There are two elements which underpin our activities:
1. Using methods that are appropriate
2. Communicating these methods in a way which people understand and will remember
In terms of our housing program, appropriate methods are those which are affordable (incl. low-income households), and use materials which are available and techniques which can easily be learnt. To this end the building techniques that SAFE promotes are based on both academic research and local experience (eg. Handbook on Design and Construction of Housing for Flood-Prone Rural Areas of Bangladesh, and Carter, M, (1997), Rural housing and affordable innovation, see ‘reports’ at www.housingandhazards.org).
They are modest technological innovations or design changes that will strengthen or improve parts of the house which are particularly weak and vulnerable to the local climate.
They use readily available materials such as mud or bamboo so as still to remain affordable for low income groups. The average cost of these extra techniques range from between 8%-20% of the original cost of the house. One example is the use of a small proportion of cement to stabilize mud walls, making them much more resistant to flooding, rain water and insects.
Rather than using these techniques to produce a single design to be indiscriminately copied, SAFE promotes a range of ‘Building-for-Safety’ (BfS) options which can be replicated to suit the individual. This approach acknowledges that no two houses are the same – people have different aspirations, family sizes, occupations and budgets, and as such will need different houses.
When communicating these techniques, SAFE understands that the most effective way of learning is ‘learning by doing’. We partner with local households to build or repair a house which they will use after construction. By involving local builders, the household and others from the community in the work we ensure that the new ideas are firmly understood. These houses demonstrate our ideas and remain a lasting advertisement to the rest of the community.
We also understand that if these techniques are to be replicated people must understand not just the techniques themselves, but also why they are important. As part of the workshops we provide advice and explanation about why the techniques work and how they fit in to a general approach of building for safety.
Our approach is focussed on the process rather than the product. By this we mean that it is the process, i.e. the partnership with the household, the involvement of local builders, the teaching methods; these are more important that simply producing a house. This approach will ensure that the ideas and techniques stand a much better chance of spreading to others in the immediate and surrounding community.