Design Competition Provides Options to Prevent Flooding

By Lauren Wanko

Imagine a boardwalk that connects the barrier island to Jersey’s mainland or oyster beds used to prevent flooding. These are just a few ideas from Rebuild By Design, an international design competition launched by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“I’m convinced the unfortunate events of Sandy have created the opportunity to create better places the way the unfortunate events of 9/11 refocused what we thought about security,” said NJIT Center for Resilient Design Director Tom Dallessio.

Nearly 150 design teams from around the world entered the competition. Ten teams were selected. All the projects involve building a more resilient metropolitan area post Superstorm Sandy.

“It’s very clear we need to address rising sea levels and storms that happen aren’t once in a hundred years, they’re happening much more frequently,” Dallessio said.

Sandy’s flood waters inundated Hoboken. One design team wants to develop new parklands in the urban community.

“The idea here is parklands and other natural surfaces act as sponges to absorb the water to capture and filter it better before it flows back to the river,” Dallessio said.

This project focuses on how the wetlands in both the Meadowlands and Long Island can capture storm water and anticipate major sea-level rise.

“The Meadowlands in large part historically has served as an opportunity not only for economic development recently, but over long term, serve to be a natural resource area,” Dallessio said.

Imagine a man-made barrier island off shore — along the entire Jersey coast — meant to provide a breaking point for wave action or using the natural environment to combat the effects of storm surge.

“It could be everything from growing oyster beds to creating sea plants to submerging structures, that could actually capture waves before it makes it to land,” Dallessio said.

The Big U is a flood protection system that wrapped around Manhattan, which relies on the natural environment like dunes and plant life and man made construction — like steps — to absorb the storm surge and prevent erosion.

“Imagine another storm happening — Sandy, Irene or otherwise. As sea levels rise, this area could actually capture the surge before it comes and break it before it comes to the downtown,” Dallessio said.

The competition itself is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and other non-profits. Over the next few months, design teams will work with community leaders on their proposals. Their final ideas will be submitted to HUD in March. If chosen, the projects may be eligible for funding through the Sandy aid package.