Benchmarking sustainability and building resilience to natural disasters22 January, 2016 - The April 2015 earthquake in Nepal was another reminder of the devastating consequences of natural disasters and their impact on lives. “One of the challenges we face in the humanitarian sector,” says Graham Saunders, Head of Shelter and Settlements for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), one of the members of the UN-Habitat-coordinated Global Network for Sustainable Housing (GNSH), “is that along with the desire to meet the immediate needs of disaster-affected communities, we must also think longer term from day one on-wards and ensure that our response to the disaster is sustainable, leading to resilient communities.”

A tool for the job

In 2010, IFRC approached Building Research Establishment (BRE) to help develop a tool that would deliver sustainability guidance and provide a method of assessment. The aim was to draw on BRE’s experience of developing the widely-used, internationally-respected Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology methodology for enhancing, assessing and rating sustainability in construction covering master planning, buildings and infrastructure.

The outcome of this collaboration was the web-based tool called QSAND (Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters). For the development of the tool, IFRC and BRE collaborated closely with UN-Habitat and a select number of other key stakeholders, as members of the project consultation group.

QSAND is a comprehensive built-environment tool (covering shelter, settlements, infrastructure and so on) organized into eight categories. “Our aim in working with IFRC to develop and make the QSAND tool freely available to all” says Yetunde Abdul, QSAND Programme Manager at BRE. “This is very much in line with the BRE Trust’s aims to advance knowledge, innovation and communication in the built environment to help meet our goal of ‘building a better world together’”.

A unique feature of QSAND is its ability to give the user an overall performance score at the end of the process. This will help governments, humanitarian agencies and donors to understand the impacts of their work in disaster zones, pinpoint which strategies are the most effective and establish benchmarks of sustainability success.

Who will use QSAND?

QSAND is designed to be used by those who are:

  • Field-based managers of relief and re-construction activities
  • Desk-based managers of programmes and authorities
  • Donors, financial institutions and policy analysts

The BRE Trust, working with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, is leading work to establish an evidence and knowledge base of sustainable approaches, solutions, and case studies on the use of Quantifying Sustainability in the Aftermath of Natural Disasters to make available to make available to all to benefit from.

“A number of humanitarian and other organizations have expressed an interest in applying QSAND,” says Abdul. “We will be supporting them and others who apply the tool providing technical and operation support to maximize the short, medium and long term benefits available to affected communities”. BRE is actively seeking partners to build the knowledge and evidence base.