Expanding RAPIDO for Gulf Coast Recovery

We are excited to report on our progress in bringing the RAPIDO model of temporary-to-permanent housing to families affected by Hurricane Harvey. 

On July 26, the first RAPIDO Core unit in Houston opened its doors to visitors and stakeholders. Also in attendance was the family who will call the Core home. On September 20, the family moved into the first RAPIDO Core in the city of Houston, TX. The family will remain there throughout construction of the Expansion, transforming the temporary Core unit into a permanent three-bedroom home. Construction on the expansion began in October.

Our efforts have also included design for RAPIDO Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which can act as temporary housing during the home repair process, and then provide a source of extra income as a rental unit after reconstruction.

The design and partnership work with Covenant Community Capital and Texas Housers to realize RAPIDO units in Houston was supported by funding partnership with Enterprise Community Partners.

We are excited to announce that we are working to design and build 15 RAPIDO Core Units in Gulf Coast communities through a new grant from the Rebuild Texas Fund. Through this grant, we are also conducting research and development for mass production of RAPIDO Cores. This will serve 15 additional families affected by the storm, while also advancing progress toward the mass production of RAPIDO Cores.

Rapido CORE Accessory Dwelling Unit

We have developed a series of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), exploring different outdoor design layouts that allow for adaptation and flexibility of placement in multiple lot configurations. All of our ADU designs utilize [bc]'s RAPIDO CORE, a disaster recovery housing modular unit, designed for durable and fast rehousing post disaster.  Check out more information about this initiative and the details for each ADU design option at [bc]'s People's Design Library.

There are many reasons a property owner would want to invest in a RAPIDO ADU: disaster preparedness, temporary housing during repairs or reconstruction, increase affordable units in the city and provide extra income to homeowners.  

These structures can be built quickly using standard materials and construction methods and are designed on raised platforms in order to avoid damage from flooding. A RAPIDO ADU can also be used as a safe house during a storm, especially if your home sustains serious damage. Because RAPIDO COREs can be built quickly,  the ADU can act as temporary housing and allow homeowners whose houses are in need of repairs to remain on their property while their home is repaired or rebuilt. ADUs are also often rented out to individuals, and this extra structure can give the homeowner an extra source of income once they have returned to their repaired home. 

RAPIDO in Houston

With the support of a funding partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., [bc] is working to bring the RAPIDO model to Houston, working with families affected by Hurricane Harvey in collaboration with Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and Covenant Community Capital

Housing Strategy copy.jpg

We've worked to adapt RAPIDO's temporary-to-permanent housing model for this new geography and have designed a temporary-to-permanent unit for a family. RAPIDO’s housing model deploys a temporary CORE unit to family’s property weeks after a disaster, which can be expanded into a permanent home through a system of semi-custom designed additions. The purpose of the RAPIDO CORE is to bridge the gap between relief and recovery housing and provide a pathway to meet long-term family needs and preferences.

Our first RAPIDO prototype in Houston will provide the process and the means for a Houston family to become homeowners and allow us to pilot RAPIDO in Houston.

We're also working to design and build an Accessory Dwelling Unit prototype (ADU), which will pilot additional possibilities for post-disaster housing and pre-disaster planning. After a disaster, RAPIDO's ADU allows homeowners whose houses are in need of repairs to remain on their property while the repairs are made. After the homeowner moves back into their primary home, the ADU can be rented out as affordable housing, providing an extra income. The RAPIDO ADU unit can also play a role pre-disaster by providing a safe space on a homeowner's property.

Check out photos below!


See more posts about sustainABLEhouse our work in the Rio Grande Valley

MiCASiTA offers an alternative approach to providing housing to some of the hardest to reach and most  challenged communities across the country.  The Rio Grande Valley, like many other communities in Texas and nationally, suffers from extreme poverty and lack of quality, affordable housing.  With limited financing and design options, many housing and community development organizations are forced to either turn away or maintain long waiting lists for would-be homeowners who do not qualify for traditional affordable housing delivery models. MiCASiTA, a collaboration between the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), the Rio Grande Valley MultiBank (RGVMB), The Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation (TSAHC), and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc] seeks to change that by offering innovative financing, and design options, tailored to grow with the homeowners needs.  

