Frontline leaders unite in support for climate resilient housing

By Theo Bachrach, Communications Lead, Race to Resilience | July 13, 2021

Frontline leaders and social entrepreneurs from across South and South-East Asia came together, as part of the Race to Resilience, to highlight how non-state actors are mobilizing to create climate resilient housing in the region.

The session, organised by the Race to Resilience as part of the UNFCCC’s Asia-Pacific Week, featured Founders and Programme Directors who are delivering climate resilience for their communities, led by the unique needs and cultures of the people in them.

Panellists agreed education, in particular multi-language bilateral access to information, was key to helping demystify and develop deeper understanding of climate science.  In particular, they agreed both the public and policy makers needed greater access to education on the role of nature and climate systems, especially on food production.

Radical collaborations – such as the mutual empowerment between urban poor and technologists, scientists and city planners – they agreed was also essential. It was pointed out that most current housing design did not factor in disaster risks, such as extreme heat.


“Partners and innovators, not recipients and beneficiaries.”

Sheela Patel, Climate Champions Ambassador and Founder-Director of the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres kicked off the session by recognizing the importance of bringing in social movements that represent the urban poor into decision making on climate resilience and to change the way communities of the poor, especially women, are perceived. In particular, she said there is a need to recognize the value of communities living in informal settlements who are as much a part of the infrastructure and commerce of cities as big businesses.

“Extreme heat is a given in India but we need to demystify it.”

Mardi Suplido, Country Director for Philippines and Indonesia at Build Change, representing Race to Resilience Partner Initiative Resilient Housing, focused on the three barriers to resilient housing: People, money and technology.

Build Change is addressing climate resilience while addressing social inequities. They do this by combining an inclusive, climate-smart approach to safe construction with community centred financial services, delivering at scale and inexpensively by partnering with microfinance institutions (MFIs) who are innovating their products to allow for loans to homeowners.


Bijal Brahmbhatt, Director of the Mahila Housing Trust in India works across 1,5000 informal settlements across the country working with women to deliver climate resilient housing for these communities.  The importance of climate resilient housing was underscored by the fact that for the majority of homeowners, houses act as workplaces, production sites, and storage facilities for vendors, alongside their role as places for families to live and rest.


Vanessa Peter, Founder of the Information and Resource Centre for Deprived Urban Communities, representing Race to Resilience Partner Initiative – Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance, also spoke from India.

Peter highlighted major issues on climate resilience such as the fact that the current discourse on climate resilience often ends up criminalizing and promoting a socio-spatial segregation of the deprived urban communities. This often manifests itself in the urban housing process. The organization connects people and policy makers by amplifying community voices in citizen reports, social audit reports and policy briefs. Their work has resulted in the first resilient urban design framework in Tamil Nadu and multiple resilient housing pilots.


“Oceans of concrete covering porous landscapes.”

Speaking from Bangok, Thailand, Kotchakorn Voraakhom, CEO of Porous City Network highlighted their award-winning work on engaging young people and architecture students in climate resilient housing.

Their work focuses on nature-based solutions for issues like heat islands and flooding, including creating the largest urban farm on roofs in South Asia, turning housing itself into a nature-based solution to tackle climate challenges.



“Housing is not just a roof above your head but how it enhances your livelihood.”

Moderator Anand Muthukrishnan, Principal Counsellor at the Indian Green Building Council, wrapped up the session with a call to action to mobilize more state and non-state actor resources to resilience initiatives who are creating community resilience to climate change.




Want to know where to start? Look into the work being done by the session speakers and contact to learn more about the Race to Resilience.

With thanks to all participants and partners for making the session possible through their work.

Private: Resilience

The Sharm el Sheikh Adaptation Agenda: Catalysing collaborative action towards a resilient future

Resilience experts and members of Race to Resilience’s MAG advisory group, Anand Patwardhan, Emilie Beauchamp, Ana Maria Lobo-Guerrero, and Paulina Aldunce, underline the transformative impact of the Sharm El Sheikh Adaptation Agenda in driving collaboration and fast-tracking action to bridge the adaptation gap and support the world’s most vulnerable communities.