Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools

by Build Change
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Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Empower Nepal to Rebuild Safer Houses and Schools
Family with finished retrofit house
Family with finished retrofit house

In Nepal, nearly two years after the April and May 2015 earthquakes thousands of families are still living in temporary shelters. Build Change is taking on the task of enabling these families to return to a safe, earthquake resistant house by implementing a retrofitting program.

To date we have tested common building materials, ensuring that we know their structural properties. We have vetted new retrofit techniques, completing the retrofitting of two houses. And we have engaged communities, government agencies, and other organizations to advocate for retrofitting houses.

A country wide retrofit program would impact 192,577 families; require 33.4 megatons less materials; require 1.6 million weeks less labor; and save almost 1 billion dollars in reconstruction costs.

In addition, retrofitting houses provides value for money. A new build, following the Government of Nepal’s design costs, on average, 17,000 rupees per square meter; the average retrofit costs 3,000 rupees per square meter.

Early community feedback, shows that demand for retrofitting would likely increase if communities were more aware of its potential as a tool for building back better in combination with its cost, social and cultural benefits.

Binda Timalsina, whose house was damaged in the earthquake and recently retrofit with technical assistance from us, said, “In the beginning I was not convinced by the idea when engineers from Build Change came to me with a proposal for retrofitting. This was a really new concept and I could not trust it easily. However, during the construction process, I was pleased with the retrofitting techniques and the materials used.” Now Timalsina knows her house is as strong as a newly constructed one and considerably stronger than the original.

We thank you for your generous support so far and hope that you continue to help us enable families in Nepal to live in safe houses.


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Open air Temporary Learning Center
Open air Temporary Learning Center

After the 2015 April 25th and May 12th earthquakes 6,000 schools in Nepal were damaged or destroyed. This is 47,000 classrooms no longer able to function, many of which are located in rural areas. Sindhupalchok District was one of the most affected by the earthquake and presents numerous school structures completely demolished. In the immediate aftermath many organizations built Temporary Learning Centers (TLCs) to meet with the emergency needs. Generally, some TLCs were provided per school but were not able to cover the full demand of affected students. Also, with the past monsoon and winter seasons many of these structures are no longer suitable learning environments.

After field visits to visual assess schools and the possible impact of a retrofit program, Build Change, with your support, selected a school for a pilot program. Jana Jyoti Lower Secondary School welcomes 150 students between the ages of five and thirteen. Before the earthquake it had eight classrooms in three different buildings, one science lab, one administration office, one computer lab, and a kindergarten.

During the earthquake, two of the classroom buildings were destroyed, together with the administration building. Currently two bamboo TLCs have been set up that allow the functioning of four classrooms. The rest of the classes happen under tents or under the remaining trusses, but with no walls. Two of the structures that were demolished still have structurally good trusses. Build Change elected to infill those structures to return them to their normal function, but earthquake resistant!

 Since beginning construction in May much progress has been completed. The walls have been reconstructed and secured to the foundation and light weight wooden panels have been attached in place of the heavy block walls that completely collapsed during the earthquake. Once the school is completed teachers and students will be safe from the harsh winter elements and the threat of future earthquakes. Build Change is looking forward to using the lessons learned, with your help, during this pillot to retrofit an additonal six schools throughout Nepal ensuring that children and teacers have safe spaces to learn.

Jana Jyoti school before retrofit
Jana Jyoti school before retrofit
Jana Jyoti school with wooden panel walls
Jana Jyoti school with wooden panel walls
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Our Lead Engineer Discusses Homeowners' Needs
Our Lead Engineer Discusses Homeowners' Needs

“All this destruction is due to the fact that houses were made out of mud, actual mud, that you can breakdown with your own hands. To help Nepali homeowners rebuild their homes Build Change is introducing earthquake resistant construction methodologies using cement…”

-Noll Tufani, Country Director

Led by Nepalis, Driven by Local Culture

Build Change has grown a structural engineering team who has vast experience and knowledge of building types and techniques in Nepal.  Our safe design guidelines for cement and stone, cement and brick, as well as, cement and hollow block housing construction are under review by the Government of Nepal. The guidelines will empower Nepali homeowners and masons to build back safer.

Building Local Capacity

To make sure that an adequate supply of skilled builders is available in rural areas Build Change created a training team. To date we have trained 182 local builders in earthquake resistant construction techniques. Build Change subscribes to a competency-based training program, where local builders are identified, their skill sets are measured, and they receive both practical and on-the-job training to increase their understanding of and capacity to build earthquake resistant houses.

Supporting the Government of Nepal

Build Change supports the Government of Nepal by active participation on technical advisory committees and by manning the technical information desk of the 1st enrollment center in Kavrepalanchok District. So far, we have reached over 500 homeowners with technical advice and promotion of safe construction.  Once reconstruction subsidy disbursement begins, homeowners will have access to the technical resources required to build a safe house through the enrollment center and Build Change’s technical resources. 

