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Letters Of Introduction



l Letters of Introduction


This guide is dedicated to the unsung heroes of disaster recovery and rebuilding – women of courage who are community builders and are passing on their resilient values to future generations. Thank you for teaching us how to protect and care for the places we call home.


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Disclaimer for KEEP SAFE: A Guide for Resilient Housing Design in Island Communities

© 2019 Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. All rights reserved

This Manual is being provided for informational purposes only. This Manual if not intended as building, design or architectural advice, nor as advice regarding your compliance with the International Building Code of 2018 (“IBC”). The information presented in this Manual must be used with care by professionals who understand the implications of what they are doing. Before taking any action based on this Manual, you are strongly encouraged to consult with a competent, licensed professional, including but not limited to engineers and architects, for a formal evaluation of your particular needs as this Manual is not a substitute for professional advice nor is it tailored specifically to the facts and circumstances of your situation. The contents of the Manual are not in compliance with the requirements of the IBC or any other compliance codes required in your jurisdiction.

The reader is cautioned that there is no such thing as a “disaster proof” building. Furthermore, materials and systems frequently degrade over time. Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. (“Enterprise”) makes no claims, promises, representations, assurances or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the advice given under this Manual. No warranty of any kind, expressed, implied or statutory, is given with respect to this Manual or any retrofit work undertaken as a result of your use of this Manual. The information, services, products and materials contained in this Manual, including but not limited to text, graphics, artwork, photographs, illustrations, and data, are provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis without warranty or other obligation of any kind. All risk of use lies with the user. Enterprise will not be liable for any consequences arising from the use of, or reliance on, any source material and external courses and links.

Furthermore, this Manual is in no way intended as an endorsement or promotion by Enterprise of any services or products provided by any third party vendor and your use of any such products or services is at your own risk. Enterprise disclaims all representations and warranties regarding the functionality and performance of any such third party products or services. Neither Enterprise nor its officers, board members, advisers, directors, employees, consultants, agents, affiliates, successors and assigns (collectively, the “Enterprise Parties”) will be liable for any damage, direct, indirect or consequential, that may result from, or be related to, the content within this Manual or any retrofit work undertaken as a result of your use of this Manual and you expressly agree to waive and release all claims, demands, suits, damages, and liabilities, of any nature whatsoever, against the Enterprise Parties relating to the advice, information or services provided to you as part of the Manual.



Ada Monzón




In 2017, Hurricane Irma’s and Hurricane Maria’s passage through the Caribbean brought several challenges, but also a valuable lesson on the importance of togetherness, safe housing, and building community resilience. This document is inspired by and directed to all Puerto Ricans, and it summarizes strategies developed and tested for resiliency in the face of these catastrophic natural disasters.

We faced the most difficult experience of our lifetime with these devastating hurricanes, but we pulled together through hard work, the collaboration of many organizations, and government efforts. We are known for our warm hospitality and diversity, but we know Mother Nature is changing around us, testing our emotional strength to withstand the harshest conditions. No matter where we live, our profession or level of expertise, we need to face the challenges climate change brings with courage and resilience.

Governments, universities, businesses, professional institutions and communities need to be committed to education and building a safer and stronger Puerto Rico. Decision makers in housing need to make housing facilities more resilient and able to harness natural resources in order to stave off risks from natural hazards. Hurricanes are natural events, and Category 4 and 5 hurricanes are more frequent globally due to climate change, but these disasters are related to the actions people and communities take. We need to consider scientific knowledge to build safer communities. Now, there are unprecedented opportunities to create resilient communities, and to protect life and property.

Hurricane Maria has had devastating effects on every system that supports day-to-day life: power and water systems, communications, economic development, education, food supply, health care, social services, transportation, and more. Rebuilding after Maria will take a long time and needs to be based around strong communities.

Education is our best way to empower communities so that they can take control of and shape their future. Housing—the cornerstone of healthy communities—is essential and should be as much about improving the quality of life for people as building homes. We are all hopeful, and we look forward to building a safer future as a weather-ready nation.

— Ada Monzón




By Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz - Architect

Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz




In the early morning hours of September 20, 2017, I found myself locked inside my apartment in San Juan with my wife and three daughters. This was not the first time we had experienced a hurricane in Puerto Rico, and that might be why we decided to stay on the island and brave out the storm. The roar of the sea, the hiss of the wind and the intense rain that hammered against our glass windows, foreshadowed one of the most devastating hurricanes of the past century. For hours, my only defense was to hug my terrified daughters, and hold on to my wife, to lessen the anxiety and fear I felt as a direct result of the general lack of preparedness we faced during this catastrophic event.

