“Build Back Better” signifies an ideal reconstruction and recovery process that delivers resilient, sustainable, and efficient recovery solutions to disaster-affected communities. The motivation behind the Build Back Better concept is to make communities stronger and more resilient following a disaster event. Statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme in 2008 show an increase in the number of natural disasters over time attributing to growing populations, urban growth in risk-prone areas due to scarcity of land, and global warming. Along with increasing frequency, recent disasters show an increase in magnitude and resulting destruction according to studies by the Red Cross. Both natural and technological/man-made disasters have seen nearly exponential rises in the number of disasters over time.
Despite the increasing number of disaster experiences, post-disaster activities remain inefficient and poorly managed and need to be improved according to Halvorson and Hamilton (2010). Traditionally, post-disaster reconstruction consisted of simply repairing the physical damage that has been induced by a disaster. However, Kennedy et al. (2008) pointed out that rebuilding the built environment and infrastructure exactly as they were prior to a disaster often re-creates the same vulnerabilities that existed earlier. If restored to pre-disaster standards, disaster-affected communities would face the same difficulties if exposed to another disaster event in the future. The reconstruction and recovery period following a disaster poses an opportunity to address and rectify vulnerability issues found in communities.
As a result of witnessing the ongoing impacts of disasters on communities, a concept started to emerge where post-disaster reconstruction was to be taken as an opportunity to not only reconstruct what was damaged and return the community to its pre-disaster state but to also seize the opportunity to improve its physical, social, environmental, and economic conditions to create a new state of normalcy that is more “resilient” (Boano 2009). This concept was termed “Build Back Better,” suggesting that successful recovery of communities following disasters needs to amalgamate the rehabilitation and enhancement of the built environment along with the psychological, social, and economic climates in a holistic manner to improve overall community resilience. The phrase “Building Back Better” became popular during the large-scale reconstruction effort following the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster in 2004 after which it became more officially embraced with the creation of sets of BBB Guidelines to steer recovery and reconstruction activities toward achieving this goal (Clinton 2006).