Build Change Nepal


Build Change, Nepal: Transforming the Retrofitting Experience


In April, 2015 a 7.8 earthquake in Nepal impacted 600,000 homes, 400,000 of which are now unsafe to live in and need immediate retrofitting. Build Change works in disaster effected areas and was on the ground to help with recovery efforts.






Build Change needed an application to accelerate the 80 hour assessment and drawing approval process required before families begin rebuilding their house.


The team created a tablet based application that allowed users to visualize structural damage, input key data, and automate the drawing and planning process for homes in need of retrofitting.



Research Strategy


Be responsive to the local context and people.

Extend the long term capacities of Build Change.

Engage proactively with the Nepali government.


Two years later conditions were still quite challenging




Secondary research

Remote stakeholder interviews

Review available data

In-person user interviews

Contextual inquiry

Co-creation workshops

Key Insight

The rebuilding process often takes the entire family from agricultural work, and thus family’s main source of income. This had a direct impact on the rebuilding timeline.


Taking measurements of a house by hand is a two person job


Our team visited a regional planning office to get to know their process.


Generating solutions


The measuring process was taking 80 hours of labor for local people


Staff used a whiteboard and printouts of spreadsheets to track the planning process.


It took our team of eight technical experts 32 hours to measure a house


Documents related to the approval process were kept in binders.



Analyze & Define

Use cases

Solution prioritization

Stakeholder maps


Key Insight

The existing process has many redundancies and points of confusion.


Determining the value of solutions


A stakeholder map reveals pain-points and redundancies


The team collaborated with stakeholders and user to storyboard solutions



Design & Build

Feature prioritization



User testing


Key Insight

The agile approach was essential to the iteration process that lead to the initial solution.


The team narrowed to six rules for determining the retrofitting need


The team prototyping and testing the app


Presenting the MVP


An intermediate step: Surakshit Ghar (Safe House) to inform homeowners about safety measures


Presenting a VR tour of retrofitting needs at Autodesk in San Francisco


Assessments on the back-end

The homeowner answers four questions and uploads photos of their house.


The app determines the structure’s retrofitting needs


The assessment result is sent to regional planning offices for permitting





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