Published: May 16, 2019

HDBE team photoAssociate Professor Amy Javernick-Will will serve as the principal investigator on a research project that aims to improve community capacity to rebuild with safer design and construction practices after disasters.

The team, which includes Associate Professor Abbie Liel, Matthew Koschman of the Department of Communication and PhD students Casie Venable and Briar Goldwyn, will study post-disaster shelter reconstruction programs in the Philippines and Puerto Rico. They have received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Humans, Disasters, and the Built Environment program.  

The research team will analyze 15 communities that are undergoing reconstruction in the Philippines and Puerto Rico. The analysis will include:

  • Interviews and household surveys to help assess local perceptions of safe shelter
  • Performance-based engineering methods to assess the safety of the shelters
  • Comparisons between the perceived and actual performance of the shelters to identify conflicts, with interviews helping to uncover why these conflicts exist
  • Collaboration with organizations and communities to help develop designs and processes that incorporate socio-cultural understanding with engineering best practices to enhance and sustain local capacity and safer shelters.

This research highlights the importance of recognizing social factors in engineering. By improving post-disaster shelters, communities can rebound far more effectively from disasters.

“I am thrilled to work with an amazing, interdisciplinary team of faculty and students, and implementing organizations, to build capacity for safer post-disaster shelter,” Javernick-Will said.

She said Venable will work with communities and organizations in the Philippines, while Goldwyn will work in Puerto Rico, to uncover local perceptions of safe shelter and why these perceptions exist, and compare them with engineering assessments of post-disaster shelter.

“We will identify discrepancies between local perceptions of safe shelter and engineering best practices and why these discrepancies exist, to co-create a communication design with organizations involved in shelter and settlements,” Javernick-Will said. “Ultimately, this project aims to build community capacity for sustained safe shelter.”