Habitat for Humanity tests innovative, disaster-resilient solutions for low-income households

Photo Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity

Ensuring that a house has a safe and sturdy foundation can help the whole structure
endure life-threatening disasters. Unfortunately, millions of families live in inadequate
homes across the world without a proper foundation, endangering their lives during
disasters such as earthquakes or typhoons.

In the Philippines, where frequent seismic activities and around 20 tropical cyclones
happen every year, over 1.6 million houses lack strong, adequate, and climate-resilient
foundations, making the structures more vulnerable to destruction and putting lives at
risk. Many of these houses are owned by low-income families, who perceive that
retrofitting their homes using traditional methods is either too expensive or unnecessary.

Typhoon Yolanda Victims | IMG SOURCE: ABS-CBN

Leading shelter advocate Habitat for Humanity seeks to address this issue.

In partnership with InnoCentive, SeaFreight Labs, Holcim Philippines, Inc., Hilti
Foundation, and BASE Bahay Foundation, Inc., Habitat for Humanity tested
groundbreaking solutions last August 5, 2021, in Barangay Bignay, Valenzuela City, for
a competition that aims to strengthen houses with inadequate or no foundations to
withstand the threats of disasters.

Finding the Right Solutions

The competition, dubbed as the Habitat for Humanity Challenge: Increasing Resilience
to Earthquakes and Typhoons for Homes with No Foundations, calls for innovative,
affordable methods that can help improve the resistance of houses to typhoon-force
winds and high-magnitude earthquakes.

Habitat for Humanity urged solvers worldwide to submit their proposals. Out of 80
entries, four solutions have advanced to the actual field testing. Housing experts judge
them based on the following criteria: resilience against typhoons and earthquakes,
availability of materials needed, ease of installation among masons and homeowners,
and affordability among low-income households.


The field testing involved a “lateral load test,” where the lateral forces of an earthquake
and typhoon winds were simulated and applied. Using a high-capacity hydraulic jack
and movement sensors, this simulation process aims to get the maximum load a
structure with an applied solution can endure, how long it will take to crack, and any
foundation structural failure it may exhibit.

Habitat for Humanity’s initiative aims to help provide new, cost-effective methods in
retrofitting homes without adequate foundations. These innovations could potentially
help thousands of low-income families in the Philippines and worldwide live in a safer,
more durable housing.

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity,
through the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, works with low-income families
in the world’s most vulnerable communities to help them improve their living conditions
and achieve strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.

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