Lasting Impacts from Rebuild by Design

A Model for Methodology

Driven by innovation and collaboration, the Rebuild by Design Hurricane Sandy Design Competition became a model to help governments create research-based, collaborative processes that prepare communities and regions for future challenges.

Rebuild by Design uses collaborative, design-driven problem-solving to help communities and cities build resilience. Communities can overcome existing creative and regulatory barriers by cultivating collaboration between designers, researchers, community members, government officials and subject-matter experts. This collaboration remains at the heart of an iterative creative process to address the intersection of physical, social, and ecological resilience to drive lasting change. Rebuild begins by analyzing which individuals and organizations have the best expertise and pairs them with those who best understand the affected community’s challenges to develop projects that make regions stronger, more resilient places to live.

Once project experts have been identified, Rebuild uses site visits, community conversations, and on-the-ground research – including panel discussions, symposiums, and workshops – to help communities uncover and examine problems collectively. During this research phase, overlapping social and physical vulnerabilities and interdependencies are uncovered.

Once there is an understanding of the problem, a collaborative design process ensures the final outcome is informed, innovative, and implementable. Working with government and local stakeholders throughout the design stage ensures all projects are realistic and achievable and have strong community support. Rebuild by Design works to leave communities with a better understanding, increased capacity, implementable projects, new relationships, and demonstrative examples of how a better process leads to a better outcome.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

© Sasaki/Rutgers/Arup | Rebuild by Design

Plans for Implementation

One important innovation that was stimulated by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuild by Design competition was the “resilience values” that the proposals aim to deliver for these communities.

Unlike traditional disaster recovery projects, the proposed RBD projects were not intended to merely reduce risks from extreme “shock” events, like Sandy, but to also provide everyday environmental, social, and economic benefits for residents. To this end, the design teams looked across government services and systems to develop more holistic disaster recovery projects that reduced risks while also alleviating long-term stressors (e.g., crime, pollution, poverty, lack of open space). In addition to reducing risk from flooding and climate change, the proposals sought to deliver multiple resilience benefits, including improved air and water quality, increased social cohesion, new job opportunities, increased access to waterfronts and recreational amenities, among other benefits.

However, as these proposals move into implementation, the grantees are having to work hard to ensure that the resilience values of the project are not lost in translation. Everyday systems and government processes (like cost benefit analysis, permitting, and procurement) are not well equipped to deliver projects that provide multiple benefits across a number of government silos.

As a result, implementation of these innovative RBD projects is requiring unprecedented coordination among agencies at all levels of government to ensure that these projects can truly deliver the resilience benefits promised by the proposals.

View the Timetable for Hurricane Sandy Design Competition Projects here. Source: Georgetown Climate Center, "Rebuilding with Resilience" Report (2016)

© Interboro | Rebuild by Design

2 Years Later: 10 Key Takeaways (2016)

The six winning Hurricane Sandy Design Competition projects were selected to demonstrate innovative approaches for rebuilding communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that will enhance physical, social, economic, and environmental resilience.

In 2016, two years into implementation, these projects were evaluated to distill important lessons about how officials at all levels of government can design and construct infrastructure projects that deliver multiple community benefits. Main themes include:

• Design for and encourage projects that provide multiple benefits • Achieving comprehensive resilience will require a long-term approach • Align multiple streams of funding & administrative requirements • Create more flexibility in disaster recovery • Identify additional funding sources to support long-term monitoring and maintenance • Use lessons learned from project implementation to reform permitting • Encourage coordination across agencies and levels of government • In addition to infrastructure projects, pursue legal and policy mechanisms • Encourage better pre-disaster planning and mitigation • Encourage robust public engagement and partnerships

Read about these challenges and lessons learned in more detail in the “Rebuilding with Resilience” (Georgetown Climate Center, 2016) report here.

© Rebuild by Design

5 Years Later: Reflections from the Designers (2018)

The Hurricane Sandy Design Competition asked multi-disciplinary teams of architects, planners, designers, engineers and academics to work with the Sandy Region to develop innovative solutions to the challenges of post-disaster rebuilding.

Five years after its completion, McGill University’s School of Urban Planning asked the designers involved in the original design competition to look back and answer: What has been the impact of participating in the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition on your professional practice?