Both Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which hit land in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and later on the mainland in the United States, caused the loss of thousands of lives, separated families, weakened infrastructure, destroyed the environment, and caused billions of dollars in property damage. However, the biggest challenge of these climatic disasters in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands was what happened afterwards. The situation was truly dire. We could not communicate with the outside world nor even amongst ourselves. We could not work. We could not buy anything. There was no water. There was no light. And all was due to the fact that we had had not mapped out our resilience strategies beforehand

But what is resilience? The term comes from the Latin “resiliere” which means durability, elasticity, or the ability to recover with speed after a great difficulty. In 2017, WE learned that rebuilding after a natural disaster of this magnitude is much more than simply raising up damaged or destroyed structures. Indeed, natural disasters offer up opportunities to employ better construction techniques, to utilize new construction materials, and to implement new strategies of resistant and sustainable design that better meet the needs of the people before, during, and after such catastrophes. We learned how important it is to support each other as human beings through our shared communities and citizen collaboration and education

This manual was born from that desire. So, we can educate both working professionals and the general public on how to be better prepared for the next disaster. Thus armed, we will rise again with greater impetus, flexibility, and ease—to not only survive, this time, but to thrive


Two months after Hurricane Maria, my Enterprise colleagues and I visited Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to identify how we could support the recovery. We had been doing work in Puerto Rico for nearly twenty years, so while we did not yet know how we could support long-term rebuilding, we felt urgently that we must. After our team strategized and packed emergency supplies to give to partners in the San Juan area, Ponce, Caguas, Mayaguez and St. Croix, we walked the dark streets of Old San Juan, sparingly lit with generators whose hums were a deafening reminder of the impact of Hurricane Maria.

As we navigated from location to location, under the direction of Michelle Sugden Castillo, across Puerto Rico and the USVI, we saw electrical lines down all around us, fallen trees and debris. But what struck us most deeply was the devastation Maria had unleashed on people’s homes. And yet despite all that had occurred, we saw community leaders who had risen up to provide resources and deliver water, hot meals and replacements for damaged items. We saw the strength and fortitude of communities that, though impacted, were never defeated. We saw people working together to support one another during the most trying of times.

We were moved to create a resource to enable people to build back stronger, so that when tens of billions of dollars of federal aid arrived, the money could be used to protect residents from future harm. And as you will see, we wanted to provide ideas for rebuilding homes that take advantage of natural solutions to existing challenges, like using plantings to fight erosion.

This book is a tribute to the resiliency of the people impacted by the storms.

This rebuilding manual was created collaboratively with the input of more than 100 people in Puerto Rico, the USVI and on the mainland, many of whom provided their expertise while managing the rebuilding of their own homes.

I would especially like to recognize and thank the manual’s creator and greatest champion, Laurie Schoeman, without whom it would not exist.

I want to also recognize Erika Ruiz, who leads all of Enterprise’s recovery work in Puerto Rico; Patrick Jordan and Jelani Newton, who leads Enterprise’s recovery work in the USVI; and Marion McFadden, who leads Enterprise’s recovery and resilience work nationwide.

Special thanks to The New York Community Trust, Hurricane Relief Fund and U.S. Caribbean Strong Relief Fund at The Miami Foundation, and Unidos por Puerto Rico for their generous support which made this guide possible.

This guide represents one of our key contributions toward a resilient future for Puerto Rico, the USVI and other island communities working to protect housing from risks of natural hazards.


— Laurie Schoeman, Director, Resilience and Recovery Enterprise Community Partners


The production team on Keep Safe includes experts from a range of generations, disciplines and communities who had the courage and fortitude to commit to this project and work tirelessly to bring Keep Safe into existence.

Laurie Schoeman, Enterprise Community Partners

Antonio Vázquez, School of Architecture, UPR-Río Piedras

María Roldán, Perkins and Will

Larisa Ovalles Paulino, MIT Urban Risk Lab

Olaf Feliciano, Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico

Ashley Roselló, Enterprise Community Partners

Tamara Pérez, School of Architecture, UPR-Río Piedras

Amy Madonald, Thornton Tomasetti

Miho Mazereeuw, Director MIT Urban Risk Lab

Jen Mahan, Thornton Tomasetti

Natalie Rivera Negrón, UPR-Río Piedras

OGMA Language Studio

Yanel De Ángel, Perkins and Will

Patrick Seymour, @TsangSeymour

Anna Georas, University of Puerto Rico, Architecture

Erika Ruiz, Enterprise Community Partners

Antonio Garate, Álvarez- Díaz & Villalón

Janice Barnes, Climate Adaptation Partners Investigación

Michelle Sugden-Castillo, Consulting

Janet McIlvaine, Florida Solar Center

Ernesto Cruz, Fideicomiso de Ciencia Tecnología e Investigación

Carlos Colon, Florida Solar Center

Cynthia Barton, Architect Partners


Laurie Schoeman, National Director, Resilience Enterprise Community Partners

Antonio Vázquez Rosado, Lead Diagrams, Content, Editing, Photographs, Antonio Vazquez, School of Architecture, UPR-Río Piedras

