Habitat for Humanity Resource Centers
ACROSS THE Asia-Pacific region, Habitat for Humanity Resource Centers broaden the reach of Habitat home-building programs by providing one or more of four principle types of services:
- construction services
- skills training
- disaster response
- housing microfinance
Meeting the needs of Habitat affiliates, partner organizations and homeowners, most centers focus on construction management. Their engineers and architects offer design and architecture services, and supervise construction, logistics, procurement and transportation. Resource centers also develop new building technologies and manufacture durable, cost-effective, environmentally friendly building materials. These materials are used to build Habitat homes and may be sold to a wider market to generate income and jobs for local communities.
In addition, Habitat Resource Centers offer skills training to local construction workers and promote knowledge about traditional building practices. Local people may access these services on-site or by working and learning on building projects in other communities.
Habitat Resource Centers also provide a nexus for working with partners to rebuild in disaster-stricken areas where large numbers of people have lost their homes. They have been particularly important in Habitat’s rebuilding program following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and in Habitat’s response to the Pakistan and Indonesian earthquakes.
Habitat’s housing microfinance-focused resource centers work with partners to transform entire communities by making available our expertise in housing finance and working with volunteer management.
Habitat Resource Centers have been established in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand among other locations.
Developing countries have a huge demand for decent housing, mostly from poor and unskilled populations. Yet local people often have few skills in building homes or managing construction projects, and often they do not have the knowledge or resources to use the most appropriate building materials.
Resource centers help answer this need by ensuring that construction expertise is available to the communities where Habitat builds. The centers also design and produce high quality, environmentally friendly and appropriate construction methods and materials at the lowest possible cost.
Habitat Resource Centers also train local people in construction skills and transfer knowledge to construction supervisors, who in turn can than plan and carry out complete home-building projects. And in many parts of the world, the centers explore and promote appropriate local building traditions, many of which are being lost as building practices become standardized.
Sustainability in Action
Sustainable housing is the centerpiece of Habitat’s work. Resource centers help forward this aim in many ways.
- Technical: Resource centers support on-the-ground house-building by providing construction management and design expertise as well as developing and manufacturing appropriate, low-cost building materials.
- Environment: Resource centers focus on using practices that preserve the environment, using locally sourced resources where possible.
- Production: Many resource centers aim to be permanent manufacturing centers that raise money by selling excess production, alongside promoting entrepreneurship and creating jobs for local people.
- Social/cultural/economic: A key aim of Habitat Resource Centers is to build local knowledge about cost-effective and appropriate construction options and transfer building and manufacturing skills to local people. The resulting pride, sense of ownership and actual economic benefit can make a real difference at the grassroots level.
Flexible and Responsive
The Habitat Resource Center concept is flexible, allowing Habitat and its partners to develop a center that meets local needs, using local resources, in the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly fashion.
But resource centers need not be physical, on-site structures. Often homeowners and local builders can learn about producing building materials and be trained in new construction skills by joining teams in other communities. They can then take back their new knowledge and skills and apply them at home.
Partners may be local or national government agencies, universities or training institutions that can help develop technologies; local corporations that can provide funding and expertise; community groups, such as co-operatives and women’s entrepreneurial groups; and of course homeowners.
An example of the flexible, innovative nature of the resource center concept arose following the devastating December 2004 tsunami. Habitat programs in the tsunami-affected countries used centers as key components in local response programs.
Unlike typical centers, these centers were initially be manned by Habitat staff and highly-skilled, specialist volunteers; the focus was on providing training and expertise to support tsunami recovery efforts. As Habitat’s response matures, the centers are being transformed into more typical resource centers, emphasizing construction management, the sustained production of low-cost building materials and skills training.
All the elements of the Habitat Resource Center concept — responsiveness to local needs; focus on quality and appropriateness; effective partnering; grassroots improvement — mean that centers are often centers of innovation, translating the benefits of research into practical construction applications, promoting best practices in building and tangibly improving lives.