Our WorkInitiatives Rebuild by Design

Rebuild by Design

Innovating how federal dollars are distributed – and how U.S. communities rebuild – after disasters


For many communities in the United States, Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call to the damage extreme weather can cause – and revealed how unprepared the New York region was for a range of threats.

  • In 2012, Hurricane Sandy became the most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.

Indeed, the October 2012 storm marked a new era of public awareness and local, state, and federal action to address climate change and sea level rise. It wasn’t enough to simply rebuild what existed before – city and federal officials both recognized a need to think differently to ensure communities were able to rebound from future threats.

Our Partnership

To address these challenges, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and The Rockefeller Foundation launched Rebuild by Design, a multi-stage design competition to develop innovative, implementable proposals to promote resilience in the Sandy-affected region. From 148 international applicants, ten interdisciplinary teams of engineers, architects, urban planners, and social scientists were selected and worked closely with communities to develop locally-tailored solutions.

In June 2014, then HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced $920 million in disaster recovery grants to implement the winning designs. Winners included a flood barrier than doubles as an economic engine for Lower Manhattan, oyster bed restoration in Staten Island, and an intricate system of berms and marshes that will protect against ocean surges, while providing for a park, in the Meadowlands, New Jersey.

RBD Oyster Bed

The Rockefeller Foundation was the lead funding partner for Rebuild by Design, and also provided support for the analysis and design process. All told, our initiative $3 million support for the competition will leverage the smarter use of nearly $1 billion of dollars of federal recovery money.

Now, we’ve partnered again with HUD to bring this model to 67 communities affected by recent disaster across the United States through a series of Resilience Academies as part of the National Disaster Resilience Competition.

To learn more and see the winning design proposals, visit www.rebuildbydesign.org.

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