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By Kate Hawley
Team Lead of The Sheltering From a Gathering Storm Program
LEED AP. Economics Research Associate, USA
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?
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).
—Winning design from Vietnam
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.
 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
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
Kanmani Venkateswaran (ISET)
Given the severity of the recent floods in Boulder, current conversation at the city and county levels is centered on flood mitigation. However, Boulder is subject to multiple climate hazards, including droughts, winds, and severe snow storms. This broad spectrum of hazards has always been addressed in disaster planning and continues to be discussed post-flood, particularly by those thinking about broader resiliency.
A recent and particularly severe disaster was the Fourmile Fire in 2010. Between September 6 and September 16, the fire burned 6,200 acres of land and destroyed 169 homes in the foothills above the city. After the fire, disaster mitigation and recovery policies and processes, particularly the Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan, were reviewed by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Floods were an important part of these discussions; loss of vegetation in a burn area greatly exacerbates the chances of erosion, landslide, and flash flooding in the event of heavy rains.
Following the Fourmile Fire, a group of mountain community leaders came together and formed the Inter Mountain Alliance (IMA) as a platform to discuss the lessons learned, promote wildfire mitigation among residents, and encourage public participation in improving local disaster plans. The following lessons learned were incorporated into the response and recovery process for the recent floods.
Lesson 1 – Spend time listening to communities to figure out what their needs are. In more traditional models of response and recovery, the needs of affected communities are assumed. After the fire, Boulder County staff spent time speaking to each community to determine what their needs were. Based on this experience, after the floods County staff and the Boulder County Long-Term Flood Recovery Group took the time to meet with community leaders to identify needs and how existing policies could be changed to meet needs.
Lesson 2 – Provide a single point of contact for those affected by disasters. In the aftermath of disasters, affected people need access to information and services that are provided by different departments. After the fire, Boulder County set up a Disaster Assistance Center within days as a one-stop shop for information. When the floods hit, this experience allowed City and County staff to set up flood Disaster Assistance Centers quickly, drawing in local non-profit organizations and FEMA – FEMA normally has to set these centers up on their own. The City of Boulder and Boulder County’s cooperation in this initiative has helped make these centers highly successful. Similar centers were set-up recently to help people with issues surrounding longer-term disaster recovery.
Lesson 3 – Form good relationships across departments, with police, sheriff, and local municipalities. Collaboration and partnerships are vital during disaster response and recovery as they build trust, promote learning and mainstream action. After the Fourmile Fire, the Office of Emergency Management and Boulder County realized that the 23 fire districts were too disparate and therefore worked to establish and solidify relationships with and between the fire districts. These districts worked together to produce a flood plan and have met regularly since to update it. Their collaboration during the floods, primarily search and rescue missions in the mountains, made overall flood response much more effective.
Another salient collaboration is that of the IMA with Boulder County Amateur Radio Emergency Services (BCARES), http://bouldercountyares.org/, and the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) ,http://boulderoem.com/, to create the Mountain Emergency Radio Network (M.E.R.N), http://bouldermountainresources.org/mern/. M.E.R.N. is an amateur radio service that can be used to communicate with mountain residents during emergencies. Their partnership, alongside the Office of Emergency Management’s partnership with the National Weather Service, allowed for streamlined and rapid dissemination of early warning and safety information to mountain communities. Rumors and confusion were minimized.
Lesson 4 – Encourage innovation. The reverse-911 emergency phone-call system in use at the time of the Fourmile Fire was only able to send out messages in concentric circles. This was not appropriate given the geography of the mountain communities, which are laid out along canyons. After the Fourmile Fire, IMA, M.E.R.N. and the Office of Emergency Management worked together to adapt the 911 emergency phone-call system to the unique terrain of the canyons.
What is evident here is that disaster response and recovery systems that were implemented as a result of the Fourmile Fire were highly beneficial during the floods, and are likely to be beneficial in the event of future disasters, whether they are natural, social, or technological. Building resilience is not about adapting to floods or fires specifically; it is about adapting to hazards, change, and variability in general. Key to resilience is the ability to learn, so that communities do not repeat mistakes, but instead build back better each time.
1st Picture: Fourmile Fire in the Foothills of Boulder on September 2010. (Photo:Bo Insogna) https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelightningman/4968418101/in/photolist-8z3rB4-8yXhox-8zU4Fv-8zvy1j-acmLLe-8z1GEj-8z7ZRt-8yXDTM-8yXCQZ-8yXERM-8z1GPy-8z819k-8z1KpY- 8yXAk2-8yXD6F-8z7ZZc-8z1LTW-8z1KL1-8yXBwH-8z1LwC-8z1L7b-8yXEFM-8z1Ln9-8yXB5D-8yXC2c-8yXDzc-8z1Gw5-8yRD8b-8z1U5p-8BnnTX-8BqobJ-8BqomE-8z4n2i-8BngA4-8Bqo2A-8BngvT-8Bqo7w-8z4iR4-8Bbbc9-8z8eP3-8AfZtC-8zsnse-8yN17U-8z4j6P-acpATb-8z1q7s-8yXeXz-8zimWk-8zijBx-8zmvf9
3rd Picture: Fourmile Canyon fire crew practicing a rescue mission during a flood training exercise. (Photo: Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera) http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site21/2011/0416/20110416__17dcaflow~1_500.jpg
We are pleased to share our most recent publication Floods in Boulder: A Study of Resilience. The focus of this study is our hometown Boulder, Colorado. This case study provides concrete examples of what makes a city “resilient” through the analysis of built infrastructure, human systems, and legal and cultural norms. This study diagnoses why the county came through unscathed in some areas while encountering massive damages in others.
Selected findings of the case study include:
- Built Infrastructure: Six of the seven roads into the mountains failed because they were all next to rivers; systems are not redundant if they have the same point of failure.
- Human Systems: Lessons and response from previous disasters directly improved the flood response of the county.
- Legal and cultural norms: The western culture of individuality gave staff the freedom to take independent action and innovate. This allowed systems to be operated effectively under a wider range of conditions than what they were initially designed for.
- A recovery process should include county-wide understanding of what is needed to make Boulder County more resilient.
Boulder County held up well to the floods in certain ways, but in others the floods exposed gaps in our disaster preparedness. This study looks at what made Boulder County resilient, and where we need to improve,” said Chris Allan, ISET-International Senior Research Associate and co-author of the report. “We hope the study will be of use in ongoing discussions across the county in bouncing forward, and for the City of Boulder in their resilience building process which starts this week with the kick off of the 100 Resilient Cities event.
About ISET-International www.i-s-e-t.org
ISET-International was one of the original members of the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), a program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation from 2008–present. Through our engagement with ACCCRN, we have developed and refined the Climate Resilience Framework (CRF), a systems-based approach to building resilience to climate change. The Boulder Flood’s case study was modeled off of our approach which has been piloted and tested in cities across Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Vietnam).