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Colombia: Safe, healthy, and sustainable construction in poor neighbourhoods (Construya)

Three quarters of all Colombians reside in cities, many in densely populated and illegally constructed poor neighbourhoods. Many residents have built their homes on their own steam, with little money or experience and without official approvals. The living spaces are often precarious, construction quality is lacking, and the homes are particularly vulnerable to earthquakes or landslides. According to estimates, roughly 10 million people across the country live in poorly built homes.

This project involves a skills development programme in Colombia’s informal construction sector. Swisscontact aims to raise the performance level of the informal construction market in Colombia by introducing technical solutions and promoting good construction practices. This is achieved through:

  • high-quality training of local construction workers suited to the local context 
  • sensitising homeowners to ensure they demand higher quality construction practices for their homes

The project was launched in April 2011 with financial support through the Hilti Foundation. In this last project phase 2019-2020 Swisscontact aims to demonstrate the following elements of Systemic change to achieve the desired impact:

  • Scale: Sustained high output of trained construction workers through courses provided by the existing main partners (SENA, Homecenter, Cemex) and four new private partners.
  • Behavior: Construction workers change their bad construction practices, homeowners closely examine their homes, instructors understand how to work with informal workers and companies integrate the trainings into their business strategies.

The Project

Between 2011 and 2018, over 25 000 construction workers and over 6 000 homeowners were trained. An impact study for 2018 concludes that trained construction workers were able to increase their income by CHF 1,332 per year and in 60% of cases build more safely than untrained workers. By the end of 2018, the training courses had been anchored at the national vocational training institution SENA and the two main private partners Homecenter and Cemex to the extent that they were able to implement them independently. 

In this last phase, we are supporting these established partners, who are already familiar with the training methods, to independently train 6,200 construction workers and 80 new trainers nationwide. 

At the same time, we are supporting four new partners in getting to know the training methods and coordination with SENA better and in training 2,000 construction workers (800 of whom are also entrepreneurs) in the cities of Bogota, Cali and Bucaramanga. The aim is for private and public partners to integrate the courses into their client strategies by 2020 and then to continue to run them independently. 

Thanks to the training courses, at least 10 000 homeowners know that they have to take structural measures to reduce the vulnerability of their homes to weather extremes and earthquakes, and to improve their habitability by providing natural light and ventilation.


Results previous phases (2011-2018)

  • 25 555 construction workers trained in technical issues and 3 943 also in business issues
  • 6 355 homeowners trained and about 400 000 sensitised in safe construction

Results 2019

  • 6 462 construction workers trained in technical issues (5 655 by existing and 807 by new partners)
  • 547 trained workers increased their income by CHF 1 332
  • 290 000 homeowners sensitised (5 116 of them through training courses)
  • 9 224 residents live in safer and more sustainable homes

Project countries

  • Colombia

Project links

Project duration

2019 - 2020


  • SDC
  • Hilti Foundation
  • 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
E-Mail info@STOP-SPAM.swisscontact.org