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Editorial: Pos t -Di sas ter Hous ing Recons t ruc t ion to Enabl e Res i l ient Communi t ies .

By : Iftekhar Ahmed, Esther Charlesworth

number of research papers that deal with the diverse range of issues involved in reconstruction of housing after the different kinds of disasters throughout the world. A key issue that has emerged from the papers here is how rapid and unregulated urbanisation, particularly in developing countries, creates and amplifies disaster risk and presents serious challenges to post-disaster reconstruction. This is highlighted by Jabeen in the context of Dhaka, Bangladesh; the free-for-all activities of the private real estate sector there have resulted in a highly vulnerable built environment, serving as an obstacle to post-disaster reconstruction in the event of a major disaster. However, as pointed out by Janse and Flier in the case of Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake, the complexity and large number of stakeholders in cities can lead to effective reconstruction and a better linkage between the post-disaster emergency and recovery stages, though compared to rural areas, it can be more expensive and time-consuming. Although these examples are from countries with high impoverishment, even in an affluent country such as Australia as discussed by Ireton et al, there can be severe challenges in linking emergency housing to permanent housing, where time and money also play crucial roles. Amongst the various factors involved in post-disaster reconstruction, a key element is livelihood; disaster-affected people usually tend to prioritise shelter as their most urgent need together with livelihood regeneration. Tharaka et al have suggested quick rebuilding of housing, again highlighting the importance of time, so that disasteraffected people can soon resume livelihood activities; the authors have proposed prefabricated modular construction as a rapid and efficient solution, which also places less onus of rebuilding on impacted and often traumatised people and at the same time ensures quality. A significant proportion of rebuilding is undertaken by disaster-affected people themselves without the support of institutional actors, as discussed in the paper by Parrack et al, as there are usually insufficient resources to rebuild housing for the large numbers of people affected. The authors have thus argued for agencies to support these selfrebuilding efforts, instead of supplanting them and building independently. Such self-rebuilding is further exemplified by O’Brien and Ahmed through the documentation of extensive user-initiated modification of post-disaster housing built by agencies in Banda Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami; some of these extensions were many times larger than the original reconstruction house, where the owners incorporated local cultural elements lacking in the original house. On a similar note, Lawther has shown that a top-down institutionally-led reconstruction program in the Maldives, also after the 2004 Tsunami, had undermined the beneficiary community’s inherent strengths by not taking into account the value of local knowledge and culture. This message is echoed also by Kelly and Caldwell in the case of post-tsunami reconstruction in India where similarly local culture was ignored; however this paper also presented a positive message: Where built environment professionals such as architects engage with and immerse themselves in local culture and draw inspiration from it to design post-disaster housing, the results are successful. This also poses critical questions on the capacity and competency of reconstruction agencies, how well their staff are trained and prepared to deal with the complex challenges of building post-disaster housing, addressed by Meding et al; the authors have identified key barriers to competency within NGOs active in the reconstruction field and proposed ways to address them to contribute to better effectiveness of post-disaster reconstruction projects. The authors in this special issue have drawn on both theoretical and empirical fieldbased research that examine existing institutional policy and practice in the post-disaster housing field. This journal issue should serve as a useful guide to agencies acting in the field to understand some of the core issues in the field and how they might be better addressed. In a world beset by an increasing spectre of tragic disasters, this publication seeks to emphasise that post-disaster housing reconstruction is not only about the construction of new houses after disasters. By understanding the local needs and cultural context of affected communities, strengthening professional capacity in the housing sector and the sensitive utilisation of construction technology, post-disaster reconstruction can serve as a vehicle to protect people and property over the long term and establish prosperous and resilient communities.
Author(s): Iftekhar Ahmed, School of Architecture & Design RMIT University Email:
Esther Charlesworth School of Architecture & Design RMIT University Email:

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