Everyday + Resilience

Living with the bay, rebuild by design competition

In June 2014, our team was named one of the winners of the Rebuild by Design Competition. ‘Living with the Bay’ is the proposal for the south coast of the Nassau County, New York (USA). The proposal explores the different ways in which this region can develop into a flood-resistant area in the future. The design proposal is comprehensive and extensive, and covers the entire water and coastal system of the region – the higher, upstream areas, the rivers and creeks, the bay and marsh areas, and the offshore islands.


In 2013, Hurricane Sandy left a devastating trail of destruction throughout New York and New Jersey. On Long Island (NY) alone, more than 95 000 buildings were destroyed or damaged. In response, the ‘Rebuild by Design’ Competition was initiated by President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Rebuild by Design was a three-stage design competition for innovative and feasible proposals, to promote flood resistance and resilience in the areas affected by Sandy.

The ‘buffered bay’ proposal represents a long-term strategy that effectively increases flood protection and improves spatial quality

In researching the ‘Living with the Bay’ proposal, H+N+S examined how the region could be secured from flood and storm damage up to the year 2100, while also strengthening the positive and appealing factors of life near the bay. Research indicated that a ‘buffered bay’ represented the most promising long-term strategy. Through this technique, high water levels in the bay are eased, by expanding the marsh with vegetated ridges and innovative partitioning. An array of attractively designed dikes (including elevated roads) on the border between land and water provide extra safety. The existing urban area is, where possible, distanced and disconnected from the water in the bay. The amount of green streets and creeks have been widened, to increase capacity for the storage of rainwater.


Multiple solutions

Living with the Bay does not simply offer a single solution. Rather, the strategy covers a range of small and large, natural and civil engineering design proposals. In addition to increasing water safety in the area, the design proposals add to the improvement of the economic, ecological and social value of the region.


The proposals include measures to disperse tidal run-up, reduce water discharge and sea level rise through a sediment system, to defend at strategic places through marsh restoration, construct dikes, and create storm surge barriers. Adaptions and alterations to the municipal water system are explored, in order to limit the impact of excessive rainfall and improve water quality in the creeks and the bay.

Natural resiliency

Two further strategies are suggested particularly for the area of Freeport. The first is the use of the existing marsh and reef beds, to subdue wave action. In close collaboration with Deltares, Apex and Rebel an effective, attractive and feasible form of marsh ridges was designed.

Dike strategy

Given the large amount of private property on the coast, a smart strategy was necessary that increased the security of the region, while also utilising the least possible amount of space. Raising the elevation of the roads and the adjacent ‘outer’ dikes or housing areas, can improve rainwater collection and drainage. This layered system can gradually develop in time and doesn't require to be implemented as a whole at once.


Over the next few years, part of the design will be development and implemented: – the ‘Mill River, a slow stream.’ Together with Bosch Slabbers and Palmbout, the Waterland Design New York Inc. has been established, for the purpose of executing the ‘Living with the Bay’ project.


The design for ‘Living with the Bay’ in Nassau County is the result of collaboration with Interboro Partners, Bosch and Slabbers, Palmbout Urban Landscapes, APEX, Deltares, Delft University, NJIT, Rebel Group and Project Projects.