María Roldán, Lead Editor, Content, Perkins and Will

Olaf Feliciano, Content, Diagrams, Research, Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Ashley Roselló-Cintrón, Content, Photographs, Community, Editing, Austin W. Marxe School, CUNY and Enterprise Community Partners

Tamara Pérez, Content, Diagrams, Photographs, Research, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Rebecca González Morales, Content, Diagrams, Research, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Patrick Seymour, Book Design and Creative Direction, @TsangSeymour

Natalie Rivera Negrón, Lead Community Liason, Escuela Graduada de Planificación, UPR-Río Piedras

Carla Bauzá López, Editing, Translation, OGMA Language Studio

Margarita Bulli, Editing, Translation, OGMA Language Studio

Diana Campo, Editing, Translation, OGMA Language Studio

Adalberto Martínez, Lead Photographer, Adalberto Martinez Productions

Cynthia Barton, Editing, Architect

Shelby Oneill, Diagrams, Enterprise Community Partners

Larisa Ovalles Paulino, MIT Urban Risk Lab

Jean Carlos Vega Diaz, MIT Urban Risk Lab


Yanel De Ángel, Perkins and Will

Fernando Abruña Avena, Abruña and Musgrave Architects

Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz, Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon

Anna Georas, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Carlos Colón, Florida Solar Energy Center

Emilio Colón Zavala, Asociación de Constructores de Puerto Rico

Ernesto Cruz, Fideicomiso de Ciencia Tecnología e Investigación

Dennis G. González, Departamento de Vivienda de PR

Antonio Garate, Álvarez-Díaz & Villalon

Bill Keegan, Heart 911

Lucilla Fuller Marvel, Community Planner and Writer

Jonathan Marvel, Resilient Power Puerto Rico

Marion Mollegan, McFadden, Enterprise Community Partners

Janet McIlvaine, Florida Solar Energy Center

Norma Peña, Escuela Graduada de Planificación, UPR-Río Piedras

Ada Monzón, Principal Meteoróloga de Puerto Rico

Jeff Sonne, Florida Solar Energy Center

Michelle Sugden-Castillo, Michelle Sugden Castillo Consulting

Robin Vieira, Florida Solar Energy Center

Nicole Gudzowsky, Enterprise Community Partners

Amy Macdonald, Thornton Tomasetti

Jen Mahan, Thornton Tomasetti

Erika Ruiz, Enterprise Community Partners

Illya Azarof, Plus Lab

Janice Barnes, Climate Adaptation Strategies

Manuel Bermúdez, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Miho Mazereeuw, MIT Urban Risk Lab

David Moses, MIT Urban Risk Lab

Mayra Jiménez, Escuela Graduada de Architectura, UPR-Río Piedras

María Concepción, Oxfam


Rosalina Abreu, Asociación Recreativa y Educativa Comunal del Barrio Marinana, INC (ARECMA)

Carlos Acosta Pérez, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Stuart Adams, Stantec Inc.

Tom Allen, International Code Concil

Félix Aponte, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Luis Aponte-Bermúdez, Colegio de Ingeniería, UPR-Mayagüez

Chloe Arnow, Enterprise Community Partners

Chris Ballas, Heart 911

Nicole Barbosa Rodríguez Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Daniel Bass, Building Science Branch, FEMA

Lee Beaulac, Beaulac Associates, LLC

Jim Bell, Bio-Microbics, Inc.

Antoinette Beltrán Meléndez, Hogar Albergue para Niños

Vionett Benitez Muñoz, Benítez Brugueras & Cruz

Nayla Bezares, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

Joel Blanco-González, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region II

Enrique Blane-Palmer, EBP Design Group

Malu Blazquez Arzuaga, ReImagina Puerto Rico

Shannon Burke, American Planning Association

Israel Campos, Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority

Alex Carey, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

Luis Carlos, Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña

David Carrasquillo-Medrano, Planificación Cartografía & GIS, Inc

Humberto Cavallin, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Ruperto Chaparro Serrano, Sea Grant Program, UPR-Mayagüez

Leslie Chapman-Henderson, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

Tom Chase, New Ecology

William K. Collazo, Pieri Architects

Michael Collins, Build Change

Elizabeth Colón Rivera, Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc.

