Phong Tran, Ph.D, Technical Lead, ISET-International, Vietnam
Michelle Fox, Director of Art + Communications, ISET-International
In October 2011, The Women’s Union (WU) of Da Nang Vietnam, working with the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), proposed a microcredit and technical assistance program aimed at developing storm resistant shelters in vulnerable districts of Da Nang called The Storm and Flood-Resistant Credit and Housing Scheme in Da Nang City (The Project). Due to the many coastal and flood prone neighborhoods throughout the city and a growing population of 926,000, intense storms and frequent flooding have become a harsh reality for Da Nang’s citizens. With limited resources and relief efforts being prioritized over disaster risk reduction, the residents of Vietnam have been offered little opportunity to seek shelter from the next storm, often rebuilding after a storm with the same flawed construction technique as before. With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, ISET, WU, Da Nang Climate Change Coordination Office (Da Nang CCCO), and Central Vietnam Architecture Consultancy (CVAC) banded together to fill the critical gap between one disaster and the next—developing a mechanism which both rebuilds and protects.
Two years later, on October 15, 2013 Typhoon Nari (typhoon no. 11) landed in Da Nang city at dawn with level-12 winds and level-13 gusts equivalent to 130km/h. Persistent storm winds coupled with heavy rainfall led to flooding in many areas of the city. The typhoon caused severe damages—many people were injured, thousands of homes endured damage to the structure and roofs, and tens of thousands of trees either broke at their trunk or were uprooted by the severe winds and clogged critical roadways. According to the report of Da Nang City People’s Committee, an estimated total damage is up to 868.8 billion VND (~$41M USD).
Downed powerlines blocked roadways
The Project is Proven Resilient
By the time Typhoon Nari made landfall, 244 of the 245 beneficiary households had completed construction thanks to The Project, and all 244 households were safe from Typhoon Nari’s force. In the time leading up to the storm, beneficiary households strengthened their houses and carefully prepared to cope with the typhoon season. While beneficiary houses stood strong, structures all around them suffered heavy damages. This tragic event demonstrated that investment into preparation is much more effective than spending on post-disaster recovery, in addition to the peace of mind the safety brings to the community. Our hope now is that this experience will inspire other groups and households to employ the same storm-resistant building techniques that were installed in each of the beneficiary households.
Just days after the typhoon, ISET and the Women’s Union toured beneficiary households, and were pleased to find the structures dry and intact!
While in Da Nang, ISET and the Women’s Union also toured households who were less fortunate and in need of reconstruction due to the typhoon’s force.
Room for Improvement
Storm resistant shelter designs are one of the fundamental requirements of climate resilience at the household and community level along with access to loans to allow households to apply typhoon resistant construction techniques when retrofitting and building their houses. Important stakeholders such as professional agencies/experts still rarely participate in the construction of local low-income housing in peri-urban and hazard prone areas. Some obstacles, such as high costs of design services for low-income households and limited access to loans for housing, require local governments to initiate appropriate supportive policies or subsidy programs to reduce obstacles and to bridge this gap. Other needs of improvements lie within the limited self-sufficiency of households living in hazard prone areas, which is linked to their limited financial resources. Local governments, together with the public and private sector, need to plan and implement actions for local economic development (e.g. programs for vocational training or micro-finance opportunities).
To support the Women’s Union and other organizations promoting storm resistant housing, ISET-International with funding from the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) undertook a 2-year long cost-benefit analysis research project to estimate the average economic costs averted from building to storm resistant standards in Vietnam as well as India and Pakistan. This study also supported the Resilient Housing Design Competition 2013, which called for innovative storm resistant shelters for low-income households. Plans for scaling and replication of the project model are currently being investigated. Final outputs from this project will be available at i-s-e-t.org/Shelter in mid-March 2014.
The winning team of the Vietnam Resilient Housing Design Competition was TT-Arch, a firm based out of Hue, Vietnam. The team, along with other finalists, toured the beneficiary households of The Project in Spring of 2013, and included some of the same storm-resistant building techniques that were installed at those sites. Below is a detailed description of their winning design and the key characteristics that ISET is now recommending to households.
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By Chris Allan and Karen MacClune
“By 6 AM on Thursday morning, there was a huge river of water flowing through main street, where the two rivers in town had become one about a quarter mile wide,” said one Lyons resident.
“By mid-morning Thursday a footbridge in town was gone, and cars were washed down river. The town was cut off into six islands, and no one could move between them.” Gas, electricity, and water were all cut off, and only the National Guard could get in and out of town in their amphibious vehicles. “The Town staff organized the evacuation center. Victoria, our Town Administrator, was fantastic. The Town board did a lot, and the fire department did a lot. The Town just took care of itself.”
“Store owners and restaurants just opened up. People cooked on camp stoves, propane grills. On Thursday and Friday the town did big street parties. Every island did the same. People were eating all the perishables before they went bad. I volunteered at the evacuation center on my island, just doing what needed to be done.”
“Everyone in town knew each other, at least in passing. It’s a small town. Some people from the mountains had to hike down, they would show up at the evacuation center after 12 hours of hiking. People would see someone they knew and had been thinking about, and would burst into tears. But people for the most part were in remarkably good shape.”
“By Saturday, the water was down enough to drive out. High clearance vehicles could get out in morning, anyone by the afternoon. Getting out was weird. We had been so cut off, it was very strange to come out and go to grocery store in Longmont. There was power, people were living their daily lives…In Lyons, it was a disaster zone, it was all about helping people in need. It was hard to leave that.”
“When we evacuated we arrived at a church shelter. We pulled up, and guys came out with umbrellas and said “welcome”. It was sweet. But it was also the first time I felt like a victim, it didn’t feel good. We had been sent there to register with FEMA, as soon as we realized FEMA wasn’t there we turned around and went elsewhere.”
“If we’d had to stay, it would have been awful. It was so disempowering.”
Video Credit: Jem Moore
ISET-International is conducting a resilience study of the Boulder Floods of 2013. Looking at systems, people, and legal and cultural norms, the study is assessing what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be improved to prepare for shocks and stresses in the future. The study is being funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and the American Red Cross. If you or someone you know has a story that could inform our research on ways to improve resilience in response to the Boulder Flood, please contact email@example.com.