Putting Children’s Safety First

Build Change has received government authorization to begin retrofitting a school in Sindhupalchok District.  Once completed, over 160 children, aged five to thirteen will be able to attend classes in an earthquake safe building instead of the inadequate shelter of temporary learning spaces. 

Building Awareness through Posters and Street Theatre

Everyone can build a disaster-resistant house.  The first step is to believe it can be done.  We have reached over 4,000 community residents with Build Back Safe messages through Community Theatre, including 1,384 women, 1,597 children, and 1,064 men. 

Salvaging Materials and Reducing Costs

Some materials from collapsed buildings can be reused, reducing costs and impacts on the environment.  See our Flyer on safe demolition and materials reuse, which has been distributed to over 32,000 homeowners in highly affected areas. 


The Way Forward

The destruction of the April 25th and May 5th 2015 earthquakes in Nepal was massive and, sadly, avoidable.


Almost 9,000 people lost their lives and tens of thousands were injured.


Over 500,000 houses were destroyed and another 250,000 badly damaged.


Over 6,000 schools were destroyed or damaged leaving 1.4 million affected.


Nearly three million people were displaced.


Thanks to your generous support, Build Change had boots on the ground days after the first earthquake, and has built a permanent program in Nepal with over 30 team members.  Our goal is to continue to provide technical assistance to earthquake affected families and change Nepali construction practices permanently.


One year later, while much has been accomplished, so much more needs to be done. Build Change promotes homeowner-driven reconstruction and the Government of Nepal has put such a system into place; we believe reconstruction is on the right track.  We need your continued support to:

-          Provide technical assistance to over 700,000 Nepali families who are about to start rebuilding or retrofitting their homes,

-          Train the hundreds of builders needed for safe reconstruction,

-          Identify and reconstruct or retrofit schools,

-          Continue Build Back Safe awareness activities,

-          Support the Government of Nepal’s long term institutional capacity to prevent and respond to natural disasters.


Nepal will remain a seismically active country. Natural hazards are not preventable – natural disasters are. Help us empower Nepal to build back safer and safe lives. 

Mason Trainer Demostrating Wall Construction
Mason Trainer Demostrating Wall Construction
Homeowners Receiving 1 on 1 Technical Advice
Homeowners Receiving 1 on 1 Technical Advice
Children Enjoying a Build Back Better Production
Children Enjoying a Build Back Better Production


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Build Change Trainer with Masons
Build Change Trainer with Masons

Build Change Nepal is happy to report that we have moved forward full steam on our mason’s training program. Our training team, comprised of local engineers and builders, has developed training modules and a set of minimum skills needed by builders to construct an earthquake resistant house. Examples of these minimum standards include when the builder possesses the skills, behaviors, and attitudes necessary to:

  • Promote the use of disaster-resistant construction practice;
  • Carry out basic measurements and estimation of quantities;
  • Interpret construction drawings and specifications and create basic house sketches;
  • Outline the key steps in preparing a small scale construction project;
  • Perform building layout, foundation digging, mortaring, rough carpentry, basic masonry, steel work, and plastering.

 The training team conducted three trial trainings from end of January to March to vet the training resources and train Build Change trainers on the curriculum and tools, as well as to establish systems for obtaining DUDBC certification for trained masons. The training team is currently compiling challenges, lessons learned, and best practices to inform future trainings and make any changes to the tools and curriculum deemed necessary.


We have trained over 90 masons and using our pre- and post-testing have documented an increase in knowledge of proper construction practice by 20%. With your generous support we can continue to deliver these important trainings and empower the people of Nepal to build back better and be resilient to disasters in the future.

A homeowner outside of her temporary shelter
A homeowner outside of her temporary shelter


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The Build Change Team
The Build Change Team

The Build Change Nepal team is proud to be growing at a fantastic rate. We have increased our team from eight to 25 in the last few months, including 15 Nepali technical staff (civil engineers, structural engineers, architects, and other construction professionals).

We have produced three technical resources for local partners and the Nepali Government. These include:

  1. A demolition and reuse flyer for community members. Already two organizations have distributed over 31,000 flyers in their districts of implementation;
  2. A guide for the incremental expansion of a core housing unit for inclusion in the Nepali government house design catalog. This guide fills the gap for homeowners who will be re-building but don’t have the funds to build a complete house safely;
  3. A guide for the use of hollow concrete blocks as an alternative technology for inclusion in the Nepali government’s alternative building technology catalog.

Finally, we are very proud to have successfully recruited female technical professionals, with a ratio of 60% women on our Nepal program’s technical team, including our Lead Structural Engineer, engineers, architects, construction trainers and a woman mason!

With your generous support we can continue to empower families and communities to build back better, safer, and faster.


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Build Change

Location: Denver, CO - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @buildchangenews
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Build Change Nonprofit
Denver, CO United States
$399 raised of $3,000 goal
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