Skip to content ↓

Social entrepreneur and Build Change founder honored for earthquake-resistant housing innovation

$100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability Awarded to Dr. Elizabeth Hausler for Culturally Accepted, Sustainable Reconstruction in Developing Countries
Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, winner of the 2011 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability
Dr. Elizabeth Hausler, winner of the 2011 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability
Photo courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT Program

The Lemelson-MIT Program today announced Dr. Elizabeth Hausler as the recipient of the 2011 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability in recognition of her engineering accomplishments and creation of a model that establishes sustainable earthquake-resistant housing in the developing world. Hausler, CEO and Founder of Build Change, shaped a reconstruction solution to combat building collapses during natural disasters, which can potentially save thousands of lives.

A lack of building standards in many developing countries can lead to poorly designed and constructed homes that collapse when earthquakes strike, displacing, injuring and killing people. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti alone claimed hundreds of thousands of lives when the 7.0 magnitude tremor crumbled homes into rubble. Knowing there was a simple solution to this man-made problem, Hausler created a six-step process for home reconstruction that yields sturdy, economically and culturally feasible buildings which she has been implementing since 2004.

Build Change's model is based on simplicity. Beginning with a thorough examination of a region's unsafe housing issues, Hausler's team makes slight adjustments to the original building construction plans rather than overhauling an area's traditional architectural structure. Build Change then helps community members work with locally available materials and labor to rebuild. The outcome is a cost-effective, easily modified, and most importantly, culturally accepted construction method the homeowner adopts and understands.

"Dr. Hausler's work proves that the wheel doesn't need to be re-invented. Innovation as a result of smart improvements to existing technologies can be equally effective. Elizabeth is a remarkable example of someone whose work is a catalyst for wide-scale adoption by using a model that is economically and socially sustainable," states Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. "She realizes that local people will use only what skilled labor and materials are readily available in their communities to build their homes. Leveraging that knowledge, and coupling it with her engineering aptitude and ability to teach, she has transformed the standard donor-driven model of post-earthquake reconstruction."

To read the full press release about the 2011 $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability winner, please visit:

Related Links

Related Topics

More MIT News