Rebuilding with Design

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, “the U.S. needs to work on its long-term resiliency planning,” said Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, at The Atlantic’s Energy + Infrastructure forum in Washington, D.C. To give that effort a major boost, HUD launched the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Task Force, as well as the Rebuild by Design international design competition to find the “best architects, landscape architects, engineers” to create real-world models of climate-resilient design in Sandy-affected areas. HUD has some $2 billion to spend on the winning designs.

Rebuild by Design attracted 110 teams from 40 countries. After the initial set was reviewed, 10 teams were selected, offering nearly 45 projects. From there, 10 projects have been selected across the region impacted by Sandy to move to the final stage of the competition. The ten finalists can be explored in depth.

The teams who came up with the designs are all deeply multi-disciplinary. Each involves a major landscape architecture firm. Firms involved include Balmori Associates, Hargreaves Associates, H+N+S Landscape Architects, OLIN, SCAPE, Sasaki, Starr Whitehouse, and West 8.

HUD has made a point of creating a highly participatory review process. All the finalists had numerous sessions with community leaders, non-profits, and public to create their projects and then revise the final 10.

According to the Rebuild by Design web site, the next stage of the design competition will be “guided by the Municipal Art Society, Regional Plan Association and the Van Alen Institute. The teams will transform their chosen design opportunities to implementable and fundable design solutions. The partners will assist each team in setting up local coalitions that may comprised of government agencies, state and local officials, community stakeholders and experts where applicable. Those coalitions will work to engage the public as the teams refine their design solutions.”

Once workable projects are selected, HUD will finance the design and build out of a few projects, with additional financing from the private sector.

For Donovan, the results of the competition will help shape a new approach to resiliency planning and design in the era of climate change. [In addition to managing affordable housing, HUD handles long-term disaster recovery, while FEMA handles short-term emergency response.]

He said “this is real. We need to find out what we can do to protect our communities.”

He believes climate change can become a bipartisan issue, arguing that New Jersey governor Chris Christie is seriously looking at “how to build resiliency into our grids. There’s an enormous amount of cooperation and interest.”

Beyond Sandy, Donovan said much more work was needed to “update our national disaster recovery framework” and better coordinate national and local efforts. “Local government actually leads recovery.”

To further improve resiliency, Donovan called for looking to the Netherlands as well. He said “they have spent a lot of time on how to protect their communities.” Whether building a park or a sidewalk, resiliency there is embedded in every design.

Explore the 10 finalists and submit your comments.

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2 thoughts on “Rebuilding with Design

  1. Eric McQuiston 01/03/2014 / 1:05 am

    New Orleans has been doing this for years.

  2. Richard G. Drum 01/08/2014 / 1:14 pm

    Given all of the “prophesies” on sea level rise and other effects of global climate change that will impact the nation’s coasts in the future, the best definition of “resiliency” along that coast would be retreating all wood frame construction from the beach/dune complex (also known in many communities as the “boardwalk”) a reasonable distance and only make exceptions for those uses that absolutely have to be near the water’s edge and can be armored in an aesthetic manner. Of course this strategy flies in the face of economic development as defined by any coastal community that lives of off tourism dollars or that can plead successfully for beach re-nourishment funding after each storm event. A similar story played out following Katrina’s mangling of the MS coast as certain design elements descended upon the coast with nice graphics and poetic prose about coastal redevelopment; the realities of that redevelopment struck when FEMA revised the FIRMs to account for storm surge and the local building codes were revised. I hope that the design entries from this newest competition will be more cognizant of the realities of hurricane surge and storm-driven waves.

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