Superstorm Sandy forever changed the discussion about climate change adaptation and resilience in the United States. As the Sandy-affected region rebuilds, we have the opportunity to tap into the prolific pool of local ingenuity to strengthen our region and become more resilient to the current and expected impacts of climate change, sea level rise, and other environmental and infrastructural challenges through the process of design and collaboration.
To that end, on June 20, 2013, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, the group charged with leading the federal government’s efforts to rebuild communities devastated by the storm, released a Request for Qualifications that launched Rebuild by Design—a multi-stage regional design competition, but more importantly, an ambitious process that will provide important lessons for the Sandy-affected region and other metropolitan regions across the country and beyond.
This process will support the development of transformative planning and design approaches that will improve the state of practice, stimulating innovation, entrepreneurship, and green job creation. The competition process will also strengthen our understanding of regional interdependencies, fostering coordination and resilience both at the local level and across the United States The competition also represents a policy innovation by setting aside HUD Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding specifically to incentivize implementation of winning projects and proposals.
Ultimately, the goal is to (1) promote innovation by developing regionally-scalable but locally-contextual solutions that increase resilience in the region, and (2) implement selected proposals with both public and private funding dedicated to this effort. More specifically, Rebuild by Design seeks to bring local, regional, and international knowledge to bear in order to:
- Contribute to a better understanding of the region’s vulnerabilities, strengths, and interdependencies;
- Generate design proposals that focus on regionally applicable solutions, increase resilience, develop and promote innovation, and integrate local efforts in the region;
- Build capacity of local communities and federal agencies while promoting an integrated regional approach;
- Connect to local efforts and strengthen the collaboration within governments and between government, business, academic, non-profit, and other organizations;
- Ignite innovation, outside-the-box perspectives, and address new trends; and
- Execute world-class projects with regional impact (either large scale or replicable across the region).
To address the region’s multifaceted challenges, design teams are asked to focus on the most-affected and most-vulnerable areas of the Sandy-affected region within Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, a complex region, with differing governance structures, culture, and constituencies. To help navigate this complexity, the competition is organized around four focus areas: coastal communities, high-density urban environments, ecological and water body networks, and a catch-all category of unidentified or unexpected focus. Each design team will select one of these four focus areas:
This category focuses on small- to mid-sized coastal communities. These communities are characterized by limited capacity and high coastal vulnerability. Here, there is often a tension between environmental and economic systems (i.e. the tourism industry is dependent on the environment and also vulnerable to it).
High-density Urban Environments
These economically-significant areas have impacts on both the region and the nation as a whole. These communities have highly complex built and human systems and significant economic value for the entire region. When storms like Sandy hit these communities they cause major disruptions to both the local and regional economy.
Ecological and Waterbody Networks
These networks are regional by nature; watersheds and ecosystems disregard administrative boundaries and must be considered from the regional scale. This category focuses on the interdependencies between the built and natural environments.
The Unidentified and Unexpected
This category allows for selected teams to pursue unexpected questions and innovative proposals outside of the framework provided above. This is an open category to encourage outside-the-box approaches and proposals.
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