Keep Safe Guide

October 8th, 2019

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Keep Safe - A Guide to Resilient Housing Design and Construction is a new manual for safe, resilient housing construction for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Florida Keys developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Enterprise Community Partners led a large team, including the University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture and Planning, the Puerto Rico Homebuilders Association, Perkins and Will, and the MIT Urban Risk Lab, among others, to develop a comprehensive manual for rebuilding in the Caribbean in the most sustainable, long lasting way in the face of escalating hazards due to climate change. The manual features strategies on resilient energy and water systems for homes; protection of roofing and structural systems; strategies to enable habitability of homes without power; strategies to embolden communities and how to implement strategies outlined through code compliance and funding.

Our contribution, led by Larisa Ovalles with extensive contributions by Jean Carlos Vega Diaz, was the introductory chapter on Puerto Rico’s hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities to disaster. It includes both a survey of disasters on the island stretching back 100 years and a projection of future hazards due to climate change.

The book will be released to the public on October 8, 2019, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Juan, PR.

Netherlands x Boston Water and Climate Resiliency Events

July 22th, 2019

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Last week a large contingent of Dutch business, design, and government leaders came to Boston for a series of meetings and workshops with Massachusetts based organizations working for a more resilient future in Boston. By sharing ideas and best practices, and looking for ways to develop future collaborations, the goal of the trip was to build stronger connections between the generations of experience in the Netherlands dealing with interconnected water issues, and the increasing need for greater Boston to do the same.

We were fortunate to be able to take part multiple events during the week. It was a great opportunity to share some of our ongoing research and learn from others doing important work, both in the Dutch delegation and our local community.

‘Explore prephub’ at portland state university

June 29th, 2019

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Being developed through a partnership between MIT Urban Risk Lab, Portland General Electric, Portland State University and the City of Portland, PREPHubs are innovative community-driven installations tacking disaster preparedness in the community around them.

On June 29th, Portland State University's Center for Public Interest Design organized an interactive planning session to inform PREPHub’s features and to help shape the way people engage with the PREPHub every day and in the event of a disaster. During this event, David Moses, lab’s project lead for the PREPHub project, interacted with the community partners and introduced the community to the design ideas behind PREPHub. The discussion focused on challenges and opportunities around community programming.

PREPHubs are designed to operate off-grid during and immediately after a disaster, providing vital services that include power, emergency communication equipment, information and emergency supplies provided by the City of Portland’s BEECN program. It will also be a place where people can charge their cell phones with power stored from the electric grid, supplemented with power generated by solar arrays and pedal-power. In non-disaster periods, PREPHubs are expected to function as interactive knowledge sharing nodes about disaster preparation and how people can become involved in preparedness.

RiskMap Japan - RiskMap platform piloted during Kumamoto emergency drill 2019

April, 2019


For the annual emergency day drill in Kumamoto, Japan Urban Risk Lab in partnership with messaging app LINE, and the city of Kumamoto piloted a novel approach of using chatbot system to manage evacuation shelters during emergency events. Specially developed for Japanese cities, the Shelter Operation Chat-bot helps shelter managers communicate with the emergency control room directly. Through its guided interface, it collects pertinent data and also updates a map interface to show the latest status of the shelter on the Emergency Management Dashboard. The dashboard is designed to reduce the information overload during a crisis, allowing disaster managers to communicate with shelter operators directly, check the latest vital stats and manage resources.

Additionally, RiskMap platform was used to test the public reporting functions to share flood and road closure information, with over 13,500 people participating in the drill across the city.

PREPhub-Nepal : Completed Paati handed over to Thecho women's cooperative

November, 2018

Urban Risk Lab - in partnership with Lumanti support group for Shelter, Nepal - completed the pilot project - PREPhub Nepal - A a community-driven design innovation of the traditional building type known as Paati. In the Kathmandu Valley, paati - small, public pavilion - represents a living example of collective management of public infrastructure with centuries-old cultural legacy. In addition to improving their role as a day to day public anchors, this project aims to create a place for people to gather after a disaster, supporting communities in these extreme events. This pilot project in the village of Thecho tackles everyday water scarcity, through storage, treatment, and community-led distribution as well as acts as an emergency back up in the times of disaster with access to water, power and emergency supplies.

PrepHub Nepal has won MIT IDEAS Global Challenge 2016, Lafarge-Holcim Foundation Acknowledgment Prize 2017 and was a finalist for UN RISK Award, 2017.

PrepHub Nepal project is supported by MIT TATA center for Technology and Design , Lafarge-Holcim Foundation and locally implemented by Lumanti Support Group for Shelter.

