Page 1

Low cost housing & Affordable Innovation Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh.

Simple Action For the Environment (SAFE) Registered under: Niraporth Bangladesh Songstha (Safe Bangladesh Organisation, SBO), Sundarban Village, PO: Ramdubihat, Upuzila: Sadar Dinajpur. Social Welfare Registration No: DINAJ/2133/10

Rev 2. November 2011 Introduction The aim of our organisation is to: Reduce the vulnerability of low income households to environmental hazards such as flooding and strong winds.

Sundarban Union

We do this through improving rural house building techniques and environmental initiatives such as tree planting. We aim to increase community self reliance by creating skilled and informed local builders, craftsmen and house owners. We will promote tried and tested techniques that build on existing construction practices. For our ideas to spread people must want to choose to spend their money on our improved techniques. To do this they must be affordable and available, and households must understand how our techniques work and their benefits. This document will set out the background behind these techniques and the process we will use to disseminate them.

Background SAFE is an NGO based in the Dinajpur region in the far north west of the country.

Northern Bangladesh

Although Dinajpur does not suffer from the severe storms that affect the coastal region of the country, localised flooding does often occur and strong winds in September and October regularly cause damage to houses. Dinajpur also lies in the highest earthquake risk zone in Bangladesh. Dinajpur’s economy depends largely on agriculture, the area being famous for its rice. Approximately 40% of its population are landless labourers. It also has a large Hindu population, over 20% according to the 2001 census. SAFE is a small NGO consisting of three full time staff. It has been officially been operating since 2009 months with support from Housing and Hazards, (, an international group of building professionals working to promote affordable hazard resistant housing. SAFE have also implemented projects in partnership with UNDP, Australian High Commission and British Women Association (Dhaka). SAFE’s founder, Azit Roy, has been involved in low cost housing projects for over 14 years. He has worked with Housing and Hazards since 1997 when he helped to pilot a series of building for safety workshops in collaboration with shelter after disaster specialist Ian Davis. He has also worked with. local institutions BRAC University and Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology and as a consultant on post disaster housing projects in the south of Bangladesh for UNDP, Oxfam and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2007 he was involved in the construction of a school made from mud and bamboo ( in the Dinajpur region which has since won the Agha Khan award for architecture. Pulin Roy, the programme coordinator, has a background of NGO work in health and education sectors since studying at the Social Leadership Institute of Xavier University in the Philippines. SAFE has successfully run ‘building for safety’ workshops and tree planting projects. Their latest workshop was hosted in partnership with Housing and Hazards and RedR UK ( in which 15 international participants teamed up with local builders, the local community and BRAC university students to construct a demonstration house. Having operated for several years and being run by members of the local community SAFE is trusted and respected in the work that it does. Its’ staff are charismatic and popular

Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh. December 2011

Pulin Roy – SAFE programme coordinator

Ajit Roy - founder of SAFE

Participants at the last building workshop in September with (almost) finished demonstration house behind

members of that community and they are well placed to successfully implement this program. The theory behind what we are doing There are two elements which underpin our activities: 1. Using methods that are appropriate 2. Communicating these methods in a way which people understand and will remember Appropriate building techniques are those which are affordable (incl. low-income households), and use materials which are available and techniques which can easily be learnt. To this end the building techniques that SAFE promotes are based on both academic research1 and local experience2. They are modest technological innovations or design changes that will strengthen or improve parts of the house which are particularly weak and vulnerable to the local climate. They use readily available materials such as mud or bamboo so as still to remain affordable for low income groups. The average cost of these extra techniques range from between 8%20% of the original cost of the house. One example is the use of a small proportion of cement to stabilize mud walls, making them much more resistant to flooding, rain water and insects.

Two recent publications which encapsulate this approach and many of these techniques are: Mallick, F. H. et al. (2008). Improved design and construction of rural housing in Noakhali. IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature); and Iftekar, Dr. K. A. (2005). Handbook on design and construction of housing in flood prone areas of Bangladesh. ADPC (Asia Disaster Preparedness Centre). Available at 2 Carter, M, (1997). Rural housing and affordable innovation. Housing and Hazards. Available at 1

Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh. December 2011

Rather than using these techniques to produce a single design to be indiscriminately copied, SAFE promotes a range of ‘Building-for-Safety’ (BfS) options which can be replicated to suit the individual. This approach acknowledges that no two houses are the same – people have different aspirations, family sizes, occupations and budgets, and as such will need different houses.