MiCASiTA offers personalized design options that empower individuals though choice while also improving sustainability and overall quality of housing. "Starter homes" are built focusing specifically on the client's needs;  they can choose to initially build their home with a kitchen, living room, and one bedroom while keeping in mind that in the future they will have the option to make additions to their home. Homeowners who qualify for smaller loan amounts begin with a 600 square foot "starter home". The “starter home” is specifically designed to expand as the family's savings and financial stability grow.  This approach builds on the the success of the CDCB/ [bc] RAPIDO project which created a temporary to permanent disaster recovery housing solution that starts with a small core that can be put in place immediately after a natural disaster and can grow as government assistance is available for the area.

CDCB will take clients and their families through an educational program that will prepare them to make important financial decisions with a new mortgage. In addition, RGVMB will conduct one-on-one financial and credit score counseling to ensure that the client is ready to take on the initial loan for their new home. The initial loan will cover the cost of the "starter home" and payments on this home will begin at this time. Once the client is ready, additional loans will be given in order to make additions to the home. The client's loan payments will grow accordingly with the addition of each new phase of construction. This financial program is structured and designed specifically with the client's success in mind, focusing on allowing for low interest rates, low monthly payments, longer loan terms, and deferred loan amounts. 



Learn more about RAPIDO and visit RAPIDORECOVERY.org!

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) is pleased to announce the launch of RAPDIORECOVERY.org in conjunction with our presentation of RAPIDO on Next City's World Stage at UN Habitat III in Quito. RAPIDO is a holistic approach to housing recovery that enables communities to recover for disasters within months instead of years. Through understanding and redesigning the entire U.S. disaster recovery housing process, alongside people who are affected the most, RAPIDO fosters resilience within Texas, empowers local communities, and abates the social and economic impacts of disaster.

RAPIDORECOVERY.org makes it easy to learn more about the RAPIDO model, view work from the RAPIDO Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Pilot Program, and keep up to date with RAPIDO advocacy efforts in Texas.

Water Quality Management in the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Omar Hakeem and Hugo Colón giving Mehmet Boz and David Dilks a tour of La Hacienda Casitas.

Omar Hakeem and Hugo Colón giving Mehmet Boz and David Dilks a tour of La Hacienda Casitas.

Learn more about the Colonias LID program in the LRGV.

[bc] partnered with Texas A&M Kingsville and the Local Stormwater Taskforce during the 17th Annual Water Quality Management & Planning Conference held in South Padre Island. [bc] showcased the role of stormwater management in various RGV-based projects: RAPIDO, Colonias LID and La Hacienda Casitas

Through the sponsorship of the Surdna Foundation, [bc] brought two stormwater management experts to speak about stormwater management strategies at different scales that could benefit the Lower Rio Grande Valley and its various colonias

Dr. David Dilks, Vice President of LimnoTech, an engineering firm with an international reputation for hydrological modeling, shared his knowledge on the management of floodwaters in low-gradient and rural settings. Dr. Dilks has worked on projects all over the country, but highlighted projects in the DC metro area, as well as an agricultural land management project in the Midwest. Both projects were in very flat topography, so they provided applicable lessons to the Rio Grande Valley.  

In addition, Mehmet BozPh.D., P.E., M.ASCE., and civil practice leader with KCI Technologies in San Antonio, shared his knowledge of Low Impact Development and Water Management in south central TexasDr. Boz taught conference attendees that LID strategies can be used in Texas, where there are issues of drought that coexist with severe flooding. LID strategies have been very well explored on the East Coast, but the strategies need to be different here in Texas due to the climate. He showed ways to improve water quality, mitigate run-off and flooding, add shade and increase vegetation. 


 Mehmet Boz presenting on LID strategies, featuring a rendering done by [bc] for a right of way improvement in a colonia.

 Mehmet Boz presenting on LID strategies, featuring a rendering done by [bc] for a right of way improvement in a colonia.

David Dilks presenting a hydrological model done to study the effects of an LID strategy.

David Dilks presenting a hydrological model done to study the effects of an LID strategy.

Both Dr. Dilks and Dr. Boz will be part of [bc]'s ongoing drainage initiatives in the LRGV as technical advisors through the sponsorship of the Surdna Foundation. [bc] Planning Associate Hugo Colón participated as co-moderator during these two panels. [bc] led Dr. Dilks and Dr. Boz on tours of the area, visiting several colonias and the La Hacienda Casitas

Cooper Hewitt to Present "By The People: Designing a Better America."

