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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Shelter and settlement standard 4: Construction

Local safe building practices, materials, expertise and capacities are used where appropriate, maximising the involvement of the affected population and local livelihood opportunities.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Guidance notes

  1. Participation of affected populations: Participation by the affected population in shelter and settlement activities should be informed by existing practices through which housing and settlements are planned, constructed and maintained. Skills training programmes and apprenticeship schemes can maximise opportunities for participation during construction, particularly for individuals lacking the required building skills or experience. Women of all ages should be encouraged to participate in shelter and construction-related activities and training. Contributions from those less able to undertake physical tasks or those requiring specialist technical expertise can include site monitoring and inventory control, the provision of childcare, temporary accommodation or the preparation of food for those engaged in construction works and administrative support. The other demands on the time and labour resources of the affected population should be considered. The provision of assistance from volunteer community labour teams or contracted labour can complement the involvement of individual households. Such assistance is essential to support female-headed households, as women may be at particular risk from sexual exploitation in seeking assistance for the construction of their shelter (see Core Standard 1Protection Principle 2  and Non-food items standard 5). Persons with mobility difficulties, older people and others unable to undertake construction activities may also need assistance.
  2. Technical expertise and experience: Appropriate technical design, construction and management expertise should complement the skills and understanding of the affected population and provide experience of established technical and regulatory processes (see Core Standard 6). In locations vulnerable to seasonal or cyclical disasters, the involvement of technical specialists who have previous experiences of appropriate, local solutions or agreed best practices can inform the design and construction process.
  3. Sourcing of materials and labour: The rapid provision of shelter solutions or materials and tools, either separately or in the form of a predefined kit, can enable the affected population to erect or construct shelters themselves. Where possible, local livelihoods should be supported through the local procurement of building materials, specialist building skills and manual labour informed by rapid market assessments and analyses. If the local sourcing of materials is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the local economy or the natural environment, the following may be required: the use of multiple sources; alternative materials or production processes; materials sourced regionally or internationally; or proprietary shelter systems (see Shelter and settlement standard 5 ). The reuse of materials salvaged from damaged buildings, having identified the rights to such material, should be promoted.
  4. Disaster prevention and risk reduction: Construction resilience should be consistent with known climatic conditions and natural hazards and should consider adaptations to address the local impact of climate change. Changes to building standards or building practices as a result of the disaster should be applied in consultation with the disaster-affected population and the relevant authorities.
  5. Safe public building design and construction: Temporary and permanent public buildings such as schools and healthcare facilities should be constructed or repaired to be disaster-resilient and to ensure safety and access for all. Such facilities should comply with sector-specific construction standards and approval procedures, including accessibility requirements for those with mobility, visual or communication difficulties. The repair or construction of such buildings should be undertaken in consultation with the appropriate authorities and informed by an agreed service infrastructure and affordable maintenance strategy (see INEE Minimum Standards in Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery).
  6. Construction standards: Standards and guidelines on construction should be agreed with the relevant authorities to ensure that key safety and performance requirements are met. Where applicable local or national building codes have not been customarily adhered to or enforced, incremental compliance should be agreed, reflecting local housing culture, climatic conditions, resources, building and maintenance capacities, accessibility and affordability.
  7. Procurement and construction management: A construction schedule should be developed to plan activities. The schedule should include key milestones such as target completion dates, the relocation of displaced populations to specific shelter and settlement solutions, and the onset of seasonal weather patterns. A responsive, efficient and accountable supply chain and construction management system for materials, labour and site supervision should also be established. This should include sourcing, procurement, transportation, handling and administration, from point of origin through to the respective sites as required (see Food security: food transfers standard 4).
  8. Upgrading and maintenance: As initial shelter responses typically provide only a minimum level of enclosed space and material assistance, affected populations will need to seek alternative means of increasing the extent or quality of the enclosed space provided. The form of construction and the materials used should enable individual households to maintain and incrementally adapt or upgrade the shelter to meet their longer-term needs using locally available tools and materials (see Non-food items standard 5 ).