Azit Roy with the song team at the start of a building for safety workshop

When communicating these techniques, SAFE understands that the most effective way of learning is ‘learning by doing’. We partner with local households to build or repair a new house which they will use after construction. By involving local builders, the household and others from the community in the work we ensure that the new ideas are firmly understood. The house also then remains a lasting advertisement to the rest of the community. We also understand that if these techniques are to be replicated people must understand not just the techniques themselves, but also why they are important. As part of the workshop we provide advice and explanation about why the techniques work and how they fit in to a general approach of building for safety.


Photo of building techniques MC

Our approach is focussed on the process rather than the product. By this we mean that it is the process, i.e. the partnership with the household, the involvement of local builders, the teaching methods; these are more important that simply producing a house. This approach will ensure that the ideas and techniques stand a much better chance of spreading to others in the immediate and surrounding community.

Our planned activities 2012 SAFE will continue its work in the rural area of Sundarban, focusing on a relatively small geographical area consisting of around 500 households in total. If our demonstration buildings are concentrated in a smaller area we believe that the ideas will have a much better chance of spreading.

Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh. December 2011

Map of Sundarban Union showing area of focus for SAFE activities 2010-11

We will also be implementing a housing project in an urban area - a slum called Jorgen Babur Mart in Dinajpur town. Our participatory approach with the community there has been similar but with different designs appropriate to the place. Our activities can broadly be divided as follows: Urban Programme 1. Pilot project to construct 10 demonstration houses and community centre in Jorgen Babur Mart – a slum area of Dinajpur town. This work follows from our successful participatory design process and construction of 1st house in 2011. Download the report at Rural Programme 1.



Building for Safety workshops. These are 2 day long workshops with up to 20 people from the local community and local builders. We encourage both men and women to participate and attendance at our previous workshops has been evenly split. The workshops include practical sessions eg. mud wall building, but also sessions on softer subjects such as house maintenance and the longer term financial benefits of certain techniques. We aim to hold one workshop during the construction of each demonstration house. Construction of demonstration houses. We will assist with the construction or repair of houses for willing households using our improved construction techniques. Together with the household and local builders we will design and plan the construction and select appropriate techniques. These are options that suit the houseowner’s wants and needs, and are in line with what the owner would have originally paid, costing between 10-20% extra. SAFE will subsidize approximately 50% of the cost of the house. Provide material support and advice to householders using our techniques. We will provide follow up visits to communities to reinforce the messages from workshops and encourage their use in future building works. Subject to funding we will subsidize

Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh. December 2011

Work being completed on demonstration house built Sep 2010

Workshop participants involved in costing exercise





the additional costs of construction work using our BfS techniques for low income households (households that own less than ½ acre of land). Construction of community centre We aim to construct a local community centre in partnership with the local community. The community has participated in the planning of the project, which will be managed by community committee and who will donate land and labour for the construction. The centre will be used as a pre-school for 25 pupils, and to hold events - weddings, funerals, public meetings. The design will promote sustainable materials and construction techniques in line with our existing approach. Refer to a similar design report in “Community Centre Design Proposal” available Partnership with learning organisations. We will continue our existing partnerships with BRAC University, Housing and Hazards, Exeter University (UK) and RedR-UK to offer opportunities for students and professionals to participate in our workshops and construction of demonstration houses. Tree planting. Working with the communities above we will carry out tree planting activities. The trees provide future protection from wind and will prevent soil erosion and we include small workshops to demonstrate this. We use selected indigenous species of trees and work with communities to select the type of tree and carry out the planting – often using trees that will later bear fruit or have medicinal uses. We give communities enough ‘buy in’ to ensure that they will look after the trees as they mature. Since 2008 we have successfully planted approximately 1000 trees in partnership with the local government Depending on funds we will aim to plant 700 trees in summer 2011. Income generating activities. We will pursue the development of private construction work whose profits will subsidize the activities of SAFE.

We hope that you like the sound of our organisation and our plans for the coming year. There is no doubt that what we are trying to achieve will be a long term process – when it comes to education and changing existing practice there are no quick fixes. We invite you to

Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh. December 2011

help us start to make that change - if you are interested in supporting SAFE further or would like to find out more please contact: In Bangladesh: Azit Roy, T: +880 (0)1726 007 343, E: John Arnold, T: +880 (0)1753 858 660 E: In the UK: Robert Hodgson (Housing and Hazards), T: +44 (0)1884 821239

Implementing Building for Safety in Dinajpur District, Bangladesh. December 2011

SAFE - Background & Activities, January 2012  

(November 2011 / J. Arnold) An overview of SAFE's work to date.