Elizabeth Hausler

Build Change
Year founded: 

Build Change designs earthquake-resistant houses in developing countries and trains builders, engineers, homeowners and government officials to build them. Build Change works in partnership with the public and private sector to assure lasting change in construction practice.

Focus: Housing, Disaster Relief
Geographic Area of Impact: China, Haiti, Indonesia
Model: Hybrid non-profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 52,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 2.4 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 12.5%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, US, 2011

Earthquakes have a disastrous and disproportionate effect on the world’s poor. Around 99% of earthquake fatalities in the past 10 years have been in developing countries where victims not only suffer the loss of their homes and family members, but also the ability to earn a living. The UNDP estimates that approximately 130 million people in the world are at risk of being killed from an earthquake, and current post-earthquake reconstruction models have proved inefficient, resulting in resource waste, unaffordable housing for the poor, and loss of the opportunity to build local capacity.

Innovation and Activities
Build Change uses local human and material resources to provide low or no-cost adjustments of existing materials and methods to create earthquake-resistant homes. The work is driven by homeowners and local engineers in partnership with NGOs and governments, to provide secure and durable homes for thousands of people living in quake-prone areas.

Build Change creates stronger infrastructure on multiple levels, providing direct homeowner technical assistance and builder training, as well as consulting services for local associations and NGOs on engineering design and site inspection. In order to integrate the safer housing model into common practice, Build Change partners with local and national governments to advocate for safer building codes that incorporate earthquake-resistant designs and enforcement of safer housing standards.

In an Indonesian earthquake in 2009 all homes that met Build Change’s minimum construction standards were left undamaged. Thus far the organization has worked with: 1,400 builders, 100 engineers and 2,400 homeowners in Haiti; 100 builders, 90 engineers and 850 homeowners who oversaw the construction of 1,300 safe homes in Sichuan, China; and 856 builders, 1300 engineers and 4,400 homeowners who oversaw the construction of 16,600 safe homes in Aceh, Indonesia.

The Entrepreneur
Elizabeth Hausler spent many summers as a bricklayer for her father’s construction company and is a skilled stone and brick mason. She earned a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of California and was named a Fulbright Scholar in 2002, which she used to study post-earthquake reconstruction in Gujarat, India. At the same time she served on the US National Research Council committee to develop a long-term agenda for earthquake engineering. Her time in India inspired the Build Change model, for which Hausler was recognized by a variety of organizations and media outlets, including ABC World News Tonight’s Person of the Week, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, The New York Times, the BBC website, Bloomberg Businessweek and ELLE Magazine. Hausler is a 2004 Echoing Green Fellow, a member of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation portfolio of social entrepreneurs, a 2009 Ashoka-Lemelson Fellow, and the 2011 winner of the Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability