Planning for remote regions They also focused on building to better resist future hazards. For example, a raised plinth mitigated flood hazards, while earthquakes were mitigated through seismic bracing on alternate walls, the ceiling and the roof. These braces allowed the steel frame to bend under seismic force, but not collapse. Community-based school construction projects in remote communities pose unique challenges compared to projects in urban centres or accessible rural areas. Often, remote areas are more affected by disasters because immediate relief is more difficult and slower to deliver. Four skilled workers – a mason, an electrician, a carpenter and a steel fixer – as well as four unskilled workers were needed to construct each school. Most teams comprised workers with previous experience, but CRS trained workers if no skilled workers were available. Although CRS provided both trained engineers and site supervisors, the villagers executed the bulk of the construction work. IN CONTEXT Keywords: remote, design, planning, earthquake, winter, steel frame, humanitarian response Catholic Relief Services (CRS) built 104 schools over seven years in the Khy ber Pakhtoonkhwa and the Pakistan-Administered Kashmir provinces of Pakistan following an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6. During the earthquake, community infrastructure crumbled and many villagers were buried beneath stone and earth. Overall, 4,500 schools were partially destroyed and 500 schools were completely destroyed. SECTION III: PLANNING In this project, many communities were remote, some located at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Narrow mountain paths, unfit for vehicles, were the only routes to reach these communities. Compounding the difficulty, the disaster struck in autumn just before the harsh winter, and CRS was pressured to erect the schools before the paths became impassable and concrete became unpourable. Although the project continued for six more years, the winter always constrained the amount of time for construction. After schools were completed, CRS ran operations and maintenance training for the PTCs to learn how to maintain and, when necessary, renovate the schools. CRS supported the PTCs in developing a maintenance plan, complete with assigned roles and responsibilities and the dates and durations of those activities. The buildings have an estimated lifespan of 20 years but are expected to function longer. To overcome these challenges, CRS worked with villagers to help with transportation. Since cars or trucks were not an option, the villagers had to transport building materials as they always have – by foot or by donkey. However, using labour or livestock curtailed the viable materials and, in turn, the design options. Key takeaways In response to the transportation restrictions, CRS adopted a light, steel-based design that was prefabricated. It could be delivered in manageable pieces and assembled on site. Materials were locally sourced through a bidding process, even though the structures were prefabricated. Timber was not a viable option, as the Forest Department restricted logging at that time. • Light materials decrease the burden of labourintensive transportation. Site selection was challenging in the mountainous terrain. CRS aimed to avoid building alongside banks, sloping areas and under the heavy electric lines that route electricity from micro-hydroelectric power plants to remote communities. To avoid and mitigate these dangers, CRS looked to the Parent-Teacher Committees (PTC) for their intimate knowledge of the landscape. 55 Engineers and site supervisors inspected materials and trained skilled workers on how to inspect materials for future construction projects. Key structural elements were very consistent, making quality control easier. As part of their in-kind contribution, community members donated gravel. But there were construction challenges too. In the beginning, water systems in the remote areas had been damaged and were not available to contractors who needed to mix concrete, which delayed construction time. • Remote schools can and should be reached by safe school construction projects. • Seasonal climate patterns can hold up remote construction projects. • Modular, repeatable designs can make quality control more efficient. • A well-defined maintenance plan is necessary for inaccessible communities where constant interaction is impossible.