Contest seeks storm-prep ideas for Sandy region

U.S. Secretary of housing and urban development Shaun U.S. Secretary of housing and urban development Shaun Donovan speaks about Sandy Recovery during a panning discussion at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute in Manhattan. (Jun. 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

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The federal government on Thursday launched a design competition soliciting ideas from the private sector to solve problems confronting the Northeast in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who unveiled the plan at New York University in Manhattan, said public and private money will be available to fund selected projects that would help protect the region from such storms.

"Natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy do not respect state or local borders, and we, too, must know no boundaries -- both literally and figuratively -- as we think about our plans for the future," said Donovan, who also chairs the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.

Superstorm Sandy flooded subways and tunnels, destroyed homes, shut down hospitals and inflicted billions of dollars in economic loss across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

The competition, named Rebuild by Design, focuses on four areas: coastal communities, high-density urban environments, ecological networks and a fourth category that is largely a catch all.

The public-private partnership brings together engineers, architects, planners, government officials and others to work collaboratively to come up with design solutions to solve problems that are more complex than what local governments can do on their own.

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Flood management is one example that would be better addressed on a regional level.

"How do you have adaptive, nimble systems that can be deployed quickly?" said Laurel Blatchford, executive director of the Sandy rebuilding task force.

Another problem is raising structures in a region where housing stock varies wildly from single-family homes to high-rise buildings, Blatchford said.

"How do you elevate those effectively over the long term?" she asked.

The Rockefeller Foundation, one of the partners, has set aside $3 million to run the competition.

"Rebuild by Design gives us the dynamic opportunity to uncover the innovative collaboration and connections that will allow us to strengthen our resilience as a city, a region, and a nation," said the foundation's president, Judith Rodin.

Participants will begin with an analysis of the problems confronting the region, then design solutions to address them. Proposals could include large-scale green infrastructure to small-scale residential retrofits.

Five to 10 teams will be chosen among the applicants. Winners are expected to be selected by February.

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REBUILD BY DESIGN DEADLINES

June-July: Solicit proposals and select five to 10 teams

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Aug.-Oct.: Chosen teams will work with a wide range of stakeholders to analyze regional problems and develop solutions

February 2014: Teams will submit designs and winners will be selected

March 2014: Winning designs will be implemented

Source: Rebuild by Design

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