With our feet on the ground 

Sustainable construction practices in Lima, Peru

During recent decades, the world has undergone unprecedented urban growth due to increases in population and expanding internal migration. This has generated numerous settlements in the outlying peripheries of cities, characterized by informal construction which—in zones of seismic activity—endanger the lives of the population.

Construya is a project that mitigates the vulnerability of homes in Lima, Peru, promoting safe construction through training builders and through helping convert people who live in precarious neighborhoods into agents of change. This effort supports fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG): insuring that cities and human settlements are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

In all countries of Latin America, cities continue growing. People are migrating in their search for jobs, education, and health, but population increases must be accompanied by the planning and management of urban spaces, and efforts are needed to considerably reduce direct economic losses caused by natural disasters. 

The last earthquake hit Lima in 1974, and left the city a Seismic Silence Zone (SSZ), due to a deficit in the freeing of energy. But living in the Peruvian capital’s outlying districts intensifies the situation even more. Added to the poor quality of soil is the disastrous construction of family homes on hills and mountainsides. This means that they not only face the threat of a seismic event, but also infrastructure problems. Homes are built without technical assistance and without following the most basic norms of safe construction. Families generally build upwards, but without insuring the condition of foundations.

Approximately 393,254 people live in the Villa El Salvador district, one of the 43 districts that make up the province of Lima. Villa El Salvador is located in the outlying zones of the city of Lima, and two basic factors define it as a vulnerable zone: soil comprised of Aeolian sand with water and landfill, and houses that were informally constructed without considering the characteristics of the surrounding environment.

Marcelina Atanacioi lives here. She volunteers with a group of educators who train the population about seismic risk management, and thanks to her efforts, she was given a job in Citizen Security Management in the Villa El Salvador district.

Marcela dedicates part of her time to visiting different sectors of the district, to inform her neighbors about what to do in the case of an earthquake or the threat of a tsunami. But she is also in charge of raising awareness.

Marcela is part of a group of people who have been trained by the Construya project, with the goal of mitigating risks to homes through promoting safer construction. “Thanks to the training I received, I realized that my own home has a support column that was deteriorating and that this was a problem. We determined that the rebar in one of the columns was corroded. Knowing the type of place I live in made me realize that any seismic movement could cause damage to my house if we didn’t repair and strengthen the columns that hold up the house,” she explained.

Video: Marcela talks about how important the training was for her to realize problems in her house (Spanish).

The training Marcela provides to her neighbors about risk management is complemented by all of the knowledge she obtained from Construya. Each time she visits a family or runs into a neighbor, she explains the importance of reinforcing support columns. “Aside from telling people that they need to be prepared with an emergency kit and identify safe zones in case of an earthquake, I also explain the importance of secure homes, and the need to check for cracks in the walls,” she stresses.

Video: Marcela says what she does in the training for other people (Spanish).

The solutions to these problems can be found right in the same neighborhoods. Construya has also trained master builders and skilled workers in Villa El Salvador and other high-risk districts about safe construction. This has not only raised awareness among the population, but has also generated employmentLas soluciones a estas problemáticas están en los mismos barrios. Construya ha capacitado también a maestros de obra y operarios calificados en construcción segura en Villa El Salvador y otros distritos de alto riesgo, un aspecto que no sólo ha sensibilizado a la población, sino que también genera empleo. 

Hugo Rufino is a master builder who has been working in construction for 20 years. All of his knowledge was acquired empirically, which he learned from other master builders. Thanks to the Construya project, he was able to receive training for the first time at 42 years of age, which helped him improve his theoretical understanding of ironwork, concrete and walls.

Video: Hugo speaks about the changes before and then when HILTI appeared to train them and give them the materials (Spanish).

Through the CAPECO Institute (Peruvian Chamber of Construction), Construya trained a group of 30 people, including Rufino, who was able to network with those in his group, allowing him to expand his possibilities for service provision. He now has his own business that generates jobs for other construction workers.

Video: Hugo says that the training is good for them (Spanish).

Video: Marcela explains how it is to be part of Construya (Spanish).

Construya Peru - Promotion of Safe, Sound and Sustainable Construction Practices in Vulnerable Urban Areas

The project aims to improve housing-related living conditions of 20’000 Peruvians living in poverty and in dwellings of informal origin in vulnerable urban areas and to reduce the vulnerability of their homes to natural disasters. This is done through the promotion of safe, sound and sustainable construction practices, training of construction workers and raising of awareness and know-how among the targeted population.

More specifically, the project aims to institutionalise a permanent training offer for the informal construction sector together with national, regional and local governments, existing training institutions and private companies working in this sector.

The project is financed by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and the HILTI Foundation.

Upskilling and Reskilling
Peru: Promotion of Safe, Sound and Sustainable Construction Practices in Vulnerable Urban Areas (Construya)
Accelerated urbanization, a lack of urban planning and a significant housing deficit have generated an increasing number of informal dwellings. It is estimated that 500,000 homes and more than 700,000 people in Lima live in conditions that place them at high-risk of earthquakes and tsunamis, making Peru one of the countries most likely to...