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SHELTERS centers on exploring a human centered design, homeowner-driven approach to bundling risk prevention and post-disaster payouts



Build Change will take a human centered design approach to answer how climate risk insurance can be linked with social protection in the form of home improvement loans and subsidies for retrofitting low-income homes. Retrofitting (structurally strengthening) substandard houses is a key measure to mitigate the risk of damage, economic losses and loss of life in tropical storms in the Philippines, one of the most storm-prone countries in the world. This builds on the success of human centered design approaches exploring incentives for homeowner-led seismic- and typhoon-resistant retrofits for vulnerable communities in Metro Manila. 

This pilot project focuses on the micro level. Through research and surveys, we aim to better understand what makes investing in climate risk insurance appealing to the approximately 4 million residents living in non-engineered housing in Metro Manila. Based on this, Build Change will pilot, learn from, and iterate on small scale tests of different incentives. Building on existing work, this project will specifically explore whether insurance products can be strengthened or bundled with housing retrofits to create scalable integrated products for adaptation, disaster risk management, and climate risk transfer. We look to see how better understanding of incentives at the micro level can inform better product design at the meso level, enabling better policy execution at the macro level, with particular implications for the national disaster risk insurance program, and the broader government disaster risk financing and insurance strategy. The project will gain insights from research and human-centered design pilot testing, with the intention of co-developing a strategy with meso- and macro-level stakeholders for future implementation. 

What actions do you propose?

Build Change is currently implementing a household-led retrofitting program which provides access to finance and technical assistance for households to strengthen their homes against climate and disaster risk. We have partnerships with local government and financing institutions who provide access to loans or subsidies to retrofit. With prospective support from the InsuResilience network and the Philippines' Department of Finance’s Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) facility, we will set up a process to research prospective interest in scaled bundling of insurance products and disaster-resistant retrofitting for vulnerable neighbourhoods across Metro Manila.

Climate risk insurance for households who have retrofit their homes can protect families (many of whom have home-based small businesses) from the adverse effects of typhoons and other natural disasters. Climate risk insurance can provide households much-needed financial liquidity following an event, and can unlock potential for more households to retrofit their homes to mitigate risk before disasters. 

The target market is households in non-engineered or poor-quality socialized housing, where at least one member of the household holds a formal job. This pilot can eventually be scaled throughout urban areas nationwide. 

Specific actions to be taken:

a. Conduct desk review. 

b. Hold key informant interviews with InsuResilience, DRFI, primary insurers, and prospective policy holders such as Build Change's financial institution partners. Convene a working group to contribute to product development.

c. With input from Build Change team, structure survey for existing retrofit customers/those who have existing knowledge of retrofits and new prospective customers to gauge interest and knowledge in different segments of key neighbourhoods. 

d. Train surveyors, target response for 100 existing retrofit customers/those who have existing knowledge of retrofits and 250 new prospective customers. 

e. Analyze survey data and explore findings and potential implications. 

f. Secure agreement from primary insurer to offer pilot product on a trial basis. 

g. Use human-centered design to develop a pilot product for testing. Consult key micro, meso, and macro level stakeholders, including primary insurers and members of the working group, as thought partners to contribute to pilot product design based on initial data. Test Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance and iterate (this could include developing parameters of sample insurance and retrofit products/bundles and training local sales agents to test interest in products). 

h. Convene the working group to discuss initial results and iterate on prototype products. 

i. Extract key lessons for the Government of Philippines’ Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) program, and explore avenues for continued engagement to support product development that reflects and addresses priorities of micro level individual policy holders. 

Who will take these actions?

The Build Change program team in the Philippines will oversee all research, in addition to hiring and managing a prospective expert in human centered design as well as neighborhood facilitators and surveyors. Build Change will also set up all related convenings. Founded and led by engineers, Build Change is an award winning non-profit social enterprise. Build Change pioneered cost effective, locally appropriate disaster-resistant retrofitting for low income, often informal neighborhood homeowners in emerging markets, positing an alternative policy tool to relocation and new construction.

The Build Change team hopes to complement existing experiences and networks with the support of UN A2R and the InsuResilience to bring key stakeholders from the micro to macro levels to contribute to product development and iteration. This includes homeowners, the Philippines Insurers and Reinsurers Association (PIRA), and the Government of the Philippines’ Department of Finance. In addition, we would welcome the expertise and experiences of multilateral institutions including the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

Where will these actions be taken?

This project will take place in Metro Manila, Philippines. It has the potential to scale throughout urban centers in the Philippines, with the potential to impact tens of millions of Filipinos. 

An estimated 25% of Metro Manila’s 20 million residents live in houses that are substandard due to poor workmanship and poor quality materials. The Philippines ranks as the third most disaster-prone country in the world, and the substandard quality of houses makes these households vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters. The country endures 4-6 typhoons making devastating landfall yearly; this number is expected to increase due to climate change. 

What are other key benefits?

The Philippines is one of the most typhoon-prone countries in the world, and resulting damage to informal and socialized housing results in economic losses, and sometimes loss of life. Governments often implement relocation programs to mitigate the impact of climate change for informal households, however these programs fail because the beneficiaries are not consulted and relocation sites are chosen far away from their sources of income and social networks.

Retrofitting is a cost-efficient tool to increase the safety of substandard houses, which does not disrupt social and economic activities:

  • Vulnerable households are protected from sustained economic losses and loss of life in the event of natural disasters.
  • Safer homes are a sounder foundation for continued densification in Manila.
  • Experience shows investment in safer homes empowers homeowners to engage local government, and often catalyzes broader investment into community engagement and improvement. 

What are the proposal’s costs?

Staff Salaries € 10,331

Staff Benefits & Taxes € 4,916

Consultants (Research and Surveying Support) € 12,681

HCD Prototyping Costs € 2,016

Operating Costs (rent, utilities, supplies, IT, banking) € 2,238

Meeting and Convening Costs € 1,180

Administrative Fees € 6,639    

Total €  40,000

Time line

The specific actions of SHELTERS will take place over the course of 9 months:

Month 1: Conduct desk review, hold key informant interview, convene working group. 

Month 2: Develop and deploy survey in target neighbourhoods/among target populations. Analyze the results. 

Month 3: Analyze survey results, co-create a pilot product for testing. Secure agreement with primary insurer. 

Months 4-8: Iterative pilot testing of insurance product. Regular consultations with working group. 

Month 9: Consolidation of lessons learned. With working group, identify a pathway forward. 


The results of SHELTERS can continue to influence short and medium term policy making at the municipal and national levels so that climate risk transfer and social protection mechanisms more accurately reflect the realities facing low income communities across Metro Manila and the country.

In the long term, our aspiration is that this is a small step towards a future where everyone has access to a safe home, and to affordable, reliable risk transfer products to minimize disruptions to life and livelihoods in the event of disasters.

Related proposals


The 20 Most Vulnerable Cities to Earthquakes

“Resilient Housing = Resilient Cities” World Bank Group, GFDRR, EQE, World Bank Geospatial, Build Change

Think Retrofitting 

“The Big Idea: Safe Houses.” National Geographic.

“What Would An Earthquake Proof City Look Like?” The Guardian.