What is Rebuild by Design?

Innovating Together to Create a Resilient Region

Founded as a response to Superstorm Sandy’s devastation in the region, Rebuild by Design is dedicated to creating innovative community- and policy-based solutions to protect U.S. cities that are most vulnerable to increasingly intense weather events and future uncertainties. Initiated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, Rebuild by Design’s aim has been to connect 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.

The competition, which was named one of CNN’s 10 Best Ideas of 2013, included a year of thoughtful engagement and will culminate in the announcement of winners, who formed 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 set ambitious, realistic, more resilient standards of development and infrastructure  that respond to communities’ needs within a new, changing world.


Talent by Design

Promoting Resilience Through Innovative Planning and Design

2012’s Superstorm Sandy was unlike any other storm that struck the northeast region of the United States. As the second most expensive natural disaster in the United States’ history, its cost of the 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 now 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 is a misguided approach; in fact, it would be a lost opportunity for building something greater.  We now know that 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.

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)

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, landscape-architects to regional and transportation planners, engineers and community organizers,  Throughout its initial research, Rebuild by Design has 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

Research by Design

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, led by New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge. 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.

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

Collaboration by Design

Guided by RBD partner organizations, the Municipal Art Society, Regional Plan Association and Van Alen Institute, 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.


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. Final selection of winners will be made by HUD.

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

Rebuild by Design Today

In addition to government and private funding, the winning designs will 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.

Rebuild by Design is also committed to supporting the proposals that do not receive CDBG-DR funding, but that have substantial merit, by leveraging the knowledge built by these teams to explore other avenues of financing.

This may take the shape of helping secure additional government or philanthropic funds for community processes or design studies. As a part of its stated mission, Rebuild by Design also strives to stimulate the reform of necessary policy changes needed to implement the innovations our process uncovered. This support may take the form of advocating for new regulations or finance models and/or seeking opportunities to better promote resiliency in existing policies that will help us prepare for an uncertain future, with or without a next big disaster.

In the end, Rebuild by Design will develop the ideas it has cultivated to replicate, promote and inspire similar processes and designs in other geographies, and connect different communities with similar needs. Our hope is that this expanded knowledge will foster a strengthened process that ushers in a new culture of design innovation and resilience, nationally and internationally. The evolution of Rebuild by Design has created a demand out of necessity and presents an opportunity to take these outcomes to every level. For a full overview of the competition process, please download the competition brief.


Our Staff is Growing

Rebuild by Design provides an exciting, engaging, professional, and fun workplace, hosted at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU. We are looking for hard working, talented, individuals who share the vision of Rebuild by Design. 

Open positions:

Director of Communications

Policy Associate

Project Managers (Multiple Openings)

Administrative Assistant

Graphic Designer

To apply to any of these positions, please send your resume and cover letter with any other relevant materials to jobs@rebuildbydesign.org. The subject line should include the position title and your last name.