Learn more about RAPIDO.

RAPIDO will be one of the exhibits presented in the "By the People: Designing a Better America" at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum this fall.

[bc]’s Rapid Disaster Recovery Housing Program, RAPIDO, redesigns the existing disaster recovery system. Relying on a local approach to outreach, case management, procurement, and housing design, construction, and delivery; RAPIDO returns residents to their neighborhoods and onto their land within weeks of a disaster instead of years. Its temp-to-perm housing design responds to the social, cultural, economic and environmental context of the place the system is deployed. RAPIDO partners include Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, La Unión del Pueblo Entero, A Resource in Service Equity, and Texas Low Income Information Services.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum will present “By the People: Designing a Better America,” the third exhibition in its series on socially responsible design, from Sept. 30 through Feb. 26, 2017. The first exhibition in the series to focus on conditions in the U.S. and its bordering countries, “By the People” will explore the challenges faced by urban, suburban and rural communities. Organized by Cynthia E. Smith, Cooper Hewitt’s curator of socially responsible design, the exhibition features 60 design projects from every region across the U.S.

Smith conducted more than two years of field research—traveling to shrinking post-industrial cities, sprawling metro regions, struggling rural towns, along border regions, areas impacted by natural and man-made disaster and places of persistent poverty—in search of collaborative designs for more equitable, inclusive and sustainable communities. The exhibition will highlight design solutions that expand access to education, food, healthcare and affordable housing; increase social and economic inclusion; offer improved alternative transportation options; and provide a balanced approach to land use between the built and natural environment.

“As America’s design museum, Cooper Hewitt empowers visitors to see themselves as designers—not just of objects, but also of ideas, strategies and solutions that improve our daily lives,” said Director Caroline Baumann. “‘By the People’ will showcase the innovative and impactful actions generated through design, and inspire creative  problem-solving at local, regional, national and even international levels.”

On view in the third floor Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery, the exhibition will be divided into six themes: act, save, share, live, learn and make. To orient the visitor, the complexities of poverty, prosperity, innovation and design in the U.S. will be addressed in an introductory section that will feature a captivating video by Cassim Shepard, an interactive data visualization, “Mapping the Measure of America” and graphics that chart social and economic inequalities.

The exhibition will continue in the museum’s groundbreaking Process Lab, which offers immersive experiences for visitors of diverse ages and abilities, from families with small children to design students and professionals. Cooper Hewitt will invite visitors to address challenges in their own communities using design thinking and propose solutions.

The accompanying 256-page book, By the People: Designing a Better America, will be published by Cooper Hewitt and distributed in the U.S. by Artbook | D.A.P. and worldwide by Thames & Hudson. Designed by Other Means, By the People will contain essays and interviews with featured designers and architects, in addition to highly illustrated project profiles. Retail: $29.95.

In fall 2016 and winter 2017, a series of public programs will inspire conversation about innovative and systemic approaches being developed through design. Planned events include a lecture focused on affordable housing and design (Oct. 13), Designing Resilience (Nov. 10) and Defiant Jewelry with Rebel Nell founder Amy Peterson and a participating artisan (Jan. 26).

“By the People: Designing a Better America” is made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation. Additional support provided by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. [read more about the upcoming exhibit here]

To see "By the People" visit the Cooper Hewitt from Sept. 30 through Feb. 26, 2017 at:

2 East 91st Street 
(between 5th and Madison Avenues)
New York, New York 10128

Weekdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.


Rapido wins SXSW Eco Place by Design Award

Learn more about RAPIDO and other SXSW Eco award winning projects.


We are very excited to have presented RAPIDO, our disaster recovery housing pilot program, at the SXSW Eco 2015 conference this past Monday, and we are very honored to have been awarded 1st place in the Social Impact category of the Place by Design Competition

[bc]‘s Elaine Morales shared how the work of RAPIDO has created a great impact in the Rio Grande Valley, and how it can be implemented as a holistic approach to disaster recovery in other communities. The RAPIDO team designed and built 21 prototype homes with families affected by Hurricane Dolly in 2008, as well as designing a comprehensive system that empowers local teams to better prepare, respond and recover from natural disasters without sacrificing home design and quality. The audience feedback to our work was amazing and we were thrilled to have been part of the event and share experiences with entrepreneurs, designers and the general public on how to better serve the places we live in and work with. 


