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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. Its main objectives include increasing technical skills and incomes for construction workers as well as to improve home construction quality.

Swisscontact is committed to:

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

In addition, advisory services offered in the construction materials markets will be improved, enabling informal construction workers direct access to skilled salespeople in their immediate vicinity who can give them professional advice when they buy their materials.

The project launched in April 2011 with financial support through the Hilti Foundation. In 2017 it entered its third and (for the time being) last phase, through 2018. The project is being implemented in various regional centres, including the capital Bogota.

The Project

Project activities

  1. Developing and teaching an attractive course curriculum for informal sector construction workers
    Developing training modules for vocational trainers, construction workers, and merchants of construction materials in collaboration with the National Vocational Training Agency (SENA) and various private companies. These training modules are included in courses offered in various Colombian cities. They include specialised technical content and business management.
  2. Information campaigns, trainings, and advisory services for owners of informal homes
    Simple information and training courses that are easy to understand and offered to target groups through our local partner organisations (including in the non-profit sector). They include information on risks and other information to help homeowners improve their quality of life and home environment.


Results 2017-2018

  • 3 920 construction workers benefited from a technical training, 1 781 of them who also attended an entrepreneurship training
  • 2 095 of the trained construction workers apply the learnt better construction practices
  • 2 374 homeowners were trained in safe and healthy housing and almost 90 000 were sensitized though the media
  • 1 646 construction workers increased their annual income by 1 332 Swiss francs on average
  • 25 694 residents of informal settlements will live in safer and more sustainable homes

Project countries

  • Colombia

Project links

Project duration

2018 - 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