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Response to Rapid Change: Post-Tsunami Shelter in Sri Lanka

Dyfed Aubrey (GOAL, Kenya and UK)

Open House International

ISSN: 0168-2601

Article publication date: 1 June 2008



Through an overview of Goal's post tsunami shelter and reconstruction programme in Sri Lanka this study aims to highlight how design and implementation approaches had to continuously evolve in order to respond to changes in pace, priorities and policy as relief moved into recovery then permanent rehabilitation.

The study begins by describing the Buffer Zone Policy that prohibited construction within a certain distance from the sea and how the policy impeded the construction of permanent housing in some areas through lack of suitable relocation sites. Then using transitional shelter as an example, the effects of the persistence of the policy when most actors anticipated change can be seen in modifications to shelters driven mainly by comfort criteria as their occupancy had to be extended from an initially predicted six month period to around two years.

Following this, an overview of the permanent housing programme shows how an owner driven housing approach was chosen as an appropriate means of provision and how the process was developed through a local partnership. In this programme the owners' capacity to design and manage their own house construction was developed with the understanding that houses could be incrementally extended by the owner following the completion of the programme. Then, as the late change in the Buffer Zone Policy resulted in a sudden up-scaling of the project on a very limited time-frame, the study shows how, whilst still catering for individual aspirations and personal "ownership" in design and implementation, standardised designs were introduced to speed up the building process.

The study concludes by emphasising the need for flexibility in design and implementation in order to provide the best service to affected people within the ever-changing environment of disaster response.



Aubrey, D. (2008), "Response to Rapid Change: Post-Tsunami Shelter in Sri Lanka", Open House International, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 32-39.



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