About Rebuild by Design

Working Together to Build a More Resilient Region

What began as a new kind of design competition in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, has transformed into an innovative process that places local communities and civic leaders at the heart of a robust, interdisciplinary, creative process to generate implementable solutions for a more resilient region. Its inclusive process has since provoked a paradigm shift in the way that planners and governments approach both disaster response and emergency preparedness.

Placing substantive collaboration between designers, researchers, community members, and government officials at the heart of an iterative creative process, the Hurricane Sandy Competition resulted in ten visionary design proposals that address the intersection of physical, social, and ecological resiliency.  Seven of those designs are in the process of being implemented in the Northeast United States.

Based on its success, Rebuild by Design has been used as a model for other processes.  In the United States, President Obama launched the National Disaster Resilience Competition in June 2014, “inspired by the success of Rebuild by Design.” In the international sphere, the Global Resilience Partnerships launched a multi-phase resilience design competition in 2014 modeled after Rebuild by Design.

In addition to as helping other regions rethink resilience before disaster strikes, Rebuild by Design keeps communities connected to the implementation of the funded designs; explores changes needed in policy, regulation, and operations; and researches the best practices in developing resilience.

Hurricane Sandy Design 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)

In response to Hurricane Sandy’s devastation the Northeast United States, U.S. HUD Secretary Donovan launched Rebuild by Design, with organizations The Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU, The Municipal Art Society, the Regional Plan Association and The Van Alen Institute in June 2013.  This new take on the design competition model that would develop innovative, implementable solutions to respond to the region’s most complex needs.  Named first among CNN’s Top 10 Ideas of 2013, the Rebuild by Design competition was structured as a successive and connected set of stages, established to orient the design process around in-depth research, cross-sector, cross-professional collaboration, and iterative design development. The process incorporated a variety of inputs to ensure that each stage’s deliverables were based on the best knowledge and talent, and that the final proposals would be replicable, regional, and implementable.

Download the competition brief.

A Multi-Stage Regional Design Competition


Rebuild by Design gathered the talent of the world to work with the talent of the Sandy-affected region. From the 148 international applicants, 10 interdisciplinary teams comprising a diverse set of complementary skills and approaches were selected to compete in Rebuild by Design’s year-long process.

Read more about the teams.

Collaborative Research

With the ten teams in place, Rebuild by Design began a three-month enterprise in collaborative, in-depth research. This research stage gave the teams a greater understanding of the issues at stake – including housing, infrastructure, economy, public health, insurance, access to public services, and ecology. Guided by Rebuild by Design’s partner organizations and the Research Advisory Board, the teams toured 41 neighborhoods during the course of five multi-day site visits. They met with residents, community organizations, activists, business leaders, experts, and many local government officials who shared their experiences of the storm’s effects, provided perspectives on the ongoing response, and offered insights on their communities’ priorities for long-term recovery.

Synthesizing their findings, the teams uncovered complex intersections between the region’s varied vulnerabilities, which revealed promising opportunities to address interdependent vulnerabilities with interventions that aspired to improve comprehensive resilience. Local government helped the teams understand their communities’ existing visions for long-term development as well, which allowed the teams to identify the most promising locations and approaches for designing new structures to promote resilience.

By the end of the research stage, the teams had collectively created 41 concepts for possible interventions: early-state proposals that described a multifaceted vision for a more resilient region. The teams unveiled their “design opportunities,” and one for each team was chosen to move to the design stage for further development.

Read more about the Team’s collaborative research.

Collaborative Design

To ensure the designs would ultimately be implementable, the teams worked closely to collaborate with community stakeholders and local government to create coalitions to co-design the final proposals.

As the teams developed and refined their selected ideas into implementable and fundable solutions, they worked with and formed 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. In just 4 months, teams convened over 350 small group meetings and more than 50 community workshops and outreach events throughout the region to work with the communities and share their proposals with the 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 and Collaboration.

Jury Process and Selected Winners

At the end of the competition, the design teams publicly showcased their ten visionary design proposals at public exhibitions in New York and New Jersey. Following the exhibitions, the teams entered the final part of the competition: presentations to a jury that would evaluate the proposals.

On June 2, 2014, Secretary Donovan announced the competition’s winning designs. The six winning projects were the BIG U, Living with the Bay, New Meadowlands, Resist, Delay, Store, Discharge, Hunts Point Lifelines, and Living Breakwaters. HUD announced allocations totaling $930 million to begin implementing the six winning proposals plus one finalist: Resilient Bridgeport.

Meet the Jury.