The Rapido model starts recovery activities prior to a disaster. We call it precovery. Precovery means pre-designing to increase the variety and quality of home designs available, pre-procurement to allow housing recovery to start at the earliest, and preparedness and training to build reliable teams that support local jurisdictions and assist families through the recovery phase. By investing in precovery activities communities will be better prepared to recover.” - [RAPIDO Place by Design Competition pitch]

The SXSW Eco 2015 Place by Design Competition validated the need of changing the culture of design practice and academia by implementing an experience based learning approach within the design process through listening to what communities have to say, learning to ask the right questions, and measuring impact.  

You can see all of the award finalists here and learn about some great place making efforts from around the world.

Q&A with John Henneberger of Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service

Learn more about our work in the Rio Grande Valley. Learn more about bcHEROES.

John Henneberger. co-director of Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service.

John Henneberger. co-director of Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service.

As a partner on the RAPIDO disaster recovery housing pilot project, Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service (TxLiHS) has been key in pioneering the principles of environmental justice, fair housing and equitable access to economic resources for all Texans. TxLiHS co-director John Henneberger, a 2014 MacArthur Fellow, emphasized these social justice principles during his speech at this year's University of Texas School of Architecture commencement ceremony. [bc] had an in-depth conversation with Hennenberger about his speech, his desire to advance the principles of social justice, and the relationship that architects, planners and designers have with social justice principles. (This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.)

Read Henneberger's commencement speech here.

[bc]: In your speech, you reference the image of John Wayne playing Davy Crockett in "The Alamo."  You said, "Davy is explaining to his romantic interest why he is choosing to abandon her to stay and fight, and surely die with the defenders of the Alamo." Except for the dying part, when have you had to abandon something very important to you to do what's right?

[bc]'s Hugo Colón discusses stormwater drainage plans with a colonia community.

JH: I’m an impatient guy, and I come up with a lot of ideas for fixing things. I look at injustice, a disinvested neighborhood or an unmet housing need, and I see lots of possible solutions. My natural inclination is to rush off and push for a solution that seems immediately obvious to me. Sometimes it works, but oftentimes, in the end, it just misses the mark.

I wish someone had sat me down in 1975 when I was starting out and told me that I should never abandon this approach. I wish someone had told me then to always step back and make sure I really understood the underlying problem before proposing a solution. I need to be constantly reminded to stand behind good, honest community resident leaders who live with the problem, help them to see the full scope of the issue and not let my ego jump out in front of them.

This approach takes longer. It's more work. It's often frustrating. But digging deep into the real, underlying problems, aside those who are impacted by those problems, is the only way to uncover the real solution.

One thing I abandoned was running neighborhood community development corporations (CDCs). I ran CDCs for many years. I loved the work and the community residents I worked for. It was central to who I was. But, after a while, I came to feel that building another house in a low-income neighborhood was somehow not enough of an answer to the oppressive problems of race and class that were holding back the children of good people.

I had to step out of that housing production role to appreciate what building a house does and does not do to improve people’s lives. Don’t misinterpret this. I think CDCs are a vital part of the solution. But, it is hard when you are fighting for funding and dealing with architects and contractors all day to appreciate the serious problems of race and class that cannot be addressed solely by building a nice house in a distressed environment.

[bc]: You also mention that a design solution isn't enough to address problems of segregation and affordable housing. What is your philosophy about community building to get at those "underlying problems before you begin design.”

[bc]'s Elaine Morales discusses assembly of the CORE with construction workers during the RAPIDO project.

JH: First and foremost, we have to avoid building on a foundation of injustice. Jim Crow segregation created existing residential patterns. We must stop reenforcing those patterns and stop accepting racial and economic segregation.

It is not acceptable to confine more generations of children to concentrated poverty, environmental blight, failed schools and high crime. We have to accept responsibility for our roles as planners, architects, community development corporations, government officials and citizens by confronting the extent and depth of this problem of distressed neighborhoods and concentrated poverty.