Accelerating Innovation: DesignX at MITArchA

October 23rd, 2018

Larisa Ovalles, Research Associate, presenting PrepHubs at the MITArchA event

Larisa Ovalles, Research Associate, presenting PrepHubs at the MITArchA event

Gilad Rosenzweig MCP ’13, Executive Director of DesignX, Larisa Ovalles SM 16’ Research Associate at the  Urban Risk Lab , Stephanie Lee M.Arch ’19 from  Spaceus  and Arlene Ducao SM ’13 from  Multimer .

Gilad Rosenzweig MCP ’13, Executive Director of DesignX, Larisa Ovalles SM 16’ Research Associate at the Urban Risk Lab, Stephanie Lee M.Arch ’19 from Spaceus and Arlene Ducao SM ’13 from Multimer.

Larisa Ovalles presented the PrepHub project as part of DesignX, a platform for accelerating innovation in design, urbanism, and the built environment at the MIT School of Architecture + Planning. It works to develop and launch new products, services, and technologies by combining MIT’s creative energy with the talents and experience of industry and the public sector.

Executive Director of DesignX, Gilad Rosenzweig, started the talk and was followed by presentations by other designX ventures, including Spaceus and Multimer.

PrepHubs are a new kind of public space infrastructure, designed to embed community scale preparedness into cities.

The event was hosted by ARUP and organized by the MITArchA and MIT Club of New York. For more information about the event, visit the MITArchA page.

Riskmap project is A finalist for MIT Solve 2018 Global Challenge.

August, 2018

Riskmap project is one of the finalists for MIT Solve 2018 Global Challenge in the coastal communities category. 

Solve is an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that advances lasting solutions from tech entrepreneurs to address the world's most pressing problems. Solve then builds and convenes a community of leaders and changemakers to form partnerships these Solver teams need to scale their impact.

Riskmap harnesses the power of citizen reporting and social media to map time-critical information without needing to install any new applications or training. Currently operating in three countries - Indonesia, India and the United States - this platform connects residents, who often have the best-localized information, with emergency managers to drastically cut down on response times. now extended to include Kerala.

August, 2018

In view of the recent devastating flooding in Kerala, MIT Urban Risk Lab has expanded the RiskMap platform to support realtime mapping and recovery efforts for the state.

RiskMap connects residents, who often have the best-localized information, with emergency managers to drastically cut down on response times. Through the live map, residents are also able to inform each other about dynamically changing situations in the city and help each other navigate to safety.

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New Long-Term PREPHub Prototype Coming to Portland, Oregon

August, 2018

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We are excited to announce plans to build our first long term PREPHub prototype as a research platform in Portland, Oregon, on the campus of Portland State University. Working in partnership with Portland State University, Portland General Electric, and the City of Portland, we will lead a series of design workshops this fall, and hope to have the new design installed by summer of 2019.  A full press release can be found here.

Local coverage in the Portland Mercury and KATU, Portland's ABC affiliate.


MIT Lincoln Laboratory Homeland Security Workshop Series 2018

June, 2018


Larisa Ovalles, Research Associate at the Urban Risk Lab, presented “Reducing Risk through Design” during the ‘Technology’s Role in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Workshop’ as part of Lincoln Labs Homeland Protection Workshop Series 2018.

The Homeland Protection Workshop Series is one of the many workshops conducted at MIT Lincoln Laboratory as part of the Laboratory’s efforts to facilitate technology transfer. This event brings together government leaders, national technology leaders, private industry, and state and local stakeholders to discuss key challenges and potential solutions.

Urban Risk Map at Emergency Management Leaders Conference 2018

June, 2018


Dr. Tomas Holderness was an invited panelist to Emergency Management Leaders Conference, 2018 and presented the Urban Risk Map Project. This conference is aimed at uniting leadership from public sector emergency management and private sector disaster preparation, response, recovery, and mitigation. Featuring open-format discussions addressing recent events, current issues and best practices this conference seeks to advance current policy in the DRR space.

Tomas is a Research Scientist at Urban Risk Lab, he coordinates the Urban Risk Map project.


Urban Risk Map showcased at Understanding Risk Forum 2018

May, 2018


Mayank Ojha presented realtime disaster mapping platform Urban Risk Map at 2018 Understanding Risk Forum in Mexico. Risk Map is an open source platform for sharing disaster information between residents and governments for real-time disaster co-management. 

Organized by The World Bank and GFDRR, UR2018 is a five-day event that highlights groundbreaking work, facilitate nontraditional partnerships, and showcase new technical know-how in disaster risk identification. 

