Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force selects professional teams to design solutions

By Ron Hine | FBW | August 16, 2013

On August 9, 2013, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force selected ten teams representing top-flight engineering, design, planning and research firms plus an array of academic institutions for an intensive eight month process of collaboration and design. In the highly competitive first stage, 140 teams from around the world submitted proposals touting their qualifications and approach for creating designs to protect Sandy-impacted communities from future extreme weather events. Each of the ten teams will be awarded $200,000.

The Task Force chair, U.S. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, launched the competition on June 20, 2013. The Rebuild by Design concept appears to be based on the Dutch Dialogue program developed by architect David Waggonner working with the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the American Planning Association. After Katrina exposed the weaknesses of New Orleans’ flood defense system, the city looked to the Netherlands for sage advice. Thus, Dutch engineers, urban designers, hydrologists and landscape architects teamed up with their Louisiana counterparts for a multi-year collaboration aiming to mitigate the impact of future storms.

In fact, David Waggonner’s firm was on one of the teams selected for Rebuild by Design along with Unabridged Architecture with Mississippi State University, Gulf Coast Community Design and the Center for Urban Pedagogy, thus providing lessons learned by New Orleans to the northeast United States. A long list of Dutch firms were on the winning teams, including three of its largest engineering companies: ARCADIS, Royal Haskoning DHV and Bosch Slabbers; plus three landscape design companies: Palmbout Urban Landscapes, H+N+S Landscape Architects and West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture; One Architecture; Deltares, research scientists; a design firm, Dutch Delta Collective by ZUS; and De Urbanisten, an urban research and design firm.

In addition to architects, engineers, planners and landscape architects, the interdisciplinary teams include graphic designers, economists, ecologists, artists and cultural planners. The academic institutions include Mississippi State University, MIT, Rutgers, Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Parsons the New School for Design, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University and TU Delft. A complete list of teams and team members is on the Rebuild by Design website (see link below) with links to each of their respective websites.

Each team selected one of the four following categories: coastal communities, high density urban environments, ecological and water body networks or a catch-all category of unexpected focus.

Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, stated, “The Rebuild by Design competition is an innovative model, bringing together some of the greatest minds around the world to improve how our cities manage, cope with and bounce back stronger from disasters.”

For the next three months the design teams will begin a research and analysis process, facilitated by New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK). IPK seeks to bridge the gap between scholarship and practical action. IPK will produce a report at the end of this stage cataloguing the teams’ reports and synthesizing their findings.

Flooding in Hoboken during super-storm Sandy. Photo credit: Jean-Paul Picard.

The next stage will have the design teams pick a specific site for a schematic design proposal and will partner with a local or a state government entity. These sites will focus on the most-impacted areas of the Sandy-affected region within Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. The organizations facilitating this stage of the Rebuild by Design program are three New York City based organizations: The Regional Plan Association, The Van Alen Institute and The Municipal Art Society.

For the final stage in March 2014, a jury will select the winning projects for implementation. HUD will provide Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding to ensure that these schematic designs are then built. Design solutions are expected to range in scope and scale — from large-scale urban and multi-functional green infrastructure, to small-scale distributed flood protection measures and resilient residential structures.

One ironic choice for one of the teams is Ironstate Development. The principals of this company are David and Michael Barry, the developers of the Shipyard Project where they had signed an agreement in 1995 with the City of Hoboken to develop a pier at the north end of the 1160-unit project as open space. Three years ago the Barrys reneged on this agreement by proposing two high-rise towers to be built on the pier which sits in FEMA’s Coastal High Hazard Zone where the state prohibits multi-family residential development. For the past three years, Fund for a Better Waterfront, the City of Hoboken and neighboring residents have all joined in litigation to oppose the pier development and enforce the developer’s agreement.

Related Links

HUD’s Rebuild by Design
Best Available Flood Hazard Data — FEMA
FEMA releases updated flood maps for 4 New Jersey counties —
Mayor Zimmer Announces Infrastructure Initiatives – City of Hoboken
Utilizing polders as flood mitigation measure
A serious conversation about Sandy
Dutch Dialogues: A model for Hoboken
Flood insurance rates will skyrocket
Monarch Towers now in FEMA’s High Hazard Zone
79% of Hoboken falls into FEMA’s flood zone
Post Sandy: After repairing the damage, then what?
12-Point Plan in preparation for the next Sandy