Funding was granted to New York City, the State of New York, the State of New Jersey, and the State of Connecticut, who are responsible for implementing the projects themselves. HUD issued guidelines for this process in a Federal Register Notice. Each grantee would have to incorporate its Rebuild by Design projects into a broader Disaster Recovery Plan, specifying its strategies for developing the proposals and plans for continuing to involve community stakeholders.

To learn more about each project, visit the project pages.

More information about the Federal Register Notice.


A Lasting Impression

As the competition entered its final stages, HUD, The Rockefeller Foundation, and the JPB Foundation partnered with the Urban Land Institute to design and implement a formative evaluation of the Rebuild by Design Process.

“The evaluation,” wrote Dr. Carlos Martín, one of its primary authors, “found that Rebuild by Design brings hope and inspiration that communities and decision makers can collectively ‘build back better’ by responding in innovative and creative ways and working as a region to become more resilient.”


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.







Lead support for Rebuild by Design is graciously provided the Rockefeller Foundation. Additional support during the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition came from Deutsche Bank, Hearst Foundation, the JPB Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and the New Jersey Recovery Fund.





Meet Our Team

Henk Ovink, Principal of Rebuild by Design

Henk Ovink was recently appointed by the Dutch Cabinet as the first Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. “Worldwide, water is the connecting issue, the number one global risk and the opportunity for comprehensive cultural change.” Ovink is Principal of 'Rebuild by Design’ and was Senior Advisor to the former US Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task. He was both Acting Director General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs and Director National Spatial Planning for the Netherlands.

Ovink is member of the International Advisory Board for the City of Rotterdam. He was Curator for the 5th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2012 ‘Making City’ and initiated the research program Design and Politics, the connecting chair at the TU Delft and initiated and is chief editor for the series of publications with nai010 Publishers, called ‘Design and Politics’.

Amy Chester, Managing Director

Amy Chester is responsible for Rebuild by Design’s day to day operations, management, fundraising, and strategy. She brings considerable experience from numerous arenas of urban affairs, including community engagement, policy, communications, and real estate development.

In her previous work under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Legislative Affairs and as a Senior Policy Advisor, she was responsible for the public engagement strategy of PlaNYC, the Mayor’s sustainability agenda, which included initiatives such as the Million Trees Campaign, congestion pricing, and the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. Other experiences in New York City government have included positions at the New York City Council, where she successfully ensured the inclusion of affordable housing in large-scale neighborhood rezonings, and at the New York City Housing Authority, where she developed affordable housing and a charter school for Harlem Children’s Zone.

Outside of government, Amy has also consulted for numerous nonprofit organizations and on many electoral campaigns. At the Freelancers Union, she was responsible for the design and construction of two medical practices. As the lead organizer for Listening to the City, she led the way for a democratic process to help plan the World Trade Center site redevelopment.

Amy was raised and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Lynn Englum, Policy Manager

Lynn Englum is Rebuild by Design’s policy manager. Her work focuses on identifying and addressing policy barriers to resiliency implementation and working to promote governance structures and regional coordination that allow communities to better prepare for a changing climate.

Previously, Lynn worked at the World Wildlife Fund, focusing on climate change, renewable energy, resiliency, and cities. Lynn's commentary has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Climate Progress, and Sustainable Cities Collective. Lynn started her climate career at the Center for American Progress, researching climate and energy. She received her MA in Global Environmental Politics from American University and her BS in Public Affairs & Environmental Management from Indiana University.

Lynn is a cycling enthusiast who enjoys long bike rides and not getting hit by NYC drivers.

Tara Eisenberg, Research Manager

Tara Eisenberg coordinates Rebuild by Design’s ongoing research projects, facilitating a longitudinal survey of coastal unbuilding, the formation of an international resiliency network, and more. Tara joined Rebuild by Design in 2013 through NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge to support and develop the competition’s research stage.

Tara is a lifelong New Yorker and studied at NYU for both her BS and MA degrees. Formally, her studies have spanned the course of art, mathematics, and environmental education; informally, she is an expert at connecting people, places, talents, and research. Tara is passionate about environmental design, having worked in the green building sector prior to joining Rebuild by Design. She believes collective action and education are key components to responding to our changing climate. You can usually find Tara riding her bike around Brooklyn or chopping vegetables.

Raka Sen, Researcher

Raka Sen is a Researcher at Rebuild By Design. She began working at RBD as an undergraduate on the study of managed retreat in the Sandy region. She joined the team full-time after graduating from NYU in May 2015. Her research interests include the sociology of climate change, urban design, the relationship of infrastructure and climate change and managed retreat.

