What is Rebuild by Design?

Working Together to Build a More Resilient Region

Rebuild by Design was conceived as a HUD competition to respond to Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in the United States’ northeast region. Initiated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, Rebuild by Design connects the world’s most talented researchers and designers with the Sandy-affected area’s active businesses, policymakers and local groups to better understand how to redevelop their communities in environmentally- and economically-healthier ways and to be better prepared. Rebuild by Design occupies a space on the edge of government, philanthropy, academia, design, and community. It continues to work with hundreds of community groups, professional organizations, more than 200 design team members, thousands of community individuals, and all levels of government. We want to work with you. After the year-long competition, Secretary Shaun Donovan of HUD announced the award of $930M to the winning ideas.  But, in addition to this funding, the winning designs will still need considerable support to become realities. Rebuild by Design will continue to work with local governments and communities to ensure that the integrity, ambition and innovation of the selected proposals are included in the built designs.


At the moment, there are no open positions. Please check back for future openings.

Rebuild Competition

“When Hurricane Sandy devastated communities in the region, we were reminded of the importance that climate change will have in all development and planning for our communities to become more resilient and sustainable.”

– Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

2012’s Superstorm Sandy was unlike any other storm seen by the northeast region of the United States. As the second most expensive natural disaster in the country’s history, the cost of resulting damage revealed the true threat that weather events exacerbated by climate change can and will pose. Sandy also marked a new era of public awareness, an understanding that helps us change our practices, thinking, and, ultimately, our way of living to address this new reality. While those affected by the storm, mainly in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, continue to push forward with the recovery process, it is clear that simply rebuilding what existed before would be a misguided approach; in fact, it would be a lost opportunity for building something greater. The impacts of climate change are forcing our developers, policymakers and communities to evolve: a necessary step to ensure that our region remains resilient enough to withstand its uncertain future.

The Rebuild by Design competition, which was named one of CNN’s 10 Best Ideas of 2013, included a year of thoughtful engagement, culminating in the announcement of winning proposals, formed by local coalitions to develop fundable, implementable solutions that will inform new policies on every level. Rebuild by Design and its partners have demonstrated that by working together in this regional design process, we can achieve ambitious, realistic, more resilient standards of development and infrastructure that respond to communities’ needs within a new, changing world.



Promoting Resilience Through Innovative Planning and Design

To address these challenges, U.S. HUD Secretary Donovan launched Rebuild by Design in June 2013 as a multi-stage design competition to develop innovative, implementable proposals that promote resilience in the Sandy-affected region. From 148 international applicants, 10 interdisciplinary teams were selected to participate in Rebuild by Design’s year-long process and competition. These teams were made up of practitioners ranging from architects and landscape-architects to regional and transportation planners, engineers and community organizers. Throughout its initial research, Rebuild by Design brought together the professional talent of the selected design teams with the commitment demonstrated by local groups, government agencies, organized stakeholders, and partner organizations to build a more prepared region.

Read more about the teams

Download the competition brief.


Research and Community Engagement

A Multi-Stage Regional Design Competition

Beginning in August 2013, ten selected design teams embarked upon a stage of intensive, community-based design driven research, analysis and outreach. Teams were guided through a mix of experiences crafted to increase their understanding of the many challenges facing communities in the Sandy-affected region as well as the incredible diversity of those communities. The regional research connected these needs with related requirements for critical infrastructure, ecology and water on the regional scale, while also addressing governance, funding and social issues.

Together, teams met with experts around the region, including government entities, elected officials, issue-based organizations and local groups, and individuals. Teams supplemented those meetings with their own research and expertise. Overall, this process included participation in workshops, forums, and tours throughout the Sandy-affected region.

This research by design and regional experience led to the development of more than 40 design opportunities –sites and concepts for interventions –which were presented to the public and in detail to a jury, the research advisory group, local and federal government agencies, and the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-DR) recipients in late-October 2013. Incorporating feedback from those entities, HUD then selected 10 Opportunities to move forward to develop a proof-of-concept plan, including heavy emphasis on community participation and engagement and with a clear focus on implementation and related costs.

Guided by Rebuild by Design’s partner organizations, the design teams developed and refined their selected ideas into implementable and fundable solutions. Working with and forming coalitions of local stakeholders –including residents, nonprofit organizations, business owners, government and elected officials, and others – to achieve the level of specificity and detail needed to drive their ideas forward. From November 2013 to April of 2014, teams convened over 350 small group meetings and more than 50 community workshops and outreach events throughout New York and New Jersey, to work with the communities and share their proposals with the general public. This process included larger public programs entitled “Scale it Up,” designed to make the teams’ designs and themes of resilience accessible and engaging to all audiences.

Click here to see the outcome of Rebuild by Design’s Research

Meet the Research Advisory Group


Jury Process and Selected Winners

In April 2014, Design Teams publicly showcased their final proposals in person to over a thousand attendees of receptions in New York and New Jersey–and many more virtually through this site. Following these receptions, the teams and their coalitions presented their designs, coalitions, implementation plans and cost benefit analyses to the Rebuild by Design Jury. On June 2, 2014, HUD announced the winning proposals.

Winning design solutions will be implemented using CDBG-DR funding as well as other public and private-sector funding sources.

Meet the Rebuild by Design competition Jury.


Partnerships and Funders

During the competition, Rebuild by Design was guided by four partner organizations:

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge, Municipal Art Society, Regional Plan Association and Van Alen Institute.







Funding for the Rebuild by Design competition was graciously funded by lead supporter Rockefeller Foundation, with additional support from Deutsche Bank, Hearst Foundation, the JPB Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and the New Jersey Recovery Fund.





Rebuild by Design Today

Rebuild by Design is committed to supporting the proposals that will not receive federal disaster recovery funding, by catalyzing further action based on the work done and knowledge created already in the first stages of Rebuild by Design. In some cases, Rebuild by Design might assist specific projects, for example, to secure additional government or philanthropic funds for community processes or design studies. Rebuild by Design also works on necessary policy changes needed to implement the innovations this process uncovered, by advocating for new regulations or financial models. As work advances, Rebuild will identify new opportunities to better promote resiliency in existing policies that will help us prepare for an uncertain future, with or without a next big disaster.

Rebuild by Design will replicate, promote and inspire similar processes and designs in other geographies, and will connect different communities with similar needs. Our hope is that this expanded knowledge will foster a strengthened process to usher in a new culture of design innovation and resilience, nationally and internationally.

Rebuild by Design is hosted at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge, and is funded largely thanks to the Rockefeller Foundation.