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ISET-International Awarded for Innovation in Disaster Preparedness

On behalf of ISET-International, Kathleen Hawley, Project Manager of the Sheltering From A Gathering Storm team, was honored to receive the FedEx Award for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness on October 15, 2014 in Washington DC.

The award recognizes innovative interventions that reduces communities’ vulnerability to hazards or natural disasters and increases their capacity to prevent or cope with such adverse events. The award was presented by InterAction and FedEx.


The overall goal of the Sheltering From a Gathering Storm research project was to identify key solutions in building resilience in shelter and their long-term economic returns in response to climate hazards. The end goal was to generate quantitative results and qualitative guidance to ensure adoption of climate resilient designs into current institutional frameworks. Shelter accounts for the highest monetary losses in climate related disasters (Comerio, 1997) and is often the single largest asset owned by individuals and families. Resilient shelters are central to the adaptive capacity of most households.

Using cost-benefit analysis, this applied research project discovered that resilient housing designs can cost-effectively reduce losses by vulnerable communities due to floods, storms, and high peak daily temperatures. Furthermore, available technologies to withstand floods and typhoons for poor homeowners must be paired with affordable finance and training of local masons (often the ones directly building and designing homes), which is a key entry point for city and national policy makers to incentivize adoption of resilient innovations (Moench et. al, 2014).


ISET-International engaged in this two-year program, funded by the Climate Development Knowledge Network, that harnessed key network partners in Pakistan, Nepal, India, and Vietnam to investigate the economic returns to climate resilient shelter designs. Shelter designs and hazard conditions were assessed in cities across Pakistan, India, and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the research team strategically dovetailed with a pre-existing ISET program and partners. In 2011, ISET-International, The Da Nang’s Women’s Union, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Da Nang Climate Change Coordination office worked to develop a program that would provide microcredit housing loans and technical assistance to low-income, women-led households. This ensured adoption of the resilience design principles, which had been previously identified and investigated through the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, an on going program that started in 2008 and with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.

In leveraging this pre-existing program and partners, the Sheltering team was able to amplify the results of the micro finance loan program and then share learnings across the network into areas of India, Pakistan, and beyond.


The Sheltering program targeted low-income homeowners to address shelter design innovations as a key entry point for resilience. The Resilient Housing Design Competition (RHDC) was hosted in Gorakhpur, India and Da Nang, Vietnam as an integral aspect of the research program. In this forum, the research team charged local innovators to design future climate solutions.

In Vietnam, RHDC contestants that advanced to the second round, toured beneficiary households of the Women’s Union micro-finance loan scheme project in Da Nang who had completed construction. The designers then went into another round of design, refining their original concepts with principles and techniques expressed in these beneficiary households. The winner of the RHDC in Vietnam, TT Arch, has supported Da Nang Women’s Union to share key principles of resilience housing, bringing the Sheltering and ACCCRN programs full circle.


On October 15, 2013, Typhoon Nari landed in Da Nang city at dawn with level-12 winds and level-13 gusts, equivalent to 130 kph. Persistent storm winds coupled with heavy rainfall led to flooding in many areas of the city, especially in Hoa Vang and Son Tra districts. The typhoon caused severe damage: many people were injured, thousands of houses were destroyed or had roofs blown off, and tens of thousands of trees either snapped at their trunks or were uprooted by the severe winds. On October 16, 2013, the day after the typhoon ended, ISET-International and the Da Nang Women’s Union conducted an assessment of damages and the resilience capacity of beneficiary wards in the storm resistant housing project and found that all 244 resiliently designed houses had endured the storm without any damages.

The success seen in these beneficiary households is the product of our combined action research program where research into the economics of climate resilient housing designs illustrated the effectiveness of designs and pairing a loan program, led to adoption and transformation through policy impact.


The project’s success has created a desire to expand the project to other wards throughout Da Nang City via the Women’s Union expansive network. With the awarded funds, the project will leverage the current project funds to reach beyond the initial ward scope and incorporate additional households into the microloan program. The award money will support the training of Women’s Union staff on climate, community based disaster risk reduction, and microfinance management. Through this new team of Women’s Union trainers, program participants at the community level will learn skills for financial management and community based risk reduction.

For more information about Sheltering From a Gathering Storm and other country locations, please see:


The Sheltering From a Gathering Storm Team would like recognize the following organizations in contributing to the success of these ongoing, collaborative programs and partnerships.

  • Central Vietnam Architecture Consultancy (CVAC),

  • Challenge to Change

  • Climate Change Coordination Office

  • Climate Development Knowledge Network

  • Department of Foreign Affairs

  • Hue University

  • Women’s Union of Da Nang

  • The Rockefeller Foundation

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