Carmen Concepción, Escuela Graduada de Planificación, UPR- Río Piedras

Paul Craig, South Central Public Health Department Idaho

Alan Crumley, GeoConsult Inc.

Pedro Cruz, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Héctor Cruzado, El Departamento de Ingeniería Civil y Ambiental, UPPR

Ricardo Curet, Colegio de Arquitectos y Arquitectos Paisajistas de Puerto Rico

Scott Davis, 3-Engineering, LLC

Luis Daza, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Olga De La Rosa, US Department of Housing and Urban Development

Vanessa de Mari-Monserrate, F&R Construction Group

Sonia De Paola, AdvanceBau LLC

Jonah DeCola, New Ecology

Ray Demers, Enterprise Community Partners

Eli Díaz Atienza, Presidente, Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AAA)

Rafael Díaz Charles, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Jarrod Ellwell, Enterprise Community Partners

Paul Fericelli, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region II

Irene Figueroa Ortiz, Enterprise, Rose Architectural Fellowship

Nataniel Fuster Félix, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Joshua Galloway, New Ecology

Mary Anne Gambino, Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico

Jesus Garay, US Green Building Council Puerto Rico Chapter

Johann Gathmann, AdvanceBau LLC

Mark Ginsberg, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, LLP

Jenny Guevara, EcoExploratorio: Museo de Ciencias de Puerto Rico

Adam Haasz, US Department of Energy

Jean Hammerman, Center for Creative Land Recycling

John Hayes, State of Delware DeCentralized Treatment

Belinda Hill, Solo Por Hoy, Inc.

Hank Hodde, Smart Home America

Evelyn Huertas, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

John Ingargiola, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Building Science

Edward Laatsch, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Kayed Lakhia, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Jorge Ledon, Jorge Ledon Webster, PE PSC

Suzette López Ramos, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Zach Lowenstein, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Jennifer Mahan, Thornton Tomasetti

Gaida Mahgoub, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Andrew Martín, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mitigation

Elio Martínez Joffre, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Miho Mazereeuw, MIT Urban Risk Lab

Shannon Mclachlon, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Community Planning and Capacity Building

Ricardo Medina, RAND Corporation

Mark Mehos, Thermal Systems R&D, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

José Molinelli, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales, UPR-Río Piedras

Elaine Morales, Techos

Jose Moreno, Architect

David Moses, MIT Urban Risk Lab

Stacy Nathanson, Enterprise Community Partners

Criselda Navarro Díaz, PhD Escuela Graduada de Planificación, UPR-Río Piedras


Jeanine Neipert, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mitigation

Mara Nieves, Comunidad La Perla, Agricultura

Jose J. Oquendo Cruz, P.E.C.E.S. Inc.

Manuel Ortiz, Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority

Cecilio Ortiz García, Instituto Nacional de Energia y Sostenibilidad Islena (INESI), UPR

Jaime Pabón, Moffatt & Nichol

Xavier Pachecho, Dueño, La Jaquita Baya

Ismael Pagán, Colegio de Ingeniería, UPR-Mayagüez

Rafi Pares, RAP Consulting Engineer

Harry Peña, Zimmetry Environmental Management

Norma Peña, Escuela Graduada de Planificación, UPR-Río Piedras

Maria Cristina Peña Carro, Architect

Juan Penabad, Building Systems and Design, INC.

Michelle Pérez Alemany, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Marla Pérez-Lugo, Facultad de Artes y Ciencias, UPR-Mayagüez

Bienvenido Pichardo, Architect

Edwin Quiles, Grassroots Architect Consultant

Lillian Ramirez Durand, Sea Grant Program, UPR-Mayaguez

Timothy Reinhold, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

Jose Requena, Juan R. Requena & Asociados

Natalia Rey, Tiguere

Gustavo Rieckehoff, Oficina Central de Recuperación y Construcción de Puerto Rico (COR3)

Audrey Rierson, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

Mike Rimoldi, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

Luis Jorge Rivera-Herrera, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Community Planning and Capacity Building

Nory Rivera, Asociación de Constructores de Puerto Rico

Omayra Rivera, Taller Creando Sin Encargos - Self Builders

Ing. José Rivera, Infrastructure Director, Autoridad de Acueuductos y Alcantarillados (AAA)

