Programme Index Listing

Main implementer
Hilti Foundation
Ph. II 2018-21 (Ph I: 2012-17)
Total budget
USD $3.8 million
Annual budget
USD £450,000
External links
Swisscontact website
Construya Columbia website
Results and reviews
Evaluation of preliminary impact

Project description / objective

To improve the quality of life of the population living in vulnerable urban areas of Colombia through the promotion of safe, healthy and sustainable construction practices by raising awareness among families and institutionalising affordable training for construction workers.  

Market systems focus

Incremental  housing construction

Capacity building of master builders
Because of accelerated urbanisation, lack of urban planning and a large housing deficit, incremental construction presents an opportunity for thousands of low income Colombian families to have access to housing that meets their needs. However, current construction methods for these houses present many challenges, one of which is the involvement of master builders who are not trained in complex construction work, yet families rely on them. 

As a result, the frequency of poor construction practices increases the risk to dwellings as they expand - resulting in serious vulnerability and habitability issues. 

Programme interventions

Incremental housing construction

Facilitate training for construction workers.

  • Assisted in the development and delivery of training services, either through a public technical institution (SENA) or directly by private enterprises
  • Organised training of trainers programmes, jointly with partners

Partners were mainly construction materials manufacturers for whom the segment of low-income families is an important target group, given the high consumption of cement, steel and other materials in these neighbourhoods. 

Among the eight private and public entities acting as partners, we can highlight Cemex, Cementos Alion, Tequendama, and the retailer Homecenter. 

Training is provided mainly by the public training institution, SENA, ensuring broad geographic coverage. 

Promotion of other services for the housing construction sector

  • Supported the provision of technical assistance for hardware stores to improve their management skills. They are an important actor linking the different stakeholders (materials companies, families, master builders).

Sensitisation of families
For trained master builders to be recognised, homeowners must understand the importance of applying good construction practices and the risks of not doing so.
With our partners (private companies) we:

  • developed gaming strategies to help families gain an understanding of what 'good construction' entails (face to face or in groups)
  • developed strategies for mass media campaigns on the same topics

Notable results (systemic change, poverty impact)

The public training institution, SENA, acquired new competencies, methodologies and tools for training the specific target group of master builders (men over 40, with manual skills but minimum education and lacking in math skills) and continued supplying capacity building with the aim of scaling up the service to other regions of the country. Thus, SENA delivered these services to clients other than the programme partners. In addition, the methodology facilitated by the programme has been implemented in other training programmes offered by this institution. Training costs are covered mainly by private companies. 

The programme partners were instrumental in boosting the training market for master builders and covering its costs, reaching 30,000 trained master builders in Phase I and II.

Some private companies (for example Alion) took the decision to start providing training by themselves and hired their own instructors. 

Impact on poverty

  • 58,820 people live in safer, healthier and more sustainable homes.
  • Impact studies conducted in 2015, 2016, and 2018 show that 60 per cent of trained master builders perform better than non-trained ones.
  • Our last income increase study of trained master builders was conducted in August 2020, during the Covid crisis. These were workers trained in 2018 and up to March 2019.
    The study sought to collect information on the income received in 2019 and observe the changes in 2020. It was found that 49 per cent of the sample reported an increase, which in 2019 on average reached US$ 603  per year.  In contrast, only 20 per cent of respondents reported an increase in income in 2020 compared to 2019, with the increase amounting to only US$ 185. While workers reported an average of five contracts in 2019, by 2020 this number dropped to two as a result of the economic paralysis, quarantines and householders’ fears of allowing outsiders into their homes.

[Uploaded January 2024]