The World Bank has launched a ground breaking publication on disaster mitigation and disaster recovery.

The publication, Building Regulation for Resilience – Managing Risks for Safer Cities was written by a co-author of this article, World Bank senior operations officer Thomas Moullier. This paramount World Bank initiative has involved extensive international consultation with disaster recovery and disaster mitigation knowledge tsars and experts.

The report is a vital resource for those who operate in the disaster alleviation and mitigation space. It is critical that the report finds its way to disaster avoidance and mitigation policy makers throughout the world as it identifies a great many factors that increase the risk of environmental induced disaster and outlines ways by which one can change the disaster reduction landscape.

One of the reasons the findings in the report are so compelling is that the World Bank has been able, through its unique international web of networks, to capture a remarkably high level of global expertise in the research and consultation phase. Building Regulation for Resilience provides a best practice blue print for ideas on how to overhaul building regulations, the raison d’etre of which is to minimise human casualty and economic loss within disaster prone jurisdictions.

The launching of the Building Regulation for Resilience report is timely because there is very little that is static about disaster momentum in the third millennium. Environmental disasters have assumed a serial dimension, borne out by the fact that over the last 30 years, the planet’s disaster profile has taken a profound turn for the worst with more than 2,500,000 lives having been lost. The economic reverberations have been extraordinary, as almost $4 trillion has been swallowed up by natural disasters. One of Moullier’s strongest contentions is that the impacts of disasters pose a fundamental threat to the World Bank’s  twin goals of poverty eradication and the boosting of shared prosperity.

A case in point is Haiti, where losses of upwards of 120 per cent of GDP were visited upon an already vulnerable nation after the devastating earthquake in 2010. The economic “after shocks” and ruptures of social disenfranchisement and fracturing are still being felt today. Unless the international community acts with alacrity in the coalescence and mobilisation of its resources to develop best practice building regulatory protocols that are sensitive to the bespoke challenges unique to developing nations, the enormous human and economic cost of disaster will continue its ascending trajectory.

Moullier warns  that until the international community systematically embraces the disaster reduction and alleviation challenge, the planet won’t be able to sustain the kinds of economic and social progress that the World Bank and its partners on the ground are looking to build, especially in the world’s most vulnerable communities. Moullier contends that this imperative is all the more compelling as a changing climate coupled with the profound reshaping forces of population growth and population migration, along with rapid urbanization, will “fertilise” and compound existing risks.

The report highlights the fact that the economic impact of disasters is concentrated in rapidly growing middle-income economies due to increasingly exposed and valuable assets. In these countries, the average impact of disasters equaled one per cent of GDP between 2001 and 2006, or 10 times higher than the average in high-income countries for the same period. The impact is overwhelming in poorer societies, which account for 85 per cent of global fatalities.

The report reveals that money and finite resources to deal with disasters haven’t always gone to the right places in the past 20 years. For every $100 spent on development aid, a minuscule 40 cents has been invested in systemic risk reduction (dealing with the ex-post consequences of destruction (relief efforts, humanitarian, reconstruction and the like.)

Investment into planning and specifically the enhancement of the building regulatory capacity and systemics can help shift the focus from a disproportionate commitment to ex-post measures to financing measures that reduce the destructive impact of disasters in the first place.

There are a number of key questions that have emerged, most notably:

How can the benefits of the regulatory system in terms of increasing the safety of buildings, not only for major disasters but also for the more chronic risks related to fire, structural safety, public health (the silent disasters) be applied?

How can the benefits of more orderly building and land use management in rapidly growing areas in the developing world be brought to bear?

In concluding, Moullier points out that large-scale losses in human lives and economic assets are certainly not inevitable. If we take seismic risks alone in the 21st century, implementing the proposed agenda could spare the lives of 2.6 million people in the developing world.

“In short, what the proposed agenda is about is an accelerated path to regulatory maturity for developing countries,” he said. “This path would avoid a protracted evolution based on tragedy and failure. Instead, by adapting the lessons learned in high-income countries to the local context, low- and middle-income countries could leapfrog toward effective regulation and risk mitigation strategies.”

Article by Conjoint Professor Kim Lovegrove F.A.I.B and Thomas Moullier, Senior  Operations Officer at the World Bank Washington for Sourceable.
  • Professor Kim Lovegrove's poignant article is eye-opening to say the least. The fact that only 40 cents from every $100 spent is invested in systemic risk reduction is extraordinary!
    Well done to Sourceable for including the hyperlink in the article to the Building Regulation for Resilience Report. The Report is of international momentum and fellow readers should be well encouraged to share and comment on the article and the Report.

  • Informative read. The article is beneficial as it highlights the main objectives from the Building Regulation for Resilience report which focuses on what appropriate policies can be implemented to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. The article notes that the implementation of regulations and systemics should be introduced to monitor the development and safety of buildings with a focus on disaster recovery and disaster prevention.

  • Timely call for necessary changes to building codes and regulations in order to ensure that our built environments can withstand the pressures of a new era of planetary climate behaviour.

  • A report such as this has been wanting for some time. It throws open a whole new perspective on the role of regulations, and also makes one think how regulations need to fulfil and meet basic human rights needs. Just because an area can be deemed a "poor population" does not mean it should be bereft of a basic human right such as safety in the built environment.

  • The board of the Centre for Best Practice Building Control (CBPBC) congratulates Thomas Moullier for his outstanding contribution as a CBPBC Panel Member and lending his considerable reputation (and that of the World Bank) to our endeavours in raising building standards. His efforts and that of Kim Lovegrove will make a difference both within our region and across the globe.

  • Unfortunately the World Bank itself is one of the players in this issue as its record of distortion through coercion with national financial and development issues have often led to massive underdevelopment and impoverishment for large sections of the population, the poorer sections almost exclusively in many countries. Why? Foreign debt loads on developing and other nations, plus infrastructure development in favour of export production to service foreign debts has taken far too much out of the GDP leaving almost nothing for any development that would help in disaster mitigation. Haiti is a good example I suspect. The IMF and World Bank do NOT have a good track record in helping countries develop.

  • Excellent and timely work. Very valuable lessons. Congratulations to the authors.

  • Very informative and timely. The article and report is beneficial!

  • Kim this report is another pointer to the transformations now reshaping the Modern Construction era. The globalisation of construction is occurring simultaneously with the industrialisation and digitisation of the industry. Many parts and many services coming from jurisdictions all around the world. This will challenge those still using minimum standards to defend the status quo. Eventually those that want to break out of Traditional Construction will look to what will make them world class and different. At the same time the changes in the way construction is organised, procured and assembled is not lost on the insurance industry. With global construction headed to US $15 trillion turnover by 2025 its a big cake to have a part of. I predict we will soon see insurance companies offer a global risk wrap for the design, delivery and warranty of buildings that offers the best constructors an important new customer value proposition that avoids the uncertainty and finger pointing of insurance policies such as Professional Indemnity and Home owner Warranty Insurance. These trends are already emerging via the UK's Build0ffsite who have launched BOPAS to enable offsite payments for work increasingly being performed off-site and off-shore. Interestingly at last weeks PrefabNZ's CoLab2016 the emergence of a theme around construction companies eventually becoming technology businesses was explored. Still early days but it is estimated that fewer than 1% of construction components have IP addresses. This concept unleashes a new way of thinking about buildings , how they integrate with their client needs and how they self monitor in service. This would make traditional construction a relic of history. Bring it on I say!