In the face of disaster: prevention and reconstruction

Disasters of the magnitude of the tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 invariably raise two questions: how to rebuild in the most rapid and efficient manner, and how to become less vulnerable to other natural disasters. The Observatoire universitaire de la vulnérabilité et la reconstruction durable (University Institute for Vulnerability and Sustainable Reconstruction), directed by Gonzalo Lizarralde from Université de Montréal, is working on creating a research institute that will specialize in the evaluation and reduction of vulnerability in urban environments, and in post-disaster reconstruction. 

The institute's researchers include specialists from the fields of architecture, project management, urban planning, human geography and governance; in their approach, they recognise that the difficulties posed by reconstruction projects often result from a lack of knowledge of the complex processes that must be implemented and of the roles of the various stakeholders. Their work is aimed at fostering "South-South" knowledge transfer, in particular when it comes to the fragile links between society, the built environment (urban planning and housing) and the natural environment. 

The institute is organizing a workshop in Cuba in March 2011, which will include presentations, discussions and visits to project sites. Its objective is to reduce vulnerability and to improve the reconstruction process in Haiti and other Latin American countries, with the participation of Cuban, Latin American, Indian and European representatives. The institute hopes to identify and model the best practices used for reducing vulnerability and improving reconstruction in Cuba – a country whose expertise in this domain is well known – and other countries such as Mexico, Colombia and India. The researchers also hope to examine the most appropriate methods for knowledge transfer in these two fields.


Observatoire universitaire de la vulnérabilité et la reconstruction durable


Gonzalo Lizarralde, Université de Montréal

Regular members

  • Lisa Bornstein, Université McGill 
  • Colin Davidson, Université de Montréal 
  • Kevin Gould, Université Concordia