Glorymar Rivera Báez, UMCOR Project Director, Puerto Rico

María Mercedes Rivera Grau, Architect

Kevin Rivera Samuel, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Jose Rivera Sanabria, Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AAA)

Lyvia Rodríguez del Valle, Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña

Tania Rosario-Méndez, Taller Salud

Stacey Rothgeib, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Susana Sanabria, Engineering and Sustainability

Eliot Santos, Colegio de Arquitectos y Arquitectos Paisajistas de Puerto Rico

Jean M. Santos Pantoja, Escuela de Arquitectura, UPR-Río Piedras

Kip Schneider, Habitat for Humanity

Allison Schneider, National Environmental Health Association

Dr. Stephen Schoeman, Master Gardener

Suzanne Shaw, Enterprise Community Partners

Amanda Silva, Habitat for Humanity

Sara Simmonds, Health Department, Kent County, Michigan

Jeremy Simmons, Wastewater Management, Washington State Department of Health

David Southgate, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Planning Pilot

John Squerciati, Dewberry Engineers, Inc.

Danniely Staback Rodriguez, Techos and MIT School of Architecture and Planning

Jessica Stanford, Build Change

Francisco Susmel, Techo

Scott Tezak, Atkins, VP DHS Divison, EDPM

Noel Toro, Abode Communities

Javier Trogolo, Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority (PRHFA)

Patricia Valentín, College of Business Administration, UPR- Mayagüez

Bahareh van Boekhold, Applied Energy Group, Inc.

Eric Vaughn, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes

Victor Vázquez Casiano, Pieri Architects

Pablo Vázquez-Ruiz, Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico

Javier Verardi Matos , Chief Infrastructure Projects Division Water Quality PRASA

Carlos Vivoni, Secretario de Vivienda (emeritas)

William Weber, Home Free

Jonathan Wilson, National Center for Healthy Homes

Miguel Zapata, Zapata & Asociados

Ángel Zayas, AZ Engineering

Jennifer Mahan, Thornton Tomasetti

Chris Ballas, Heart 911

Kevin Farrelly, New York City FDNY/H9

David Caraballoso, Carpenters Union NYC

Jim Earl, Heart 911


Barrio Toro Negro Inc., Ciales

Casa Pueblo, Adjuntas

Centro Comunitario de Caimito, San Juan

Centro de Adiestramiento para Personas con Impedimentos (CAPI Inc.)

Comunidad Corcovada, Añasco

Daguao, Naguabo

Enlace, San Juan

Ferdinando Abruña Y Casa Ausente, Dorado

Heart 911, New York City

Hogar Alberque Para Niños

Jaquita Baya/ La Comedería, Miramar, San Juan

PECES, Punta Santiago, Humacao

Plenitud, Las Marías

Resilient Power Puerto Rico, San Juan

Rio Chiquito, Ponce

Rosalina Abreu y Susana Sanabria, Asociación Recreativa Educativa y Comunal Barrio Mariana, INC. (ARECMA), Humacao

San Juan Bay Estuary, San Juan

Taller Salud, Loíza




First week of spring semester at the University of Puerto Rico Architecture School which had been delayed due to Hurricane Maria.

Student testimonials from Professor Anna Georas’ professional experience internship (IXP) which provides students with professional experience in architecture.

“Sewers lacked maintenance and became worse after Maria.”

“My country lacks resilience, and storms are not going to stop happening.”

“I have no option of bringing a generator into my apartment (in a multifamily building).”

“[The] aftermath is the most shocking part.”

“[It was] hard to be living off the grid, and there were many vulnerabilities.”

“Deforestation revealed where poor people were living; you suddenly found a neighbor when the trees were knocked down by the winds.”

“Social class was not an issue during Maria.”

“We need to empower our people to be as self-sufficient as possible because the public sector is not always prepared to help us.”

“We came together to clean up.”

“Water flooded around my house up to 3 feet and we had to worry about mosquitoes and wastewater.”

“We had to have an expedition to the city every day for communication because we lost cellphone coverage.”

“There were no hospitals open and I live with my elderly grandmother; I felt powerless.”

“For me, the most difficult part of the storm was what to expect after the storm receded and not knowing what to expect.”

“I believe in urbanity. If we huddle together against climate change, we will be safer.”


