Construction Industry during Disasters

The cost of natural disasters to infrastructures, lives, property and livelihood have skyrocketed in the last few decades, as the world’s population has grown and people have started residing in areas that are vulnerable to natural hazards. The most successful way to mitigate loss of life and property is to create buildings that are disaster resistant. Axis Capital Group, a construction company based in Singapore with a branch in Indonesia, also experienced great loss when natural hazards hit just like any other construction companies and other businesses.

The Asian Region is extremely susceptible to natural disasters and attended hazards, be it due to earthquakes, cyclones/typhoons, landslides, floods or droughts. The developing countries are increasingly exposed to the risks with rapidly growing population. The socio-economic costs of such disasters have long-term repercussions on societies. Creation of safer habitat to deal with the vulnerability risks due to natural disasters, therefore, assumes significant importance.

When the tsunami hit Sumatra, businesses even those in the capital, Jakarta, Indonesia started to decrease and fall down. In Japan, billions of dollars and thousands of lives were lost during the 2011 tsunami and the home of technology, infrastructure and modernization in the country has broken down. Complaints on the cost of lives, livelihood and property have brought countries and government in the brink of despair.

The unsafe structures from the point of earthquake forces and effects, cyclonic wind loading and forces etc. contribute fully to the damages due to structural deficiency in design and unsafe construction features. These result in structural collapse resulting in massive loss to life and property, leave alone the continuing economic loss due to the havoc caused by disasters. The nature of damages in traditional construction with large masses and heavy traditional / vernacular stone/brick masonry construction and heavy roofing systems further affect the lives of people carrying out various vocational activities.

Post-disaster reconstruction must be seen as an opportunity to reduce the risk to lives by integrating disaster resilient practices in settlement planning, building design and construction. While traditional and indigenous technologies may be environmentally and socially sustainable, it is also important to adapt them to make them disaster resilient. It is critical that ‘build back better’ is adhered to as a fundamental principle to enhance the quality, sustainability and safety of new settlements. Reconstruction using alternate technologies promotes decentralized production processes for building components, thus creating local level livelihoods. Through a well-designed process of capacity building of construction workers, it is also thus possible to address and review their economic vulnerability.

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