Typhoon Haiyan: Shelter Case Studies

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Lead Author
Aaron Opdyke
PhD Candidate | Construction Engineering and Management
USAID/OFDA Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements Fellow
Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering
University of Colorado Boulder


Urbanization, climate change, and conflict continue to strain the global humanitarian system. In 2016, the United Nations estimated that there was a $15 billion funding gap for humanitarian assistance.
In 2013, the world watched as Typhoon Haiyan descended on the Central Philippines, making landfall with sustained wind speeds in excess of 315kph (195mph). The storm was the strongest ever recorded based on wind speed at landfall. The aftermath was devastating.

Too often, we as humanitarians get caught up in attending to the next response without taking time to track actions and outcomes. To improve the delivery of shelter solutions, it is imperative that we reflect on our successes and failures to learn across programs, and disasters.

Through this report, we hope to illuminate innovative approaches, barriers to implementation, and surprises that followed the delivery of shelter assistance following Haiyan, highlighted through 19 diverse shelter cases. We have also compiled commentary pieces on shelter themes that defined the response.

Haiyan presents a compelling case to study because of the range of shelter modalities utilized by organizations. We have a unique opportunity to examine the intimacies of approaches and compare them within a context that in many ways reflects the complexity we continue to see in other responses.

It is our hope that this serves as a tool to document the wealth of shelter knowledge that was put forth after Haiyan. We applaud the successes we’ve made as a community of practice and eagerly look forward to continuing to improve our methods of delivering resilient and sustainable shelter solutions for those affected by natural disasters and conflicts.


This report is the culmination of three years of research tracking 19 separate shelter programs in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The 19 selected cases that follow are intended to encompass the range of strategies and approaches used by NGOs in shelter reconstruction in the aftermath of Haiyan. Presented is information on project locations, strategies used in planning, design, and construction, and discussion of program barriers and successes. Each project includes a photo set of completed construction efforts. Programs encompass three regions – Cebu, Leyte and Eastern Samar – each with unique challenges, but with an underlying set of characteristics that include severity of damage experienced and socio-cultural context. The programs all provided shelter assistance through formal organizational intervention, however, processes used to achieve reconstruction differed, ranging from emphasis on self-recovery to contractor built housing