This guide started with an idea: that homeowners and building owners needed tools to inform the redevelopment and rehabilitation of their homes and housing after Hurricane Maria. Over the course of the year following Maria, over 200 experts from across Puerto Rico and mainland United States came together to conceive, develop and design a guide with the purpose of helping vulnerable home and residential building owners rebuild smarter and stronger so that homes—particularly affordable homes—will be able to withstand the variety of hazards by which Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), and shared island communities are afflicted.

Hurricane Maria reminded the world of the fragility of almost all of Puerto Rico’s major infrastructure, including its economy, power and water systems, transportation routes, building stock, healthcare system, poverty levels, social support for vulnerable people, food supply, and more. The storm’s aftermath also reminded the world of the strength of Puerto Rico’s communities and the progress people can make working together under a common purpose. In times of crisis, housing that depends less on the island’s fragile infrastructure (known as passive adaptability) can help sustain communities and meet their basic needs for safe shelter, clean water, and food. It is clear that people’s way of life and work must change while building and caring for one another so that the inevitable extreme events of the future are less harmful. No matter who you are or where you live, this manual was designed to help you prepare for the weather ahead.

This guide was produced as part of the Enterprise Community Partners’ Climate Strong Islands Initiative (CSII), which is an effort to make Puerto Rico, the USVI, and Florida Keys’ long-term recovery more equitable after Hurricanes Irma and Maria— particularly for low-income families—by helping residents safeguard against future natural hazards. Through CSII, we are working with local and national partners to help communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in three main ways: increasing their resilience, strengthening the organizations serving those places, and accelerating the recovery of infrastructural, social, and economic institutions.

We welcome you to read this guide either in sections or in whole and to share it with your community. Rebuilding with resilience safeguards homes, lives, and communities. Rebuilding safeguards the future of Puerto Rico.


Homeowner or Building Owner

As the owner of your home, be it a townhouse or a detached building, you wield the power to make decisions regarding your structure’s resiliency. You can choose to make major, permanent changes to your site and home to ensure safety before, during, and after a natural disaster.


You may be an administrator of a housing program or are able to determine how to regulate a housing facility or home. This guide can help you determine ways to safeguard the building from hazards or set up a program to fund or support housing resilience.

Community leader

The community regards you as their representative. Your communication and organizational skills enable you to serve as a liaison between governmental/external efforts during times of distress. By taking on a leadership role to bring your community together in the face of an emergency, you are catalyzing a collaborative effort towards resiliency that can persist long after the disaster hits.

Property Operator

You are the legal owner of a property which you rent out and you are responsible for ensuring it is safe and has emergency plans in place. Your tenants can certainly engage in some of the preventive and prescriptive measures included in this guide.


Renting at a multifamily building may limit the actions you can take in terms of fortifying your home against natural disasters because you have limited ability to determine how the building is prepared but you can still provide the authority with suggestions and key information found in this guide to improve your home.

Construction Professional

As an architect, engineer, contractor, master builder, inspector, or other professional in the construction industry, the information included in the main corpus of this guide may seem basic to you. However, it is becoming increasingly important to bear these principles in mind.






  • Wooden Structure
  • Can have Zinc roof











  • Concrete/Block and rebarstructure
  • 1-2 stories











  • “Medianera” or shared wall
  • One owner per vertical unit











  • Multiple owner
  • Multiple owner
  • Up to 3 floors from ground











  • Multiple Owner
  • 3 floors and up
  • 3 floors and up
  • Administrator oversees big decisions
  • Requires elevators











  • Area of mixed use
  • Area of mixed use
  • Uncertain property limits
  • Organic growth
  • Some units are only accessible via alleyways
  • Limited outdoor space (private)











  • Defined lots
  • Defined lots
  • Planned growth
  • Formal roads
  • Many units share walls
  • Area of mixed use











  • Defined lots with dedicatedoutdoor space
  • Homogeneous building typologies
  • Can be gated











  • Irregular topography
  • Lotification size and form varies
  • Dispersed lotification











  • Strictly defined lot
  • Defined areas for parking or outdoor spaces








How you prepare for and respond to risks from extreme weather and natural hazards will vary. The strategies applicable to you and the way you implement them will depend on your construction knowledge, your home’s typology, and its location. We encourage everyone to familiarize themselves thoroughly with this entire document, but you can also read the strategies most applicable to your site.

Keep Safe was designed specifically for Puerto Rico’s climate, culture, and architecture and contains general guidelines to achieve maximum resiliency. As you read, we encourage you to think about how to adapt the strategy for your home and specific needs.

Some strategies are not instantly achievable or rewarding; they might require months of planning and saving and, in some cases, they might take years to produce results. Do not get discouraged or frustrated; instead, develop a plan to achieve your strategy.

