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Rebuild by Design Hurricane Sandy Design Competition

Design Competition Origins

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

On June 20, 2013, the Rebuild by Design (RBD) design competition for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy was launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.

The RBD competition was a ground-breaking approach designed to spur innovation in the disaster recovery process and to catalyze cutting-edge projects that could demonstrate how communities can rebuild with resilience. The 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.

The organizers and teams sought to inspire affected communities to rebuild differently in ways that would enhance their physical, economic, social, and environmental resilience.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

Partner Organizations

  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

To bring local experience and specialized expertise into the heart of the competition, HUD brought together a dynamic coalition of four partner organizations: New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge, the Municipal Art Society, Regional Plan Association, and the Van Alen Institute.

Each partner organization dedicated full-time staff to execute the competition’s day-to-day operations; along with staff from HUD, more than a dozen individuals became the backbone of the effort. They led the teams through the region, facilitated relationships with community stakeholders and government officials at the local, state, and federal levels, and tackled a complex and protean set of logistics. The partner organizations also brought a diverse cohort of scientists, academics, and local experts into the process, ensuring that the design teams had the best access to a rich field of information as they undertook their research.

Philanthropic organizations played a key role in transforming the idea for the competition into a reality. The Rockefeller Foundation, in particular, embraced Rebuild by Design’s potential to transform how societies respond to disaster. Along with the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, Hearst Foundation, JPB Foundation, New Jersey Recovery Fund, and Surdna Foundation, they provided financial incentives for the research and design stages, underwrote prizes for the design teams, and provided communities with organizing funds and a central project manager to help coordinate the complex enterprise.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

Proposals and Teamwork

  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

From nearly 150 international applicants, 10 teams – comprised of engineers, planners, architects, landscape designers, and scientists – were chosen to work with local government officials, community leaders, residents, and businesses.

The 10 teams spent three months doing in-depth research to arm them with a greater understanding of issues at stake. Guided by the competition’s four partner organizations and a Research Advisory Group, the teams toured the Sandy-affected region, where they learned what issues were most important to residents, community organizations, activists, business leaders, experts, and government officials. Community events encourage residents to share stories about how they were affected by Sandy, provided perspectives on ongoing response efforts, and offered insights on their priorities for long-term recovery. The teams then explored opportunities to address the overlap between the region’s vulnerabilities and the affected communities’ visions for long-term development.

At the end of the research stage, the teams collectively presented 41 concepts, or “design opportunities,” for possible interventions: early proposals that described a multifaceted vision for a more resilient region. With input from a jury, partners, and local government, HUD selected one design opportunity per team to move to the design stage for further development.

Read the 41 original concepts which lead to the finalist 10 projects here.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

Collaborative, Design-driven Methodology

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

Collaboration with community stakeholders and local government was essential to designing the final proposals.

In less than six months, teams convened over 350 small group meetings, workshops, and more than 50 community outreach events throughout the Sandy-affected region to develop and refine their design opportunities into fundable solutions. Each team worked side-by-side with a coalition of local stakeholders to help them achieve the level of detail needed to drive their ideas forward, as well as gain feedback in larger community forums.

This process also included a series of larger public programs called “Scale It Up,” which were designed to make the teams’ designs accessible and engaging to all audiences. At the end of the competition, Design Teams submitted proposals, evidence of community support, a cost-benefit analysis, an implementation plan, and material for an exhibition.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

Competition Phase 1: Talent Acquisition

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

In Phase 1, the talent of the world was called upon to work with the talent of the Sandy-affected region.

The Task Force issued a Request for Qualifications and Approaches calling for teams to assemble themselves in interdisciplinary partnerships to tackle the region’s physical and social vulnerabilities. To incentivize participation, the Federal Government pledged funding to implement the winning designs while private philanthropy pledged prize money for competitors. Ten finalist design teams were selected comprising a diverse set of complementary skills and approaches.

Competition Phase 2: Research

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

In Phase 2, an extensive research process was initiated to establish the broadest possible understanding of the region’s vulnerabilities to future risks and uncertainties, to enhance resilience.

Rebuild by Design’s local partner organizations created an intensive, three-month program of field research to introduce teams to a variety of local stakeholders, providing a comprehensive view of the storm’s effects. A Research Advisory Board led the teams through the region to learn from a variety of perspectives, and teams conducted additional research to supplement this on-the-ground work. A public presentation from each team included three to five “design opportunities” describing conceptual approaches for interventions and an overall compilation of research submitted by all teams.

Learn more about the Research Advisory Group here.

Competition Phase 3: Design

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

In Phase 3, implementable solutions were developed that had support from local communities and governments.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan selected, on average, one design opportunity for each team to develop. Teams then gathered diverse local stakeholders into community coalitions, with whom they began a four-month process of co-designing the final interventions. Using meetings, colloquia, charrettes, and non-traditional events to gain the broadest perspectives, they created solutions that not only addressed disaster scenarios, but also enriched the daily life of community members. Ten fully developed, implementable resilience proposals championed communities’ visions for future development and had support from the local governments.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

Competition Phase 4: Implementation

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

During Phase 4, governments and community stakeholders worked together to build the projects.

A jury evaluated the projects and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan designated which were eligible to receive federal funds. HUD allocated disaster recovery funds to city and state governments for the implementation of the projects’ first stages. HUD set strong guidelines for community involvement to ensure that the coalitions formed during the competition continued to be involved through implementation. Teams were poised to work with government and communities to refine the interventions. As a result, a more resilient region was achieved through collaboration and design.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book

Results

Rebuild by Design
  • 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 13 Climate Action

The Rebuild by Design competition recognized that rebuilding in the Sandy-affected region had to holistically examine and address interconnected physical, social, and ecological vulnerabilities to respond to the region’s complex needs.

The process required unprecedented collaboration, creative interdisciplinary research, broad and meaningful citizen engagement, visionary engineering, and close cooperation between government, philanthropy, community, business, academia, and design. The challenge would be formidable. The answer would be to “Rebuild by Design.”

The ten final designs, much like the process itself, represent the expertise, vision, enthusiasm, and perseverance of countless individuals and organizations. The sum of their contributions has transformed an ambitious goal into a reality — and will continue to define how to confront the uncertain horizon of a changing world for years to come.

Source: The Rebuild by Design Book