Mayank is a Resarch Associate at Urban Risk Lab working of decision support tools to help make cities resilient to effects of climate change


Keep Safe: Strategies for Puerto Rico Housing Resilience

April, 2018

Canóvanas, Puerto Rico

Canóvanas, Puerto Rico

On April 26th, a group of experts from the fields of architecture, planning, engineering, construction, emergency management, energy and wastewater management gathered in Puerto Rico in part to kick-off the initiative to develop a resilient housing manual, but most importantly to receive critical feedback, engage in conversations and discuss the right direction to design and build safe and resilient housing and communities. 

Enterprise Community Partners and University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture and Planning assembled a comprehensive team of collaborators and experts, including the Urban Risk Lab, to develop a decision-making tool to assist housing designers, operators, construction professionals, owners and regulators to determine resilience strategies to make homes safer from extreme weather.

Publication in English and Spanish is planned for 2019.

For more information regarding the April 26th event, click on the following news outlet links: El Nuevo Día, Notiuno, WIPR – Noticias 24/7

"A Better Nation by Design" SUTD Ministerial Forum 2018

April, 2018

Miho Mazereeuw, Delane Foo Wei En and Kenneth Teo Liguang presenting token to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Miho Mazereeuw, Delane Foo Wei En and Kenneth Teo Liguang presenting token to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong came to Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to talk about the issues that affect Singapore and the role of design in addressing them.

In collaboration with SUTD International Design Center (IDC) and Will&Well, the Urban Risk Lab designed a shirt and pin to present to the Prime Minister. These objects are made with photochromic materials that change colors when exposed to UV as a way to alert people when UV reaches dangerous levels and to promote awareness of the increasing high UV and heat risks in Singapore.

This is part of an ongoing research and design series of products to embed design preparedness and awareness into everyday objects.

For more information about the SUTD Ministerial Forum, visit the SUTD page received 2017 ISIF Asia - Internet for Development Award

December, 2017

171221_ISISasia.jpg - Indonesian deployment of the Urban Risk Map project received 2017 ISIF Asia - Internet for Development Award. The Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) is a grants and awards program empowering communities in the Asia pacific region to research, design and implement Internet-based solutions for their own needs, placing particular emphasis on the positive role the Internet has in social and economic development in the region.


Urban Risk Lab participates in the Conference on the Resilient Reconstruction of the Caribbean organized by MIT energy initiative

December, 2017


This conference framed and mobilized a multidisciplinary research and outreach program based both at MIT and in the region. It was centered around three key issues - The Electrification; the “Infrastructure: Blue-green and Gray” impacted by modified landscapes and physical infrastructure; and “Human Settlements.” Prof. Miho Mazereeuw, along with Prof. Larry Vale organized the human settlements vertical that brought together practitioners from the Caribbean and MIT for a constructive dialogue towards next steps for a resilient future of the Caribbean.


Miho Mazereeuw a featured speaker at Dangerous Landscapes Conference in Hannover Germany

November, 2017


Dangerous Landscapes - Rethinking Environmental Risk in Low-Income Communities was part of the Herrenhausen Conference Series initiated by Volkswagen Foundation. It explored the development of integrated risk reduction strategies in regions and cities vulnerable to climate change and rapid urbanization, and specifically examined trans-disciplinary, community based, and emerging approaches to disaster risk reduction in low-income communities.

The title of Miho's talk was Resilient Futures: Working to Reduce Risk through Design and Technology. 


Urban Risk Lab's Prephub Nepal project wins LafargeHolcim Award

November, 2017


This project replaces an existing dilapidated guesthouse with a new multifunctional building. The new structure restores and enhances a historic Paati – a type of covered public space – that was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. Wrapped around the Paati with its carefully restored 100-year old carved wooden columns and insets is a plinth design with a water tank at the center. The tank is used to collect and store water to enhance disaster preparedness. 

This project is supported by TATA Center of Technology and Design and is being implemented in partnership with Kathmandu based not-for-profit organization, Lumnati Support Group for Shelter

For more information visit Lafarge Holcim Foundation project page: Winners of the LafargeHolcim Awards 2017 for Asia Pacific

PREPHub project selected to participate in MIT Design X 2018 Accelerator Cohort

November, 2017


DesignX is an inter-disciplinary program that combines academic discourse, data-informed design and an embrace of entrepreneurship to develop and launch new technologies and businesses directed toward innovation in design, cities and the built environment. 

The Venture Accelerator Program is an opportunity to explore ways to scale PREPHub research into a sustainable venture in multiple cities around the world.