Super Typhoon Haiyan Rebuilding and Support

by Architecture for Humanity
learning operations of a coco-lumber plantation
learning operations of a coco-lumber plantation

At Architecture for Humanity, we know that we can provide communities with the best results by collaborating and sharing knowledge with the community, and partners with relevant expertise.

In August, Program Coordinators Audrey Galo and Hiromi Tabei were invited to travel to the Philippines to participate in an 8-day trip and workshop hosted by the Consuelo Foundation, to advise on disaster reconstruction and resilience following the devastating impact of Typhoon Yolanda.

With long-term goals for reconstruction in mind, the foundation is carefully considering a cross-disciplinary collaboration between partners to help build a more resilient future for vulnerable communities. This workshop gathered together groups with extensive experience working with post-disaster communities, climate change, disaster risk reduction, reconstruction and recovery, to share knowledge and build partnerships.

Architecture for Humanity was invited as an expert in design and construction of post-disaster communities, and was joined by others including: Jainey Bavishi, Executive Director of Asia-Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience (APDR3), Dennis Hwang from the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College Program, and Dr. Karl Kim, Executive Director of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center.

The group first spent time in Manila, before travelling to a number of areas most affected by Typhoon Yolanda to learn about some of the initiatives being undertaken to assist in the recovery. We saw a mix of successes and failures in flood-mitigation and reconstruction measures that have been undertaken by various entities. We also met with many groups working on inspirational projects to protect the country from future storms and earthquakes, and strengthened our relationships with those working towards common long-term reconstruction goals.

The trip illustrated that many dedicated individuals and organizations are working to build something positive from last year’s disaster, demonstrating that they are clearly thinking in the long-term rather than simply looking for “Band-Aid” solutions. It was particularly inspiring to see how people did not view the typhoon’s impact as a failure of the measures already in place, but instead saw it as an opportunity to make improvements and to create a more resilient community.

Everyone has a part to play in reconstruction and disaster risk reduction – it is crucial to work together to find the best way to use everyone’s resources so that the whole community benefits in the end. The Filipino community is taking ownership of their efforts, moving forward with the support of others and their own strong will.


Read more about the trip from a Q&A session with Audrey and Hiromi:

How did we get chosen to attend the workshop?

Audrey: Because of the prior relationships we had with the National Preparedness Training Center, they reached out to us when the idea of the trip came about. They thought we should be involved; so we started talking about what the purpose of the trip would be, and how we could best contribute.

How was Architecture for Humanity best able to contribute to the trip?

Audrey: We were able to exceed even our own expectations with what we could bring to the experience. I think we were able to give others in the group a new perspective in terms of thinking about how design can truly impact the cities and people that they’re working with, in a way that they had never thought of before. In a lot of post-disaster situations, you’re working primarily with engineers - but why not work with architects too? Why not work with people who can influence the way that the space is designed? I think we were able to draw that out and also give them some ideas and inspiration for how they may want to do projects in the future.

Are you continuing the conversation?

Audrey: Yes, we’re in the process of trying to figure out what a partnership would look like. The Consuelo Foundation has made a long-term commitment to doing post-disaster work in the regions that they’re working with, and that aligns with how Architecture for Humanity works in post-disaster regions (running multi-year, multi-project programs). We’re going to continue the conversation and see what common projects we can collaborate on.

What’s next for our efforts in the Philippines?

Hiromi: We’re partnering with Happy Hearts Fund to rebuild a school in Tanauan, Leyte, and we’re trying to use that project to expand our program to other areas - training local architects, builders and community members and aiding in planning, like we’re doing in Haiti. We see a lot of potential to dovetail projects with other organizations we met during this trip, so we are working on figuring that out right now. Every participant came with different experiences and has worked in different places after different disasters, so it was nice to hear their perspective on how this disaster is similar and different. We’ve started a good team to keep doing work together.

What was the best ‘takeaway’ from the trip?

Hiromi: It was interesting travelling with other organizations. We have diverse backgrounds and work in many different regions, but are all pursuing the same vision of creating something long-lasting for communities in need. It was inspiring and reassuring to know that we aren’t the only ones doing this work, and that we’re all in it for the same reasons. It was a great opportunity for us to connect with those like-minded people, and cultivate relationships for future collaboration.

crossing a river to visit a coco-lumber plantation
crossing a river to visit a coco-lumber plantation
devastation remains in much of Tacloban
devastation remains in much of Tacloban
resettlement complex destroyed in Typhoon Glenda
resettlement complex destroyed in Typhoon Glenda
community spaces have been built by locals
community spaces have been built by locals
Approach to Picas Elementary School
Approach to Picas Elementary School

After months of preparation, the rebuilding process for hundreds of students in Leyte, Philippines begins with much anticipation and joy for a new, strong and safe school.

We are proud to announce the launch of our work with long-time partner, Happy Hearts Fund on the reconstruction of Picas Elementary School. Happy Hearts Fund and Architecture for Humanity partnered in 2010 on 6 post-disaster school rebuilding projects throughout Latin America

After months spent visiting with community members in the affected regions of the Philippines, we found that school children still remain in temporary or unsafe classrooms. By applying our expertise in post-disaster rebuilding, we will join in the reconstruction of safe schools in the Visayas; the Picas Elementary School being the first project of many.