For each step of the way, we encourage you to reach out to design or construction professionals for help in customizing a strategy to your needs and ensuring compliance with the latest building codes. Use this guide to prepare for the meeting, ask the appropriate questions, and ensure you are not being taken advantage of during the process.

what specifically applies to you, and providing you with all the options at a glance. While we use a step-by- step approach to explain each concept, the manual’s success relies on the actions you take after reading it to achieve resiliency.

We encourage you to use this guide as a workbook. Fill out the checkboxes, underline, circle, draw, take notes from other sources, and customize the guide for yourself as you see fit.

This document has been designed to help you take the most effective actions to keep your home safe from disaster. It offers an overview of hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities that will help you understand the greatest challenges of your region and how they affect your home. This includes a catalog of strategies revealing opportunities to create everyday benefits as you mitigate your biggest risks, ways to strengthen your community so the effects of a disaster are lessened for everyone, simple ways to take the first steps, and resources to support you as you move forward. For a comprehensive understanding, you should read it cover-to-cover, but each section is kept brief so that you can select a concise collection of the elements most important to you. The strategies, modeled like a catalog, give you the option of focusing on what specifically applies to you, while providing you with all the options at a glance. While we use a step-by- step approach to explain each concept, the manual’s success relies on the actions you take after reading.

We encourage you to use this guide as a workbook. Fill out the checkboxes, underline, circle, draw, take notes from other sources, and customize the guide for yourself as you see fit.

The main sections present the complex and interconnected challenges of adapting to climate change in five parts:

  • Overview of Natural Hazard Vulnerabilities in Puerto Rico explains the principles behind climate change mitigation and profiles natural hazards that present the greatest risks to housing and residents.
  • Strategies for Resilience contains 28 strategies that utilize straightforward language and diagrams to present what you need to know about the technical aspects of each strategy.
  • Each strategy comprises of an introduction to a particular challenge, a description and function of what the strategy entails, how it works, and of ways to apply said strategy through actions to increase resilience. While all the strategies are interrelated to some degree, a list of supporting strategies refers you to the most closely related material, while the listed resources will direct you to more detailed information. Where relevant, there are tips on operations and maintenance, approximate costs, and additional benefits. Finally, different case studies will be shown to illustrate implementation.

The Strategies are organized by chapters as follows:

Community Engagement holds strategies to encourage community preparedness. Homeowners and housing owners can not achieve resiliency without community strength. This chapter also shows how communities in Puerto Rico can build upon the networks that arose after Hurricane Maria to be ready for the next disaster and grow more connected every day.

Additional Resources will direct you to resources that offer more information. Appendix offers additional specific information.



Costs of Variety of Strategies will be estimates and tiered in this range. All costs are only estimates, the following variables will need to be considered when pricing out scope and strategies including:

  • Cost of Materials and including escalation for harder to procure supplies
  • Cost of Labor and including escalation for federally funded projects
  • Timing of implementation
  • Complexity of project and experience of contractor, the more experienced the contractor the more savings there can potentially be.

Cost Ranges

$ $0 – $6,000 **

$$ $6,000 – $12,000

$$$ $12,000 – $20,000

$$$$ $21,000+

**Majority of projects over 6K will require a permit






An event that can potentially be dangerous or harmful depending on varying degrees of intensity and severity. There can be ‘natural’ hazards (i.e. flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, high winds and extreme temperatures) and ‘technological’ hazards (i.e. terrorist attacks, oil spills, chemical explosions).












A hazard event which disrupts the normal daily activity of a society. Disaster impacts are not just the result of hazards, but they are also the product of social, political, and economic situations.












Characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influence their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a hazard.












A hazard multiplied by vulnerability (both social and physical) and lessened by mitigation and capacity to cope or adapt. Disasters are characterized as the interaction between a hazard and the degree of vulnerability experienced by citizens.












Is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters.












The adjustment in natural or human systems in response to current natural hazards and actual or expected climate change impacts. Actions taken to help communities and ecosystems moderate, cope with, or take advantage of actual or expected changes in weather and climate conditions










A healthy material is one that introduces little to no harm to the user. Carefully choosing the types of materials used for a home is therefore critical to the health of its occupants. A growing number of scientists warn that chemical exposure to existing building materials has negative health impacts ranging from the development or exacerbation of asthma to effects on brain development and disruption of the endocrine system.

In Puerto Rico, climate conditions like heat, high sun, and flooding affect how a material stands over time. If materials contain certain toxins, these can be emitted from building products under normal conditions. A common example is that ‘new carpet smell’ which comes from the off-gassing of carpet adhesive.