When we participate in housing development that continues to stack poor families into these communities, no matter if it is a cool design, what level of LEED certification it earns, or what local political leader has championed it, we are as guilty of practicing discrimination as the folks in our positions were in the 1950s.

We will never transform distressed communities into good places to live simply by providing more and better subsidized housing there. It will take real commitment to comprehensively address public infrastructure, environmental hazards, public safety, employment opportunities and crime. It’s easy to throw up more affordable housing in distressed communities, but it is wrong for the people who live there.

Similarly, when we push poor families of color out of a historic neighborhood that is in the process of transitioning to a high opportunity, desirable place to live, we are engaged in an act of racial discrimination.

We have to stop acting like we are doing something good and noble when we build on apartheid and segregation. As leaders in affordable housing and community revitalization, we have to confront existing patterns and practices and demand justice. This is a social responsibility of design and planning that we have to accept.

[bc]: What is the role of partners in your work?

Juanita Valdez-Cox, a bcHERO. 

JH: We want to see problems solved. The people who have to lead in that are the people who live with the problem. So, we stand behind grassroots community leaders and provide them with information, help them discover options for solutions, and find other forms of help, like architects, planners and CDCs to implement the solutions.

The work we are involved with in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is a good example. Low-income colonia residents first come together through community organizing groups to frame the agenda for change. [bc] helps assess the causes of the problems identified by colonia residents and finds solutions in areas like drainage and home design. Local CDCs like the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville put the solutions on the ground. The role of my organization is to understand and assess the policies that have produced the problem and to help colonia residents get their hands on the levers of power to change those policies.

[bc]: You told us about several of the important influences in your life in your speech. Who else would you add to that list if you could?

JH: My heroes are people who solve problems for people who are poor and oppressed. The people who most influenced my life are a number of very wise and brave African-American and Hispanic neighborhood leaders who stand up to the power of the government, powerful wealthy interests and general public apathy to demand justice on behalf of their families and their neighbors. For the most part, these are women who are not well known outside the community where they live and work.

The neighborhood center director in the freedman’s community of Clarksville in Austin was my first mentor. Ora Lee Nobles, a neighborhood leader in East Austin who fought against urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s, is another. Others include Sister Amalia Rios, who helped found an early Texas community development corporation, Juanita Valdez-Cox, and Lourdes Flores, who lead the fight for basic public services for immigrants and other poor Texas families living in colonias. I can name about a hundred folks like these who are unsung heroes.

[bc]: You've been very busy the past few years on the disaster recovery housing front. What else needs to happen there? Anything new on your horizon that you're focusing on?

JH: Local communities need to plan in advance of a disaster for how they will help people rebuild their homes, especially poor people, the elderly, people living with disabilities and working class folks. Local citizens need to look at their communities and ask themselves, “What kind of community to we want to be? Do we want to rebuild what we have, or do we want to rebuild an inclusive, safe, diverse community?"

Once we decide that, then city officials, neighborhood leaders, planners, builders and other stakeholders need to decide how to get there. That will mean planning before disaster strikes so we have time to think the process through and get it right. It also means cities working cooperatively with the State of Texas, HUD and FEMA to create a plan that everyone can support to implement a local vision. That is what the RAPIDO pilot program that [bc], the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, Texas A&M and community groups in the Lower Rio Grande Valley have shown is possible.

We are also working on issues of neighborhood inequality with organized grassroots groups in the Valley, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. It is really the same work we have been doing for the past forty years. But, we are always learning and thrilled and inspired by discovering new local grassroots community leaders who are committed to speaking up for what’s right.

Community Design Lessons at Structures for Inclusion 2015

Learn more about RAPIDO and DR2, our solutions to post-disaster recovery housing.

From April 11-12, [bc] presented at the Structures for Inclusion conference in Detroit, MI and learned from other examples of public interest design. Elaine Morales-Díaz contributed to the discussion on the role of resiliency in public interest design by presenting the disaster recovery housing program, a context-based, innovative model for disaster relief housing that encompasses all of the tenets of resiliency. Resiliency not only includes recovering from a disaster, but preparing for recovery in a comprehensive way (also known as "pre-covery") that allows local teams to respond & adapt to current or sudden adversities without sacrificing community engagement, home design, or home quality.  Projects from Detroit and other resilient cities were presented to practitioners of public interest architecture & design, who were challenged to incorporate community engagement principles into questions of urban revitalization and resilience.