Picas Elementary School provides education to students in kindergarten and grades 1-6. Approximately 126 students attend this school located in Tanauan, Leyte (pop. 50,000).   During Typhoon Haiyan, the school suffered roof damage including partial roof collapse, window and shutter damage, and water damage throughout all buildings. The outdoor event stage was also destroyed.

Picas students and teachers will receive full design and construction services to rebuild five classrooms, two comfort rooms with hand sinks, and a playground. Furniture will also be gifted to the school. Upon completion, Picas Elementary School will be a safe, strong and healthy learning and gathering space for the entire community to be proud of and enjoy.

We are excited to continue to work with the school students and administrators, our community partners and Happy Hearts Fund.

Look forward to updates to come as this project comes to life!

A damaged classroom to be demolished
A damaged classroom to be demolished
The existing comfort rooms
The existing comfort rooms
The existing kindergarten classroom
The existing kindergarten classroom


Thank you for your support in our Typhoon Haiyan response efforts

Thank you for your generous donation to Architecture for Humanity's Typhoon Haiyan response efforts.  Every donation helps as we continue to establish our response.  

With your support, we were recently able to send two key headquarters personnel to the Haiyan affected regions.  We are dedicated to helping communities in need and appreciate your continued support.

Please visit our Typhoon Haiyan Response page for updates as our response unfolds.  A report about our staff's recent visit coming soon on our program page!

Thanks again,
Architecture for Humanity team


*Please visit our program page to see how we've helped other communities post-disaster.


Two months since Typhoon Haiyan ripped though the Philippines, the latest statistics show that 14.1 million people were affected, with 4.1 million of them displaced*. While in most areas basic community services are being restored, key resources such as health, nutrition and sanitation related services are still lacking.

The Reconstruction and Resiliency team at Architecture for Humanity has been working with local architects to develop a long-term response to the Typhoon's devastation. Real recovery takes years. Real recovery doesn't mean a quick fix. It means empowering local communities with stronger building codes, better buildings, and hope for the future.

How does the Reconstruction and Resiliency team respond to a disaster?

The first several weeks following a disaster are called the relief phase. Here our team works on gathering funding, building partnerships, and assessing conditions and needs on-the-ground, working with our local chapter. Information-gathering and knowledge-sharing is critical for organizations to identify the challenges that lay ahead in the response and long-term recovery phases of disaster. The best resources in any disaster are always local, which is why our response focuses on supporting local architects, rather than displacing them.

Typically, we send a team of post-disaster reconstruction experts to the field to assess building damages and identify future projects or initiatives to help build back better. As our team gains clarity of the post-disaster situation, we develop guiding principles for our response in cooperation with local architects.

What is Architecture for Humanity doing on the ground?

Architecture for Humanity Manila, a volunteer-run Chapter has been active on the ground by visiting a number of the affected cities since Typhoon Haiyan. Our chapter members are local professionals driven to help their communities by volunteering their time and skills to those around them. Members are conducting assessments of these areas, and meeting with community leaders to identify local and multi-scale projects.

What is guiding the Haiyan response?

The following guiding principles are helping drive our response:

  1. Create educational platforms for sharing disaster rebuilding expertise and knowledge with local building professionals and community groups leading rebuilding initiatives in the affected communities.
  2. Provide community design, planning and construction expertise for local agencies, enabling the rebuilding with smart resilient techniques to mitigate damage in communities at risk.
  3. Build back better. Lead long-term solutions thinking, that aims to support the local economy, create equity and resist future threats.

What's next?

With many affected areas slowly shifting their focus to the recovery phase, two key headquarters personnel will carry our response forward by heading to the Philippines. Disaster expert Eric Cesal, Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio Director, and Jacob Ehrenberg, Program Development Manager will be heading to the Philippines in mid-January to meet with key stakeholders.

Eric holds years of experience working on and running international disaster reconstruction programs. He will assess long-term needs and determine how our resources can make the largest impact possible. His experience in disaster reconstruction with Architecture for Humanity began with volunteering in Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Following these experiences, he joined Architecture for Humanity full-time in 2010 after the Haiti Earthquake where he became the Regional Program Director for the Haiti Rebuilding Center. After spending two years as program director, he became the Director of the Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio in 2012. As Director of the studio, he manages the Haiti, Tohoku, and Hurricane Sandy rebuilding programs, Resilient Oklahoma program, National Resiliency program, and now the Typhoon Haiyan response.

Jacob's development & project management expertise, along with a quick ear for Tagalog, will help lead conversations with key stakeholders and organizations. This will be a key process for advancing the cause of long term resilient building in the Philippines. This past year with Architecture for Humanity, Jacob has established strategic partnerships, run programs with major corporations and enlisted the support of major sponsors securing valuable funding opportunities.

Please stay posted for more updates from our team's field visit.

*source: Government of the Philippines, Department for Social Welfare and Development, December 30, 2013

(image by Illac Diaz on his visit to Tacloban City)



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Organization Information

Architecture for Humanity

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Architecture for Humanity
Project Leader:
Hiromi Tabei
San Francisco, CA United States

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