After Hurricane Maria, Partnership Emerges to Encourage Resilient Housing Design and Construction in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Enterprise Community Partners, Puerto Rico Builders Association and the University of Puerto Rico to produce manuals on resilient housing design and construction

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (April 26, 2018) – Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise), Puerto Rico Builders Association, the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR’s) School of Architecture and School of Planning, the Puerto Rico Housing Department, Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon, Perkins and Will and MIT’s Urban Risk Lab today announced an initiative to harness local and international expertise in the creation of Strategies for Puerto Rico Housing Resilience

The practical design and construction guide will be distributed for free in conjunction with free trainings in English and Spanish to help minimize and reverse the devastation to homes caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and to prepare for future extreme weather. 

On April 26, a group of leading experts, primarily from Puerto Rico — in architecture, planning, engineering, construction, emergency management, energy and wastewater management — will gather to develop the guidance. They will use on-the-ground case studies and estimates with descriptions of the specific actions that can support Puerto Rico’s housing reconstruction, as well as the reconstruction of housing on other islands. 

Intended for building owners, design and engineering professionals, small businesses, contractors and others as they rebuild Puerto Rico’s and the USVI’s housing sectors, Strategies for Puerto Rico Housing Resilience will be based on Enterprise’s Strategies for Multifamily Building Resilience. The first-of-its-kind manual created in response to Superstorm Sandy has been used by thousands of housing organizations, designers and municipalities across the U.S. and will serve as a model.

“Strategies for Puerto Rico Housing Resilience will be critical for the future of the housing and development industry in Puerto Rico and it will provide the adequate path to protect our people’s lives and investments,” said Fernando Gil, secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Housing. “We are confident that this collaboration will create the necessary synergy for new housing, tending to the needs of our residents as well as taking into account the necessity to mitigate future atmospheric events.”

“It is of the utmost importance for us to focus our efforts on education and learning from past mistakes,” said Emilio Colon-Zavala, president, the Puerto Rico Builders Association. “Facing this year’s hurricane season, we have the opportunity to contribute with expertise to provide safe and resilient housing to those families who suffered losses as a result of the recent natural disasters.” 

“Given the future extreme-weather risks facing Puerto Rico, the need for Strategies for Puerto Rico Housing Resilience could not be greater,” said Terri Ludwig, president, Enterprise. “This practical guide will help to incorporate cost-effective futureproofing strategies into the rebuilding process from the start, which will strengthen communities and save lives and money when the next disaster strikes.”

Hurricane Maria destroyed close to 35,000 homes in Puerto Rico. Seniors, families and low-income households are especially vulnerable because they have less access to resources to help them recover. Maria caused short-term problems like displacement, business closures and income loss that can turn into long-term displacement, economic downturn and permanent migration out of the island. 

“It is essential that we focus our efforts not only on reconstruction, but also on education,” said architect Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, co-founder of Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon® and one of the leaders of this effort. “This manual will help educate design professionals, as well as the general population, about the importance of using a resilient design approach as part of a sound rebuilding strategy.”

“A critical dimension in the process of building affordable housing is its location, and this is an essential consideration in this effort.  As planners, we are very concerned about the need to address land use issues more carefully, especially in an island context,” said Carmen Concepcion, chair, Planning Department, University of Puerto Rico. “A resilient Puerto Rico requires that we plan communities in places that are not floodable or prone to landslides and away from coastal areas.  The minimization of risk to human life and property offers greater security to residents, and the investment is more durable.”

“Designing and building with resilient strategies in mind can create new ways of life for Puerto Ricans. This manual will be a transformative tool for the residents, developers, contractors and builders of Puerto Rico. For the School of Architecture-UPR, being part of this professional team is very important and challenging. Our students are integrated into a working group of local and international expert professionals, including our professors, and at the same time we are making a great contribution with the creation of this tool in order to transform communities into safe and livable places,” said Mayra O Jimenez Montano, interim dean, School of Architecture, University of Puerto Rico

“The more than 3 million American citizens who call Puerto Rico home were once again plunged into darkness last week,” said Arturo Garcia-Costas, environmental program officer at The New York Community Trust. “All levels of government and the nonprofit sector must work together to protect the most vulnerable among us from the accelerating climate chaos we are facing. We need to do more than rebuild, we need to reimagine how housing and communities are designed and constructed, especially on our nation's islands and along our coasts.”

Strategies for Puerto Rico Housing Resilience is scheduled to be completed and published in 2018 and will be used throughout Puerto Rico and the USVI. 

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This guide is part of Enterprise’s new Climate Strong Islands Initiative (CSII), which is supported through generous gifts from The New York Community Trust and The Miami Foundation. CSII strives to assure that the long-term recovery of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Florida Keys is equitable and resilient, addresses existing and immediate infrastructure needs, builds the capacity of local organizations, pilots innovative and scalable solutions, and improves opportunities for low-income families to thrive and sustain future weather impacts.

Enterprise is a proven and powerful nonprofit that improves communities and people’s lives by making well-designed homes affordable. We bring together the nationwide know-how, partners, policy leadership and investments to multiply the impact of local affordable housing development. Over 35 years, Enterprise has created nearly 529,000 homes, invested $36 billion and touched millions of lives. Join us at www.EnterpriseCommunity.org.

Asociación de Constructores de Puerto Rico is a nonprofit organization established in 1951 that represents leading developers of housing, commercial, office, industrial and tourism projects as well as related investors and professionals. Their main objectives are to promote and lead planned, safe and sustainable development, and serve as the economic engine of the island in collaboration with its private and public sectors.

Established in 1900, Universidad de Puerto Rico is the main public university system of Puerto Rico with approximately 58,000 students. The School of Architecture was founded in 1966 with the mission of training students to design structures that strengthen community and improve the environment in an interdisciplinary and collaborative way. The School of Planning was founded in 1965 and is the leading program in Puerto Rico that offers study programs in planning with areas of emphasis in economic, urban, social policy and the environment.

The Department of Housing of Puerto Rico is responsible for homeownership, affordable housing and community assistance programs in Puerto Rico.