Structures for Inclusion is an annual conference hosted by Design Corps that features SEED Award winners. The SEED Award is given to design and architectural projects that have exceptional social, economic and environmental impact.

There were also lessons we took from the context of Detroit.  The Impact Detroit Community Development Guides have resonance for [bc]'s three geographies given that they all face the challenge of dealing with vacant urban in-fill. The guides provide a way for citizens and community members to participate in revitalization and development efforts. Detroit's location also provided valuable takeaways on engaging people outside the design community in public interest design work. A solid methodology is key to engaging various stakeholders, as well as reflecting on what went well during the design process & what didn't.  [bc]'s six core methods of work -- informing, analyzing, activating, mapping, making & storytelling -- are designed for that purpose. Understanding the relationship between design & other elements in the built environment requires seeking knowledge outside of our field. 

In particular, the El Guadual Youth Development Center in Colombia is an example of how architecture can provide appropriate facilities for young children in an educational context while incorporating students into the design process. However, the buildings themselves were a catalyst for social improvement, and their design/construction programs increased the local community's skill set.  In Brownsville[bc] has developed a house design to be built by participants in the Youthbuild program, which aims to teach low-income youth construction skills in the Rio Grande Valley

Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief of Metropolis Magazine, was also a keynote speaker on Saturday night.  She provided sharp insight on how architects can better engage stakeholders and communicate their intentions more clearly through the showcase of projects like Via Verde in New York City.  Via Verde is an example of how affordable housing can be beautiful, low-cost, and provide dignity & choice to its residents. Projects where we strive to encompass these principles include Congo St. in Dallas and DR2 in HoustonDR2 in particular has incorporated housing choice among residents as a key component of the post-disaster housing recovery process.  Szenasy also mentioned how Metropolis' relative lack of architectural jargon and commitment to storytelling makes design more accessible to the public. [bc] strives to make sure its informing & storytelling efforts are relevant to a wide range of audiences both inside and outside the design community through the use of web posts, social media, community engagement events, and neighborhood research.

Overall, SFI 15 was a positive experience, especially for the seven bcFELLOWS in attendance -- it provided networking opportunities and showcased examples of public interest design in a variety of contexts. The conference allowed fellows in particular the opportunity to engage with a variety of practitioners & observe different models for practicing public interest design.

Improving the Recovery Process

Learn more about our disaster recovery projects RAPIDO and DR2.

In Texas, disaster recovery takes far too long and is marred by inefficiencies and high costs. Instead of re-inventing disaster recovery programs after every disaster, we need to plan for recovery before a disaster strikes, allowing for faster recovery time with less money invested to build greater value. In 2009, the Texas State Legislature passed legislation creating a demonstration project to design a better system. The Legislature needs to act again to expand this Texas solution.

Given our work with the RAPIDO Demonstration Project in the RGV and Disaster Recovery Round 2 in Houston, we joined with our partners and created a video outlining what needs to change in our Texas disaster response programs.

DRH Program Report

Read more about RAPIDO.

We did it! After over a year of research, discussions, writing, diagramming, and even more editing, we delivered the Disaster Recovery Housing program report to the Texas General Land Office this week. The report is the policy component of the RAPIDO pilot program and an outgrowth of lessons learned through the pilot.

The report is the combination of a set of policy recommendations that outlines high level policy change recommendations, a technical guide that serves as a step-by-step manual for local jurisdictions who adopt the program, and a program comparison that details post disaster housing pilot programs and common challenges.

In 2008, the Lower Rio Grande Valley experienced major devastation at the hand of hurricanes Dolly and Ike. Wind and flood damage in the four county area topped 1 billion dollars; however, in 2013 hundreds of families were still living in homes with flood and wind damage, ultimately triggering a second round of disaster recovery. The purpose of the DRH program is to develop a system that would be able to respond to housing recovery faster, cheaper, and with greater choice. Our program utilized the innovative temporary-to-permanent design tested in the RAPIDO pilot to rehouse families affected by a disaster within 120 days of disaster response.