The findings are derived from interviews with 33 members representing all ten teams. Results from the interviews fall into five main themes:

  1. Building a Community of Resilience Practitioners: Nearly every respondent became a more effective and more frequent resilience practitioner due to participating in the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition. Some designers had previously worked on resilience projects, while others had not, but both groups report that the experience has impacted their practice.
  2. Intensifying and Expanding Professional Networks: Every one of the 33 respondents describes having their professional network expanded or deepened through their involvement in the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition, and these networks continue to thrive.
  3. Collaborating with Communities: Nearly all participants (31/33, 94%) identified community engagement as a distinctive and important aspect of the Hurricane Sandy Design Competition, and a large majority (28/33, 85%) said that they have applied lessons learned about community engagement from the design competition to their subsequent professional practice.
  4. Mobilizing Knowledge: The Hurricane Sandy Design Competition was deeply interdisciplinary and involved academics in substantive roles both on the individual design teams and through Rebuild by Design’s Research Advisory Group. The evidence suggests that these approaches had a lasting effect on design competition participants; almost three quarters (24/33, 73%) of respondents report having expanded their way of thinking on the basis of interactions between professionals and academics.
  5. Learning Lessons for the Future: Respondents noted that there needed to be future exploration of how the holistic, interdisciplinary approach from the competition could continue during local government implementation and how expectations are communicated for the post-competition period, particularly concerning questions of post-competition government procurement and clarity if the teams involved in the competition would also be involved in implementation.

Read the "5 Years Later: Reflections from the Designers" report here.

© Rebuild by Design

The Rebuild by Design Organization

Today, Rebuild by Design is helping cities and communities around the globe become more resilient through collaborative research and design.

Seven years after the launch of the competition in 2013, the organization is continuing to reimagine the way communities find solutions for today’s large-scale, complex problems. Rebuild by Design convenes a mix of sectors - including government, business, non-profit, and community organizations - to gain a better understanding of how overlapping environmental and human-made vulnerabilities leave cities and regions at risk.

Rebuild’s core belief is that through collaboration our communities can grow stronger and better prepared to stand up to whatever challenges tomorrow brings.

Read more on the Rebuild by Design website.

© Rebuild by Design

National Disaster Resilience Partnership

On September 17, 2014, HUD released a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) - National Disaster Resilience Competition (CDBG-NDR).

The Competition awarded almost $1 billion in funding for disaster recovery and long-term community resilience through a two-phase competition process. All states and units of general local governments with major disasters declared in 2011, 2012, and 2013 were eligible to participate in Phase 1 of the competition. Resilience workshops hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation offered eligible applicants tools and concepts to better identify and assess their situation, engage with their communities, choose resilience building opportunities, and develop strong applications for the NDRC.

Based on a review of the Phase 1 application, 40 states and communities were invited to compete in the second and final phase of the National Disaster Resilience Competition. On January 21, 2016, HUD announced the following 13 CDBG-NDR finalists:

States California - $70,359,459 Connecticut - $54,277,359 Iowa - $96,887,177 Louisiana - $92,629,249 New Jersey - $15,000,000 New York - $35,800,000 Tennessee - $44,502,374 Virginia - $120,549,000

Cities/Counties New York City - $176,000,000 New Orleans - $141,260,569 Minot, ND - $74,340,770 Shelby County, TN - $60,445,163 Springfield, MA - $17,056,880

Learn more by visiting the HUD program website.

© Wade Austin Ellis | Rebuild by Design

The Global Resilience Partnership

The Global Resilience Partnership was developed by The Rockefeller Foundation in partnership with the USAID and The Swedish International Development Agency, based on the Rebuild by Design competition model and collaborative approach.

GRP is a partnership of public and private organizations joining forces towards a resilient, sustainable and prosperous future for vulnerable people and places. The partnership considers resilience as prerequisite for understanding the drivers and impacts of complex issues to help communities, governments, development and humanitarian organizations, and the private sector to identify and enable novel solutions.

GRP is founded on knowledge excellence, inclusive decision making and a commitment to finding new ways of dealing with intractable issues. Stability and assumptions of linear, incremental change are history. Our future will be defined by three drivers: increasing complexity, global inter-connectivity, and surprise. There remains a challenge to increase the attention and investment in resilience, and to further our knowledge on what policies, practices and innovations are needed to build resilience. This is the gap GRP aims to fill.

Developing new solutions and innovations that engage with the complexity of development challenges will not only help build resilience but will be essential to transforming to sustainable and just development.

Learn more by visiting the Global Resilience Partnership website.

© Annie Spratt | Rebuild by Design