Research & Innovation

Stevens Lends Expertise to Finalist Teams in Federal “Rebuild by Design” Competition

Stevens experts are contributors to two major engineering and design resilience proposals for Sandy-impacted communities which have been selected as finalists in the Rebuild by Design competition.

An initiative of President Barack Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rebuild by Design competition aims to implement innovative, transformative planning and design solutions to increase regional resilience to the impacts of climate change, sea level rise and other environmental and infrastructure challenges.

Dr. Alan Blumberg, director of the Davidson Laboratory and Center for Maritime Systems at Stevens, is providing expertise on sea level rise and coastal zones for one of the finalist teams, led by WXY Architecture + Urban Design and West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture. The team is studying how the barrier islands, inlets, wetlands and riparian estuaries of the Northeast coastline interact with towns and cities. Ultimately, the team plans to develop a series of transects, such as parks, bridges, canals and floodplains, which link urban settlements to shorelines.

“The goal is to develop infrastructure which can withstand the worst impacts of rising water and storm surges while also catalyzing social, economic and ecological health,” said Blumberg.

Dr. Philip Orton, Stevens research scientist, is an ocean engineering specialist for another finalist team, led by the landscape architecture firm SCAPE. The team is exploring the potential for ecological infrastructure – including living reefs – for stronger coastal protection and safer recreation along industrialized shorelines.

“Our research shows that elevated underwater reefs can break storm waves, reduce water velocity and increase marine diversity, making a difference for surrounding coastal communities,” said Orton.

The WXY/West8 and SCAPE proposals were two of only 10 finalists selected from 140 international teams, which included many of the top engineering, architecture, design and planning firms, as well as research institutes and universities.

Winning proposals will be implemented using U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding, as well as other private and public funding sources.

"The ten teams we selected stood out because of the talent they bring to the table, their pioneering ideas and their commitment to innovating with a purpose and competing not just to design but to build something," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in the agency’s official press release. "The projects that come out of this competition will save lives and protect communities in this region and … serve as models as we prepare communities across the country for the impacts of a changing climate.”

The Stevens experts and their partners now enter a three-month research and analysis process – the second of four phases of the design competition – along with the other finalists.

More information on Rebuild By Design, including summaries of the 10 finalist proposals, is available at

Photo Caption: Maxine Griffith, executive vice president of government and community affairs at Columbia University, special advisor for campus planning at Columbia University and a member of the WXY/West8 team; Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and chair of the President’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force; Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken; Henk Ovink, director general for spatial planning and director of national spatial planning for the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and head of the Rebuild by Design competition; Alan Blumberg, director of the Davidson Laboratory and Center for Maritime Systems at Stevens and an expert on the WXY/West8 team.