Corina Sutter is Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs at RMS, and is based in London. She joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Corina’s account of her time in Nepal.
When you think about strengthening a building to make it more resilient to seismic events, does “retrofitting” come top of mind? And if you have heard of retrofitting, do you know why it is more cost-effective, and in many instances more suitable than simply rebuilding? This awareness challenge is what Build Change faces in Nepal; with regards to retrofitting not everyone is aware or convinced — yet.
Arriving in Kathmandu for the 2018 RMS Impact Trek, I was already aware of the many years that RMS has provided support for Build Change and its work in areas worst hit by catastrophic disasters. Our first day in the Build Change office was a crash course in their local objectives and challenges. Day Two saw us on a field trip to nearby Kirtipur to survey common building practices. It was a lot of information to process and it was not immediately clear to me what “impact” we could make during our short visit.
But it was later in the week — when, admittedly, the jet lag finally wore off — that I finally caught on.
Jochen Woessner is a lead modeler in earthquake model development at RMS, and is based in Zurich. He joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Jochen’s account of his time in Nepal.
“I am sorry, you have only five minutes, please focus on the conclusion of your work,” said the convener G. Pokharel to Liva Shrestha, the local lead structural engineer for Build Change and myself when we sat down on the panel chairs of the session entitled “Disaster Risk Management and Prevention”. This session was on day three of the Fifteenth National Convention of Engineers in Kathmandu, organized by the Nepali Engineers’ Association. Liva calmly walked to the podium and started giving her talk on goals and achievements of Build Change. My thoughts started circling. “How could I best condense my 25-minute presentation into a clear five-minute summary?”
Callum Higgins is senior product analyst at RMS, and is based in London. He joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Callum’s account of his time in Nepal.
On the first day of the Impact Trek, we were based at Build Change’s office in Kathmandu, hearing about the various projects the charity is working on in Nepal from Jessica Stanford (Housing Reconstruction Program Manager), as well as the technological innovations Build Change is using to increase the efficiency of their work from Adam McDonald (New Frontier Technology Architect). For day two, the Impact Trekkers were keen to get out of the office and into the city to examine some of the typical property construction in the region and the challenges that Build Change faces in making a greater proportion of these safe from earthquakes.
Christopher Allen is senior analyst – model development, working within the Event Response team at RMS, and is based in London. He joined fellow employees from RMS and RMS clients on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Chris’s account of his time in Nepal.
On Wednesday, March 21, eight somewhat-still-jetlagged RMS Impact Trekkers left the Summit Hotel in Kathmandu bound for the village of Dhunkharka, three hours’ drive southeast of the capital. We were going to see some of the retrofitting work that was being done by Build Change, a social enterprise partner of RMS that aims to build local capacity for safer construction practices. As we weaved our way through Kathmandu traffic (a chaotic affair at the best of times) we noticed several of the characteristics of the capital’s buildings that had been pointed out to us by Build Change over the past few days: soft story, three-floor brick masonry, new construction sprouting up with reinforced concrete columns, the occasional ground floor still occupied by goats or buffalo…
Pete Cormier is a lead cat analyst for Liberty Mutual, and joined employees from RMS on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Pete’s account of his time in Nepal.
In March 2018, I spent 10 days with a team in Nepal at the invitation of RMS to volunteer with Build Change, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which is helping the re-building efforts following the April 2015 earthquake. The massive Mw7.8 earthquake caused approximately 9,000 deaths, 22,000 injuries and damaged more than one million homes, schools, and businesses at a cost of US$10 billion, which is about 50 percent of Nepal’s annual GDP (Source: Wikipedia).
Lusi Huang is a risk engineer for Chubb North America, and joined employees from RMS on our annual Impact Trek in Nepal during March this year. This is Lusi’s trek diary.
Day 1: Sunday, March 18
One of the first things that strikes me when arriving in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is that the traffic is just like a bowl of spaghetti, a true jumble — there’s no traffic lights, no center line, all uneven road surfaces. Life in Kathmandu means that you just need to be patient. Another initial observation, solar power is big here, surprisingly there are a large amount of solar electricity and solar hot water panels installed on the roofs of Kathmandu domestic houses.
Being prepared for, and recovering quickly from, any catastrophe is one hallmark of ensuring a more safe and resilient society. But in many catastrophe-prone communities around the globe, insurance penetration rates remain stiflingly low and, as a result, building codes are either non-existent, or inconsistently enforced. In Nepal for example, almost 90 percent of the population is without insurance, and both mitigation and recovery efforts after their devastating earthquake in April 2015 are still scaling slowly.
Working with Build Change, an earthquake engineering charity and RMS philanthropic partner, and seeing their work alongside other NGOs all helping Nepal rebuild after the 2015 earthquake, is a source of inspiration for me as I continue my sabbatical in this amazing country. To read about my initial view of the progress made in Nepal, please read my earlier blog.
It has been twelve months since I first visited Nepal, spending two weeks with Build Change, an earthquake engineering charity and RMS partner, to experience first-hand the impact that they are having in the country. Back then, Nepal was only just starting to come to terms with the huge amount of reconstruction work that lay ahead after the 2015 earthquake. While there was hope that the country could “build back better” it was going to be a long, hard road ahead, as I observed in my blog in January this year.
After my first visit, I made the decision to return to this remarkable country and volunteer with Build Change for a longer period. My ambition was to become more involved in the rebuilding work, and help Build Change plan for future post-earthquake reconstruction. Since arriving I have been struck by the contradiction that although so much has progressed, a lot of the same issues are still prevalent and are holding back real change.