Building Regulation for Resilience

         In the past 20 years, natural disasters have affected 4.4 billion people, claimed 1.3 million lives and caused US$2 trillion in economic losses.[1]

    Chronic health and safety risks and exceptional disaster events disproportionally impact the poor and the marginalized. In the last 30 years, over 80 percent[2] of the total life years lost in disasters came from low and middle-income countries, typically setting back national economies by 5 to 120 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). There is evidence that disasters’ impact on GDP is 20 times higher in developing countries than in industrialized nations. These impacts pose a fundamental threat to the goals of eradicating poverty and boosting shared prosperity.


      As the scale, frequency and severity of natural hazards continue to rise, future expected annual losses in the built environment resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclonesand flooding are expected to rise from roughly US$300 billion to US$415 billion by 2030.[3]


      While the international community has made significant progress in strengthening disaster preparedness, response and early warning systems, it has been less successful in effectively addressing the mitigation of underlying risks in the pre-disaster context, especially in low and middle-income countries. There is a growing consensus that building code implementation has not received adequate and focused attention or investment as a key element of disaster risk reduction (DRR).


      This report focuses on how the role of building regulation can be enhanced to save lives and reduce the destruction from disasters as well as chronic risks. It supports a shift of focus from managing disasters to reducing underlying risks. Successful mechanisms of risk reduction and hazard adaptation in developed countries have relied in large part on effective and efficient building regulatory systems elaborated over time. Looking at the past ten years, 47 percent of disasters happened in high-income countries with more advanced building code systems,but accounted for only 7 percent of disaster fatalities globally.[4]


      Illustrating this pattern, the 2003 Paso Robles quake in California had the same magnitude as the Bam quake in Iran, and the size of the affected population was similar. Howeverthe death toll was two in California and about 30,000 in Bam.[5]

    [1] UNDP, 2014

    [2] Global Assessment Report (GAR) on Disaster Risk Reduction, UNISDR, 2015

    [3] GAR, UNISDR, 2015

    [4] Munich Re, 2013

    [5] Why do People Die in Earthquakes? The Costs, Benefits and Institutions of Disaster Risk Reduction in Developing Countries, Kenny, 2009