business engagement and explore the potential for public-private partnerships.


A new Natural Disaster Prevention Law, effective from 1 May 2014, is expected to initially address these issues by providing a systematic legal framework to regulate DRR-related actors and actions in rural and urban areas.

Keep an eye on the UCR-CoP blog in the coming months for a forthcoming publication on the challenges and solutions for urban DRR in Vietnam, which will build on the experiences, lessons and suggestions discussed at this workshop.

Original post by UCR-CoP blog

We paint to act against climate change


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Since 2011, CCCO has organised various propaganda and awareness-raising programs for different communes, levels and sectors. Within the framework of ACCCRN, CCCO collaborated with DOET to organise the painting contest “We paint to act against climate change” at Ngo Quyen primary school on May 5th, 2014.

It could be said that this is the first CCCO activity for pupils who are considered as the most vulnerable under climate change impacts. However, the contest left in us many happy and beautiful memories.

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