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INternational Disaster Resilient Architecture (INDRA)

A holistic approach towards international disaster resilient architecture by learning from vernacular construction.

The International Disaster Resilient Architecture (INDRA) project presents a holistic approach towards a disaster resilient built environment by promoting the importance of traditional building knowledge in construction. Following the example of vernacular architecture, newly built construction should consider local culture, climate and environment and thereby encouraging climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Contemporary construction and vernacular architecture techniques can be brought together to create buildings that are disaster resilient and adapted to the local environment. Moreover, such construction would be more economically and culturally sound, reflecting local customs and traditions and using local materials. Buildings that take local climate and environment into consideration lead to more energy efficiency, thereby generating a smaller ecological footprint, whereby encouraging climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Through this project, UNESCO supports Member States' capacity building efforts for the local construction sector by organizing workshops and trainings, and by developing guidelines on the important role of traditional building knowledge, sustainable use of resources and safe construction to create a disaster resilient environment. The INDRA project will translate the extensive available research into concrete practices. The project will foster the involvement and empowerment of local practitioners and emphasize the significant value of vernacular architecture and the important role of construction in reducing the risks of disasters caused by natural hazards.


Of all natural hazards, earthquakes cause the highest number of human casualties, together with massive economic losses. Most of these losses are caused by failure of construction, when buildings are damaged or collapse. Therefore, a safe built environment plays a key role in reducing the risks of disasters and mitigating their impacts, thus saving lives. Additionally, the pace and scale of present-day urbanization provide strategic opportunities for safer construction and sustainable development.

Non-engineered construction

In moderate to severe seismic zones of the developing world, more than 90% of the population is living and working in non-engineered constructions (also known as informal buildings), which are highly vulnerable to natural hazards. Non-engineered buildings are often built with little or no intervention of qualified architects and/ or engineers in their design. Many non-engineered buildings are made with imported materials, often using ‘foreign’ techniques. They often copy architecture from other regions because it is considered to be ‘modern’ or because external donors implement local construction projects following the knowledge and practices from their own country. As a result, the buildings are not adapted to the local context. Due to the lack of technical know-how, appropriate materials, accurate monitoring and concrete building regulations, such constructions might be highly vulnerable to natural hazards.

Another type of non-engineered construction is vernacular architecture that is adapted to local context and built with local materials, using construction techniques that are based on local and indigenous knowledge developed through direct experiences over generations. This architecture is mostly resilient to the local natural hazards. Traditional settlements are built in harmony with their cultural and social environment and therefore strengthen social resilience to natural hazards.

Vernacular architecture

A specific type of non-engineered construction built on traditional and local knowledge, namely ‘vernacular architecture’, is mostly resilient to local natural hazards. Vernacular architecture is a type of architecture that is indigenous to a specific time and/or place, and thus not imported or copied from elsewhere. It is built to meet specific needs, accommodating the values, economies and ways of life of the cultures that produce them. It comprises remarkable features that can be applied in contemporary construction by using science, technology and innovation to create buildings that are disaster resilient and adapted to the modern needs. Moreover, such construction would be more economically and culturally sound through reflection of local customs and traditions and by using local materials.

International framework

The INDRA project is contributing to the implementation of the following global goals and agendas:

Transforming our World - the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Particularly the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere;
    Target 1.5: By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters
  • SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, target 13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
  • SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development 

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR)

  • Priority 1: Understanding disaster risk
  • Priority 3: Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience
  • Priority 4: “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction

The New Urban Agenda (NUA)

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change 

United Nations Plan of Action on Disaster Risk Reduction