Disaster recovery planning and preparedness are also key elements of the policy recommendations and technical guide. We believe that developing a disaster housing recovery plan prior to a disaster will remove many of the barriers that contribute to housing recovery spanning into years instead of months. Pre-disaster planning affords the local jurisdiction an opportunity to identify community priorities, understand disaster risks, and develop a response that supports the local context.

While this is a big moment for [bc], the development of the DRH program report would not be possible without the RAPIDO team and partners. This report was developed in conjunction with the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville and Shannon Van Zandt’s team at the Hazard Recovery and Reduction Center at Texas A&M University we would also like to thank our partners LUPE, ARISE,  and Texas Low Income Housing Information Services, along with our remarkable team of advisors. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the DRH program, the CORE temp-to-perm housing model, and possible future legislation. Disasters will happen, and the DRH program is a Texas solution that promotes a local response to rebuilding our communities thoughtfully.

Community Organizers in Disasters

Learn more about RAPIDO and our other sustainABLEhouse projects.

Community organizers from LUPE and ARISE  in Hidalgo County and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville in Cameron and Willacy Counties have proved to be a great asset for post-disaster response in vulnerable areas - especially where trust and social ties are already in place. During the outreach period of the RAPIDO pilot, the Outreach team became more than just a point of contact for the program.  Navigators demonstrate that activities such as case management and social services are essential in the recovery process for families. The Navigators were the face of the program during the application period, providing confidence and support through the process.

As part of the policy development for RAPIDO the Policy team will soon deliver three  main documents: a program comparison report; a technical guide; and policy recommendations. Key outcomes will include understanding and documenting statutes and regulations that affect in the implementation of RAPIDO at the local, state and national government levels. The Policy team is led by Shannon Van Zandt and the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University. The Outreach, Eligibility and Design and Construction teams communicate project progress and challenges regularly to the Policy team in order to identify major policy changes needed in order to implement the RAPIDO plan.

RAPIDO: Redefining Disaster Recovery

Learn more about RAPIDO and our work in the RGV.

Rapid recovery after natural disasters, especially returning families to safe, quality permanent homes, has traditionally been very difficult, poorly executed, and expensive. The Lower Rio Grande Valley, one of the poorest areas in the country, and often hit by massive flooding, is the pilot site for a new and innovative rapid recovery model.

Based on a grant awarded by the Council of Governments and the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB), along with project partners La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), ARISE, Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service and the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, [bc] is working to deliver 20 low cost, rapid deployment post-disaster housing prototypes, as well as technical manuals and a set of policy recommendations to be presented to the Texas State Legislature. Partners and experts meet monthly to discuss 4 primary components of RAPIDO: Outreach, Case Management, Design and Construction and Policy.

[bc] is leading the design for RAPIDO, with CDCB managing the eligibility and construction process. [bc] has established an engaged design process that gives low-income families choices and the flexibility to decide important characteristics of their new home.  Through two design meetings, [bc] led the families through a set of exercises that define their needs and desires. Based on these preferences personalized designs were prepared for each family.

A key part of the pilot is to explore different possibilities for the implementation and scaling of the plan statewide. RAPIDO is experimenting with the transition of a temporary unit (CORE) to a permanent house (Expanded Home).  CORE’s have being built at El Clavo Lumber Yard in Brownsville, and the first RAPIDO home expansion was built at Carolina St, Brownsville in a CDCB-owned lot. The process has helped to train local builders on the RAPIDO strategy and also was a good opportunity to share the RAPIDO plan and the program goals to local groups and the local community.          

What's New with Rapido?

Learn more about Rapido.

Check out the slides below and learn more about what's new with Rapido!

6 years have passed since Hurricane Dolly hit the Texas Gulf Coast, making landfall and causing $1.35 Billion USD in damage. As one of the poorest areas in the United States, the Rio Grande Valley was already a risk population economically and environmentally. The insecurity increased as an under prepared disaster recovery management system left many families still struggling to this day. The Lower Rio Grande Rapid Housing Recovery Pilot Program (RAPIDO) proposes a local approach when responding to a natural disaster. The structure of the plan will be replicable across regions, while components of the plan will allow for local adaptation and implementation as needed. The overarching program design principle is predicated on local residents, organizations, professional firms, builders and municipal leaders, working with some guidance from outside experts to design and implement a Statewide plan proposal. RAPIDO’s program goals are two-fold: (1) Have a system up and ready to conduct outreach and intake within 20 to 30 days of a disaster and (2) Have a family back in their home on their property within 120 days of client application.

