Long-term Sustainability and Performance of Post-disaster Housing Projects: CIOB Bowen Jenkins Legacy Research Fund Research Report

Gayan Wedawatta, Bingunath Ingirige, Kishan Sugathapala

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Disaster events, such as those induced by natural hazards, often cause widespread property damage and require extensive relief efforts. Beyond the initial response and temporary accommodation stages, the key challenge of organising permanent houses for the displaced emerges. The time leading up to moving into a permanent house is a period of great distress for those affected. Particularly in developing countries, those affected may not be able to either repair their homes or construct a new permanent home for themselves without external assistance. As such, housing projects are initiated to provide houses for the victims. Previous research, however, has shown that permanent reconstruction following a natural disaster is often inefficiently managed, uncoordinated, slowly initiated and tends to overlook the long-term requirements of the affected community. Compared to the number of studies on how post-disaster housing initiatives have performed during the planning, construction and initial occupation stages, there is a dearth of research investigating how these projects have performed in the long term. As houses are a fixed asset, expected to deliver for decades, it can be argued that the post-disaster housing solutions provided need to perform as required beyond the initial stages of occupancy, and need to satisfy the requirements of the occupants for years to come. This study was conducted to investigate the long-term performance of post-disaster housing projects and to make recommendations for effective, sustainable post-disaster housing.

Post-disaster housing reconstruction in Sri Lanka was specifically used as a case study in this regard. Sri Lanka was especially selected because the country is frequently affected by various natural-hazard-induced disaster events, including floods, cyclones and landslides, which require such housing initiatives. To this end, primary data was collected from recipients of post-disaster housing as well as decision makers involved in post-disaster housing work. Three post-disaster projects in which the original recipients have occupied the houses for approximately ten years were selected in order to conduct a questionnaire survey of the housing recipients, and a focus group discussion was held with the decision makers involved. Findings from the questionnaire survey showed that the occupants were generally satisfied about their houses and the related facilities, albeit not to a great extent. The main issues they were not satisfied with were linked to their livelihoods and income generation. This clearly demonstrates the need to consider the socio-economic issues and, in particular, the livelihoods and the ability for occupants to use their homes for income generation, during the planning stages; not just the technical aspects of construction. Rather than simply providing a ‘house’ and expecting all other issues to be resolved, the focus should be to provide a ‘home’, systematically incorporating all other relevant service and infrastructure provisions, and livelihood and income generation opportunities, in addition to the necessary disaster resilience and preparedness strategies. Further longitudinal study is recommended in order to investigate how the views and satisfaction levels among the occupants change over time, and how the houses perform in the short and long term.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBirmingham
Commissioning bodyThe Chartered Institute of Building
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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