Safe, healthy, and sustainable construction in Colombia's poorer parts of towns

Colombia is a republic in the northern part of South America. The country borders Panama, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. Its Caribbean coastline stretches for 1,500 km, while its Pacific coast reaches 1,700 km. The population of this South American country is around 46.5 million and the capital Bogota is currently home to around 7.9 million inhabitants, many of whom live in slums. There, on their own initiative, they have erected precariously constructed dwellings that are vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods while unnecessarily threatening the health of their inhabitants and the environment as well.

The Project

The objective of this project is to improve the quality of informal construction projects in slums – in other words, not officially sanctioned by the state and built by locals on their own initiative – thereby reducing the associated risks to their inhabitants. Through awareness-raising campaigns and continuing education, Swisscontact is bringing homeowners' attention to the inherent risks and opportunities for improving their quality of life. At the same time, a collaboration with SENA, the national vocational training institute, and the private sector will offer construction workers and hardware dealers vocational training. These activities, which are of deep interest to the target population, are to be coordinated with the public sector as well as civil society organizations.

With this project the vulnerability of the homes to natural disasters will decrease considerably. At the same time, health of the inhabitants will improve and negative environmental effects will be reduced. It is an effective contribution to safe, healthy, and sustainable construction and living in Colombia.
The project started in April 2011. As of 2013 the experiences from Bogota have begun to be replicated throughout the country.


Results as of December 2016:

  • Agreements have been signed with various public and private entities in the cities and municipalities of Bogotá, Ibagué, Cali, Pereira, Medellín, Sopo, Alvarado, Yumbo, and Dosquebradas.
  • 28,187 people now live in homes that are safer, healthier, and more sustainable. 
  • In the cities and municipalities of Ibagué, Pereira, Cali, Bogotá, Medellín, Sopo, Alvarado, Dosquebradas, and Jamundí, the National Learning Service (SENA) has trained and certified 14,362 construction workers in housing risks and liability.
  • SENA has trained and certified 1,765 construction workers in the cities of Ibagué and Bogotá in business skills to strengthen their employability.
  • 3,726 homeowners in the cities and municipalities of Bogotá, Cali, Ibagué, Medellín, Alvarado, and Sopo were given training on how to make better decisions to improve their homes.
  • 570 hardware store merchants were trained in technical construction concepts so that they can better advise homeowners and construction workers across the country. 
  • SENA conducted trainings of trainers (TOT) for 239 instructors in five regions.

    Project countries

    • Colombia

    Project links

    Project duration

    2017 - 2018


    • SDC
    • Swiss Re Foundation

    Working area


    Swiss Foundation for Technical Cooperation
    Hardturmstrasse 123
    CH-8005 Zurich

    Tel. +41 44 454 17 17
    Fax +41 44 454 17 97