RAPIDO rethinks the actual reconstruction model to increase the availability of affordable housing and improve the quality of housing built after a disaster. The design process examines not only architectural issues but every level of the process, specifically the social, economic and political contexts that make up a disaster scenario. RAPIDO is understanding, and re-designing the entire process in order to integrate the relief and recovery phases allowing a rapid response. RAPIDO’s construction strategy is phased in two parts. In phase one families will receive a standardized “CORE” home that contains essential living facilities, Families will reside in their core until resources and time allow for expansion, at which point (second phase) homes will be added on to accommodate long-term family needs and desires.  The pilot program will build 20 prototype units for residents of Willacy, Cameron and Hidalgo County affected by Hurricane Dolly (2008).

Rapido 2.0

Learn more about Rapido.

On June 6th 2013, bcWORKSHOP submitted a response to the LRGVDC Rapid Housing Recovery Pilot Program (RHRPP) RFP as part of a team including the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) and Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC).  Building off of previous research, community engagement activities, design work, and a prototype home completed in 2012, the team - comprised of both local stakeholders and national experts - will complete the following:

  1. Design of a locally informed and driven Rapid Housing Recovery Pilot Program to be used throughout the State of Texas as described in HB2450.
  2. Demonstrate and test the feasibility of implementing a plan for the large-scale production of replacement housing for survivors of federally declared natural disasters through the construction of twenty prototype homes in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties.
  3. Provide analysis based on RHRPP system monitoring that indicates program successes, challenges, and recommendations for improvements that will inform the GLO’s disaster housing delivery plan statewide.

If selected, the team is expected to receive a contract at the end of June and will immediately begin process and policy design work.  It is anticipated that the construction of all twenty prototype homes and program reporting will be completed by November of 2014.


Watch for future Rapido posts here.

On July 23rd, 2008, Hurricane Dolly made landfall in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley causing widespread flooding and sustained winds of over 120mph. Low income residents in Cameron and Hildago Counties were hit hard, losing over $152 million dollars in housing related damages and contributing to a sum LRGV loss of $1 billion. As a result, the Texas Natural Disaster Housing Reconstruction Committee assembled a plan to design a statewide rapidly deployable replacement housing system for victims of federally declared natural disasters. Rapido is bcW’s response to the state’s initiative, addressing issues of social equity, rapid deployment, and constructability.

bcWORKSHOP’s disaster reconstruction strategy engages residents throughout the reconstruction process and contributes to the sustainable growth of place by enabling communities to recover quickly and allowing families to rebuild thoughtfully. Prior to beginning design work, bcW held several community workshops with Cameron County residents to determine what functions are most essential to one's home life after a disaster occurs and to prioritize home activity adjacencies.

Informed by resident input, a two-phased construction strategy was developed to enable rapid response after a disaster.  In phase one, qualified families will immediately receive a standardized phase one home that contains essential living facilities. Phase one homes will be constructed from a wet core module and a flat packed wall, roof, and floor panel system. The module and flat-pack panels will be individually built off-site and quickly assembled on site.  Families will reside in their “phase one home” until resources and time allow for expansion, at which point homes will be altered to accommodate long-term family needs and desires (site built phase two home). Between phase one and phase two, families will receive an expansion kit-of-parts catalogue and design consultation to help guide them in making informed decisions regarding home expansion. Individual design consultations will enable clients to personalize their space to meet their family needs and desires. Reconstructing in this manner creates communities of varied housing stock and visual interest as well as contributes to the long-term growth of Cameron County as a place.

bcWORKSHOP, in partnership with the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville, will be demonstrating and testing bcW’s Rapido strategy through the construction of several prototype homes for families affected by Hurricane Dolly. Prior to prototyping in the LRGV,  bcWORKSHOP demonstrated its first Rapido prototype at SMU’s Engineering & Humanity Week, April 15th-20th 2012. E&H week provided an opportunity to directly test Rapido’s construction process, deployment method, and performance to further inform future prototype designs.

Design of the second Rapido prototype is currently underway based on analysis and feedback received from round one prototyping.