Raka's background includes sociology, graphic design, urban design marketing, education, and research. Before coming to RBD, she worked at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation on Forestry and Preservation in the urban forest. She also worked as the Coordinator for the Youth in Planning program run by the American Planning Association.

A Colorado native, you can usually find Raka climbing mountains, planting trees or finding new ways to bring a little bit of Colorado to the big city.

Idan Sasson, Project Assistant

Idan Sasson is the project assistant at Rebuild By Design. He first entered the world of coastal resiliency when studying RBD and social resiliency for his capstone seminar at NYU. A Gallatin alumna, Idan concentrated in Sustainable Development and was a yearlong fellow at the Gallatin Urban Democracy Lab where he researched the underlying elements of a contested public green space in Berlin called Tempelhof Field.

Idan comes to RBD after serving as a Conservation Corps fellow at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation where he was placed at GreenThumb, the community gardening division of the agency. His previous work has led him to youth-led educational programming, global social movement building, rural agricultural development in East Africa and most recently, urban agriculture and community gardening in NYC. Outside of work Idan is an avid traveler and community gardener where he takes time to tend to his veggies. He currently lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in a communal home.

Allen Kratz, Consultant

Allen Kratz brings experience in economic development, project management and historic preservation. Allen worked in real estate and economic development for NJ Transit, the statewide transit agency. He was a gubernatorial appointee to the New Jersey Historic Trust, which funds historic preservation. Allen obtained National Register of Historic Places designation for two buildings in Hoboken, his hometown. A lawyer, he redrafted the city’s historic preservation ordinance. As president of the Hoboken Public Library’s board of trustees, Allen is overseeing a $3.2M rehabilitation project to preserve the 1897 library building and protect it from sea-level rise, coastal flooding and extreme weather.

Eric Klinenberg, Research Director

Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge leads Rebuild by Design’s research as principal investigator. Dr. Klinenberg is also editor of the journal Public Culture, and an affiliated faculty member of the Wagner School of Public Service and the Department of Media, Culture, and Communications.

Klinenberg has been studying cities and climate change since the 1990s, when he conducted research for his first book, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. In 2013, he authored the influential article “Adaptation: Can Cities Be Climate-Proofed” in The New Yorker, and since Sandy he has organized a series of public events around Sandy, Climate Change, and the Future of New York City.

Liz Koslov, Research Assistant

Liz Koslov is a PhD candidate in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Her research interests include housing and relocation, urban redevelopment, and the sociology of climate change. She is currently working on her dissertation, an ethnography of the home buyout process on Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. As a research assistant with Rebuild By Design, Liz is helping to develop a survey that will track the long-term social, economic, and health outcomes of post-Sandy relocation and rebuilding in New York and New Jersey. Liz is also a member of the Superstorm Research Lab and the Cities, Culture, and Climate Change working group at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge. Before coming to NYU, Liz received an MSc in Culture and Society from the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and a BA in Communication and Spanish and Latin American Literature from the George Washington University. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Mets, reading crime fiction, and searching for Staten Island's best pizza.

Gordon Douglas, Postdoctoral Fellow

As the Rebuild by Design Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge, Gordon is conducting fieldwork in two communities severely flooded during Hurricane Sandy, examining the storm's impact on community identity. He is also collaborating on a study of social inequalities of climate vulnerability, and helping to design a longitudinal study of attitudes toward climate change and resilience efforts throughout the Sandy-affected region.

Gordon received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 2014. With research focused on local cultural identity, urban and environmental planning and development, and people's interactions with their physical surroundings, Gordon's writing and photography have appeared in Architect Magazine, City & Community, Urban Studies, the Journal of Urban Design, and other publications. His forthcoming book concerns people who create unauthorized but functional and civic-minded "DIY urban design" contributions and what these informal improvement efforts tell us about the state of the contemporary city.


Communications Consultant

Rebuild by Design is looking for a Communications Consultant to help with its monthly newsletters, social media, graphics and relaunch of the website, etc. The candidate will help set high-level strategic direction for Rebuild by Design’s efforts to promote its initiatives, attract stakeholders, funding, community buy-in, and advance the public’s understanding and awareness of Rebuild by Design.

S/he will also be responsible for the day to day shaping of the our approach and responses to social media, press, web, and general outreach and communications responsibilities.

The successful candidate will hold a Bachelor’s Degree in communications, public relations or related field with a minimum of 5 – 7 years’ related work experience or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Experience in policy/government, design/engineering/planning, and environmental communications preferred. This can be a full or part-time position.  Initial contract period is 3 months with an option for an extension.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter with the subject line “Communications” to jobs@rebuildbydesign.org. Portfolio and additional material is optional.