What is Rebuild by Design?

Innovating Together to Create a Resilient Region

Rebuild by Design, an initiative of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, addresses structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region, and develops fundable solutions to better protect residents from future climate events. Because of the enormity of this challenge, the Rebuild by Design process was developed to find better ways of implementing designs and informing policy.


Promoting Resilience Through Innovative Planning and Design

“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, HUD Secretary

Hurricane Sandy was unlike any storm before it. The unprecedented damage revealed the true threat that weather events pose to our communities, states and greater region, and marked a new era of public awareness that we must change our practices and thinking and way of living to address climate change and sea level rise. While everyone affected by the storm continues to push forward with the recovery process, it is clear that we cannot simply rebuild what existed before. We need to think differently this time around, making sure the region is resilient enough to rebound from future storms.

To address these challenges, in June 2013, Secretary Donovan launched Rebuild by Design, a multi-stage design competition to develop innovative, implementable proposals to promote resilience in the Sandy-affected region. From 148 international applicants, ten interdisciplinary teams were selected to participate in the competition.



A Multi-Stage Regional Design Competition

August – October

The ten Design Teams engaged in research, analysis and outreach as part of Rebuild by Design’s Stage 2, led by the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, which guided the teams through a mix of experiences crafted to increase their awareness of the breadth of challenges facing communities in the Sandy-affected region, as well as the incredible diversity of those communities.

The teams met with experts around the region, including Government Entities, Elected Officials, Issue-based Organizations and Community Groups, and individuals across the region. Teams supplemented those meetings with their own research. This process included:

•      Participation in Team Meetings, Forums, and Tours from 145 Representatives from 74 Different Organizations, and 157 Government Entities

•      4 Community Conversations with Members of the Public Throughout the Region

•      3 Regional Lunches with Community Leaders

•      Walking tours of over 30 Neighborhoods and Meetings with Hundreds of People in the Sandy-Affected Region

•      Coordination with Parallel State and City Processes

The Teams’ research and experiences led to the development of more than 40 Design Opportunities – sites and concepts for interventions – which were presented to the public, as well as in detail to a Jury, the Research Advisory Group, Government Agencies, and the CDBG-DR Grantees.  Incorporating feedback from those entities, HUD then selected 10 Design Opportunities to move forward to Stage 3.

November – March

In Stage 3, guided by the Municipal Art Society, Regional Plan Association and Van Alen Institute, the teams developed and refined their selected Design Opportunities into implementable and fundable solutions. Working with coalitions of local stakeholders – including residents, nonprofit organizations, business owners, government and elected officials, and others – the teams held hundreds of small group meetings to achieve the level of specificity and detail needed to drive their ideas forward.

From January to March, teams convened hundreds of small group meetings and more than 50 community workshops and outreach events throughout the region to share their proposals with the general public. These events included public programs organized by Van Alen Institute entitled “Scale it Up,” designed to make the teams’ proposals and the theme of resilience accessible and engaging to diverse audiences throughout the region. These events were held in Asbury Park, Bridgeport, Lower East Side, and Staten Island.

April 2014 – TBD

The teams’ final proposals will be exhibited to the general public on April 3, and subsequently evaluated by an expert jury. Winning design solutions may be able to be implemented with disaster recovery grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as other sources of public and private- sector funding.

For a full overview of the competition process, please download the competition brief.