Heat and humidity cause materials to break down more quickly, increasing toxin exposure. The impact of such exposure varies and is magnified for children based on their behavior and stage of development.

Most people assume that the materials we use in our building products are composed of chemicals that have been tested and approved as safe for human health by the US Government, but this is not the case. Tens of thousands of chemicals remain untested, and yet they are used in everyday products. Federal restrictions against toxic chemicals in products are rare and often limited in their scope. Even known hazardous substances like asbestos and lead are still allowed in many items, including building materials. These are known as chemicals of concern.

Residents, manufacturers, construction workers, and waste disposal workers may be exposed to these toxins throughout the product lifecycle. Even emissions from manufacturing facilities impact those nearby and can contaminate the broader environment. When manufacturing facilities are damaged during extreme events, additional contamination of soil, air, and water can occur.

What You Need to Know

  • When choosing materials for your home, it is important to avoid materials that contain chemicals of concern.
  • By making informed choices, we can reduce chemical exposure in our buildings, in our communities, and in our homes. Informed choice begins with transparency about product content. When we know what is in these products, we can compare and assess alternatives, and make informed choices to avoid chemicals of concern where possible.
  • Our choices influence a huge international market, providing incentives for manufacturers to reduce the use of chemicals of concern and create healthier products that meet our needs at prices we can afford.



Puerto Rico’s Solid Waste Authority estimated that Hurricane Maria generated nearly 6.2 million cubic yards (or 43 football stadiums filled eight feet high) of waste and debris. With limited landfill capacity, soccer fields and other sites were transformed into temporary dumps.

This is a common concern following any major event. Waste and debris need to be properly managed to minimize landfill use and maximize recycling where possible.

Not all waste and debris is easily repurposed. Contaminated materials pose health hazards and must be handled with care. Household Hazardous Waste [HHW] refers to those materials that might combust, are corrosive, or are toxic. These require special care in disposal, as does moldy or contaminated debris. The EPA notes that materials that remain wet for 48 hours or more may need to be discarded as they will likely become a source of mold growth.

For disposal or potential recycling/composting, the EPA recommends separation of waste and debris into five groups: household garbage, construction debris, vegetation debris, white goods [such as appliances] and electronics. The practice of careful sorting to reduce landfill waste also relates to the concept of Circular Economy.

The Circular Economy “aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital.” The Circular Economy has three core principals: to eliminate waste and pollution through design, recycle products and materials, and rebuild natural systems.

The concept is simple: waste less, spend less, and save more.

Much of Puerto Rico’s solid waste ends up in one of the island’s 29 landfills, most of which do not comply with Commonwealth and federal landfill requirements and were at capacity before Maria. Many are located in areas at risk from earthquakes and flooding. While Law 70 (1992), the Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling Law of Puerto Rico, makes it mandatory that individuals, state agencies, and public corporations that generate recyclable waste categorize them as part of a recycling program, only around 10% of waste is recycled, according to the Solid Waste Authority (Autoridad de Desperdicios Sólidos, [ADS]).

What You Need to Know

  • Sorting waste properly increases the likelihood of reuse.
  • Recycling materials saves money, helps the environment, creates jobs, and boosts the economy.
  • Repurposing building materials reduces waste and enables others to improve their homes at a reduced cost.
  • Choosing non-toxic materials for rebuilding or home maintenance reduces the entry of toxins into homes and waste streams and lessens negative health impacts




“The house is the place where both planning and community development impact upon the family and individual, be it in the urban or rural area. Housing represents the micro-setting and end result of planning’s macro-scope and plans. It is a truism that a home is more than a house; a home is more than four walls. Planning for housing must therefore take into account more than the physical structure and spatial requirements; it should consider the social, economic and psychological needs of the individuals and families who will occupy the housing. And housing must be considered within the community context.

It is also a truism that communities know their needs and conditions better than anyone else and this enabled them to be the first responders and, sometimes for months, the only responders to the vast and devastating emergencies caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Throughout the island there are countless examples of community leaders and unsung heroes who continue to work and find ways to survive and improve their communities, seeking information and knowledge that will facilitate their participation in the recuperation and rebuilding of their homes and surroundings. They want to be protagonists and beneficiaries of the longer-range mitigation process as well, working towards a vision of social justice for all.”

This statement from Listen to What They Say: Planning and Community Development in Puerto Rico sets the framework for a participatory planning process where residents and members of different communities are an essential and vital part of the process in all its phases.


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