Enterprise Community Partners Launches Unprecedented Disaster Recovery and Resilience Manual for Puerto Rico and Island Communities

Comprehensive guide helps tenants, owners, governments and communities prepare for the realities of climate change

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Oct. 8, 2019) – Keep Safe: A Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities, a first-of-its-kind illustrated manual developed in response to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in collaboration with over 150 experts from across Puerto Rico and mainland United States, was released today by Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) and the Puerto Rico Builders Association at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 479-page manual, available in English and Spanish, provides practical tips and specific resources to help homeowners, community leaders, tenants, housing program administrators, property operators and construction professionals in Puerto Rico and other islands develop stronger, more resilient homes and communities that can withstand extreme weather events. Enterprise will host additional launch events in the US Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys later this fall.

“The growing threat of natural disasters due to climate change makes it essential for every government and every community to make resiliency a top priority. This guide provides step-by-step instructions for how to do that,” said Laurel Blatchford, president of Enterprise. “The ferocity with which Hurricane Maria impacted Puerto Rico was matched only by local government and community leaders’ collective commitment to rebuilding. After 20 years of working to support affordable housing in Puerto Rico, Enterprise pulled together every best practice, resource and innovation in our field and worked with local and national experts to create an arsenal of tools that can protect island communities from facing impacts on that scale again.”

Some of the most impactful and unique recommendations in Keep Safe include:

  • Strategies to promote Passive Habitability when a home loses power to enable residents to stay in their homes.
  • Site-specific strategies that utilize vegetation and green infrastructure in addition to the standard grey infrastructure most commonly used to mitigate flooding.

The manual is designed as an interactive workbook, with detailed annotated diagrams that cover everything from what types of vegetation can best withstand storms and protect properties (p. 83), to the difference between various types of nails and fasteners (p. 203) to how to choose a cistern to collect rainwater (p. 340). Keep Safe includes 28 strategies for mitigating key risks, grouped into 12 chapters that range from building protection to passive habitability, water management, energy and emergency preparedness. Each strategy includes step-by-step instructions for implementation, accompanied by photographs, how-to diagrams, infographics, key information and supporting strategies.

“In developing this guide, we made a concerted effort to highlight and amplify the incredible leadership happening in Puerto Rico to promote resilience in water, energy and food security because of how critical community support is to protecting homes and communities from climate-related hazards,” said Laurie Schoeman, senior program director for resilience and disaster recovery at Enterprise. “Working together, we identified what a truly resilient community can and should look like and developed a clear path to get there.”

Emilio Colón Zavala, Chairman of the Board of the Puerto Rico Builders Association, expressed the Association’s satisfaction with the results of this project. “The task of being able to establish this cooperative effort of 150 experts, with multiple cultural and professional backgrounds, is an example of how complex projects can produce good results, with the right will and commitment. This guide is a milestone for present and future generations, in order to develop stronger and more resilient homes and communities. Our recognition and gratitude goes to the Enterprise team for this initiative,” said Colón Zavala.

In addition to the key strategies, the Keep Safe manual includes information on obtaining building permits in Puerto Rico, as well as financial and programmatic resources that can provide assistance. The guide also includes an overview of specific hazards and vulnerabilities for different regions of the island, in addition to a historical overview of natural disasters in the region, represented in an infographic timeline that visually projects the disasters likely to occur in the coming years.

Enterprise developed the guide in partnership with a team of over 150 technical experts across Puerto Rico and the United States from a range of organizations including the University of Puerto Rico Schools of Architecture, Planning and Engineering, as well as MIT’s Urban Risk Lab and National Renewable Energy Laboratories. The effort is part of Enterprise’s Climate Strong Islands Initiative, an effort to bring technical and capacity building support to island jurisdictions to ensure an equitable and resilient future in the face of risk from natural hazards.

The launch event in San Juan was attended by local government officials, housing stakeholders and key collaborators who contributed to the manual. The celebration included a keynote address from Ada Monzón, Chief Meteorologist for WAPA-TV, and a panel discussion featuring experts working in government, construction, planning, community leadership, financing and housing development.

About Enterprise Community Partners
Enterprise is a proven and powerful nonprofit that improves communities and people’s lives by making well-designed homes affordable and connected to opportunity. As a social enterprise, we bring together the nationwide know-how, policy leadership, partners, donors and investors to multiply the impact of local affordable housing development. Over more than 35 years, Enterprise has created 585,000 homes, invested more than $43 billion and touched millions of lives. 

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