Building safer houses in post-disaster Nepal
The 2015 earthquake in Nepal killed almost 9000 people, devastated 500,000 homes and caused more than $7 billion in damage. Three years on, the recovery program is ongoing.
For Won-Hae Shim, a student in the Bachelor of Construction Project Management at UTS, those numbers have become a reality of her day-to-day life.
Shim received a 2018 New Colombo Plan Scholarship from the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, an initiative to strengthen ties between Australia and the Indo-Pacific.
In January this year, Shim commenced a 12-month international placement that’s brought her face-to-face with the earthquake recovery efforts in Nepal.
“I’m completing my last semester of my degree at Nepal Engineering College, which is affiliated with Pokhara University, and simultaneously undertaking two internships,” says Shim, who is a co-founder of the UTS Architecture and Built Environment Society.
“The first is with the United Nations Office for Project Services, where I’m working on FieldSight, a web and mobile application to help remotely monitor and supervise projects in the humanitarian/development sector.
“The second is with the National Society for Earthquake Technology, providing technical assistance and supervision on housing reconstruction in the worst earthquake-affected districts.”
Shim’s work in Nepal is a unique opportunity to test out her construction management skills in a post-disaster environment. She says she has gained first-hand insights into new construction processes that are making buildings more earthquake resistant, and she has been involved in safety assessments to make reconstruction projects safer.
She’s also learning about the challenges involved in humanitarian-sector construction projects, and is working on a project to map the locations of key suppliers and supply routes in case of future disasters.
As well as building experience in the construction management field, she has also been able to share the knowledge she’s gained during her time in the construction project management degree at UTS.
“The UTS CPM degree helped me develop a solid foundation across the multiple facets of construction project management, including cost management, time management, contracts, engineering and digital building technologies,” says Shim, who is due to complete her studies in July this year.
One of the most valuable aspects of the UTS course is its requirement for students to pursue industry experience alongside their CPM studies, Shim says. She arrived in Nepal with three years of experience on live landmark projects with Multiplex, which gave her real-world examples to call on while in the field.
“Having worked in the construction industry in Australia, I’ve been able to share ideas to improve construction in the area of safety and risk management, and recommend the use of equipment and technology to improve overall productivity,” she says.
The UTS CPM degree helped me develop a solid foundation across the multiple facets of construction project management, including cost management, time management, contracts, engineering and digital building technologies
Nepal is just the first stop of Shim’s 12-month NCP program. She is due to travel to India and the Philippines as part of the scholarship scheme, and has the option of adding additional destinations as the year – and her experience – progresses. The program has already opened her eyes to the opportunities of the disaster relief sector.
“It’s hard to say where my career will take me as the NCP has opened up so many opportunities,” she says.
“However, in the long term, I’d like to continue in the field of project management in the humanitarian sector, with a focus on post-disaster crisis recovery or working in developing countries.”
Learn more about the UTS Bachelor of Construction Project Management.