Rebuilding After Disaster

The tragic fallout from recent natural disasters is overwhelming. For some, it’s a challenge and a call to action. Come learn what a brave few are doing to understand and improve post-disaster reconstruction.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


November 05, 2010 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)

Open a paper or turn on the TV news and too often there’s report of yet another heartbreaking catastrophe. Hurricane in New Orleans, tsunami in Indonesia, earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Pakistan. The weight of these tragedies can be overwhelming. For some, it’s a challenge and a call to action.

swissnex San Francisco looks at what it takes to recover from disaster with presentations and a panel discussion on sustainable reconstruction, from environmental and safety considerations to socio-cultural and housing issues. Priscilla Phelps, from TCG International, outlines what sustainable post-disaster reconstruction really means. Jennifer Duyne Barenstein, from the World Habitat Research Centre at the University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland, highlights the role of socio-cultural issues and community in reconstruction. Elizabeth Hausler, founder of BuildChange, discusses the environmental and safety factors of rebuilding. And architect Alex Salazar illustrates some of the worst and best practices of post-disaster housing.

This event is produced by swissnex San Francisco and part of the U.S.-wide program ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future. As a leading country in science, research, and technology, Switzerland is working with its American counterparts to address key global topics such as sustainability to better understand trends and arrive at solutions.


6:30 pm  doors open
7:00 pm  presentations and Q&A
8:30 pm  reception
9:30 pm  doors close


Jennifer Duyne Barenstein

Jennifer Duyne Barenstein is the head of the World Habitat Research Centre at the University of Applied Sciences of Southern Switzerland. She has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Zurich and more than 20 years of experience in Asia, Latin America, and Europe focusing on the socio-economic, cultural, and gender dimensions of housing and post-disaster reconstruction. From 1989 to 2007, she was a senior lecturer at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Zurich. She is among the lead authors of Safer Homes, Stronger Communities: A Handbook for Reconstruction After Natural Disasters.


Elizabeth Hausler

Elizabeth Hausler, founder of BuildChange, earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.S. in environmental science from the University of Colorado, and a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a 2004 Echoing Green Fellow, a 2006 Draper Richards Fellow, a 2009 Ashoka-Lemelson Fellow, and a Fulbright Scholar to India in 2002-2003. She is a skilled brick, block, and stone mason and has lectured on sustainable, disaster-resistant construction in eight countries. She served on the 2002-2003 National Research Council committee to develop a long-term research agenda for earthquake engineering, which successfully put the earthquake engineering issues that plague developing countries on the agenda. Before graduate school, she spent five years in the engineering consulting industry, working for Peterson Consulting LP in Chicago and Dames & Moore in Denver, Colorado. In 2006, she was featured by ABC World News Tonight for her work rebuilding houses in Aceh, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Forrest Lanning.


Priscilla Phelps

Priscilla Phelps is a Senior Shelter Advisor to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission helping government develop an operational strategy for housing and community reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake. She managed the development of a book published by the World Bank in 2010 entitled Safer Homes, Stronger Communities: A Handbook for Reconstruction After Natural Disasters, which proposed a community-based approach to reconstruction. She worked as a Loan Officer for the Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco, and serves on the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity in Oakland, California. She also participated in founding the Center for Local Food and Agriculture in Ithaca, New York, and served on the Board of Directors of the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. She has an MBA in Finance from Cornell University.


Alex Salazar

Alex Salazar is a partner at Salazar Duncanson Birchall Architects, a San Francisco firm specialized in affordable and market rate housing. He received his master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and lived and worked in India with non-governmental organizations from 1993-1994 building housing after the Marathwada Earthquake. He has published numerous articles about the Marathwada disaster, including in the recent book, Recovering From Earthquakes (Revi & Patel editors, Routledge 2010). His design work in the US with community based organizations has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects for its contribution to the affordable housing field.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos