On the morning of Jan. 26, 2001, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck the western Indian state of Gujarat. More than 20,000 people were killed and 160,000 injured, many of them crushed by falling buildings. International aid agencies flocked to the scene and began reconstruction.

One year later, civil engineer Elizabeth Hausler traveled to Gujarat on a Fulbright scholarship, hoping to learn how she could use her skills to build homes that withstand tectonic shifts. She found that many survivors...

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