Johann Baar

Director of Affordable Housing & Technology, Hilti-Foundation

Mitigating climate change and its social consequences: the impact of housing innovation.

July 14, 2021
 | Time: 
12 -1 PM (Bangkok Time)

Globally, an estimated 1.6 billion people live in what is called sub-standard housing. Typically, these houses are located in the more vulnerable zones of a municipality or city. Coupled with poor quality of construction, they are easy prey for all kinds of natural hazards, including heavy rainfalls, storms, typhoons, or flooding. Damage and destruction are among the regular consequences and cause considerable risks to the health and lives of the communities. The impact on these families who struggle to escape the poverty trap is massive, especially as the number of hazards is on the rise.

Access to better and safer housing is considered key to helping these families start their journey into a better life. Improved housing products, new materials, and well-tested building technologies that target the specific needs and requirements of construction in low-income environments can serve as a game-changer in this regard. Besides affordability, such technical innovation requires a focus on disaster resistance and durability and a high degree of attention to complexity in use, so that also unskilled laborers are able to use and apply these products. Local manufacture and the use of local materials contribute to economic growth in affected countries by generating jobs and income. A focus on renewables and a short local supply chain add a strong environmental component.

The BASE Innovation Center was established in Manila earlier this year to serve as a hub for research and development that pursues these exact objectives. A focus is set on bamboo as a green, resilient and affordable building material, but doors are open for other materials and products to test and improve their resilience and performance. The chance to execute tests of structural and material performance and to improve the sustainability, effectiveness, and impact of a product adds an important component to the innovation ecosystem in the region with its wide range of strong stakeholders and ideas.

Johann joined the Hilti Foundation in 2017, covering a portfolio of projects related to social development, housing, and economic empowerment. In 2019, he was appointed as Director of Affordable Housing and Technology and Member of the Executive Board. In this role, he also serves as a Member of the Board of the Base Bahay Foundation in Manila.

An expert in international relations and foreign policy, Johann previously worked with the Robert Bosch Foundation, where he established the Robert Bosch Academy as a space for multilateral dialogue in Berlin, focused on finding solutions for key global challenges of the 21st century. He also took responsibility for other initiatives of the Bosch Foundation, including the European Fund for the Balkans and the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Academy.

Earlier assignments include positions at the German Federal Chancellery and the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he served as an advisor to Germany’s Chancellor and Foreign Minister on EU Affairs and relations with Central and Eastern Europe.

Following his studies in Germany, Poland, and Hungary, Johann obtained a Master of Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.