Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Resilient by Design?

Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge is an innovative, new way to tackle one of the Bay Area’s most pressing problems: the threat to our way of life and economy by sea-level rise brought on by climate change. The project started with an open-call to our global and local communities to come together and dream, design, and create resilient solutions that address the impacts of climate change in our region. Now, more than six months into the yearlong Challenge, 10 teams made up of engineers, architects, designers, local residents and community leaders are working in 10 communities to develop creative new approaches to address this threat. At its core, Resilient by Design is about taking the threat of climate change and turning it into an opportunity to strengthen our entire community. Designed to serve as a blueprint for how to build resilience across our region, Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge is grounded in authentic community-generated ideas, input, and iteration.


2. What is resilience?

Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow as the challenges of climate change, natural disasters, and a growing population impact our outdated infrastructure and environment. Often, resilience is seen primarily as a response to a disaster, but here in the Bay Area, we are addressing long-term vulnerabilities and pressures that residents and communities experience every day. These issues are deeply intertwined with housing, health, income disparity, and social justice, which is why resilience is also about breaking down silos. It’s a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach that brings together local and regional support to leave a legacy of a better, stronger, safer Bay for everyone to enjoy.



Resilient by Design launched in May 2017 with an open call to engineers, architects, designers, artists, dreamers, community members and students to come together and create teams of experts willing to tackle the challenge of building resilience to climate change. 51 teams entered, and 10 teams were selected to participate in late August. Resilient by Design also invited community members to help suggest local places that are vulnerable to the threats of sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes. These site ideas helped shape the Collaborative Research Phase.

The Bay Area Challenge consists of three phases: Launch and open-call, a Collaborative Research Phase and a Collaborative Design Phase. Throughout the fall of 2017, the 10 Design teams explored the Bay Area to study the intricacies of our unique region, from the effects of gentrification to the impacts of climate change, regional transportation challenges, and the unique cultural history of our communities. Now, the teams have been matched by our Research Advisory Committee with 10 unique places in the Bay Area and are entering the final stretch of the Challenge with the Collaborative Design Phase.

Starting this January 2018, the teams will work with community members and leaders to develop 10 unique approaches to resilience that can be built on and borrowed by communities across the region, state and globe. In May of 2018, Design Teams will reveal 10 innovative solutions to launch a new resilient approach for the Bay Area.



Modeled after the successful Rebuild by Design program that rebuilt parts of New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, our Design Teams are being asked to do the same thing — but this time, before disaster strikes, to help communities prepare rather than rebuild. We are able to bring this innovative approach to solving public problems through a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation that believes that 1) the ingenuity exists and 2) it isn’t genius if it doesn’t help the community it’s meant to serve.


5. How do I get involved in Resilient by Design?

From its launch, community involvement has been at the core of Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge. Whether you are a climate expert, an engineer, a student, a community member or a person who simply want to know more about this innovative project, please join us. Your participation and voices are needed to make this a truly regional effort.

Throughout the Challenge, we will be inviting community members to share their experiences, insights, priorities, and dreams for local sites, so that Design Teams can better determine community priorities and be inspired to develop responsive plans. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and subscribe to our email list to receive information about activities and dates, and stay up to date on opportunities to join us. You can also follow the teams as they go through their creative process on our site.


6. What is a Design Team? Who Are they?

Resilient by Design is made up of 10 unique Design Teams committed to developing creative, community-driven solutions for building a resilient future for the Bay Area. Meet our design teams and learn more here.

In June 2017, Resilient by Design issued a Request for Qualifications for teams of local and global thought-leaders, architects, engineers, public finance experts, educators, ecologists and other experts to join forces and participate in an intensive and collaborative community-based research process. We received 51 entries from Design Teams around the globe! In August 2017, jurors selected qualified and diverse Design Teams to join our communities in addressing our local challenges based on their lived experience, knowledge and expertise to strengthen the capacity of local communities, and their ability to bridge the gap between scholarship and practical action.


7. Who is behind Resilient by Design?

Resilient by Design is a true regional collaboration, bringing together support from government, foundations, community members and advocates, institutions, industry leaders and businesses who are collectively asking the question: Can we challenge ourselves to come up with new, innovative ways to protect our communities and way of life while addressing one of our greatest challenges?

Led by local residents and stakeholders, the Resilient by Design process is community-driven and designed to meet the needs of people most affected by empowering local residents to participate throughout the life of the challenge. The backbone of this effort is a proven model. It is based on the award-winning Rebuild by Design Hurricane Sandy Design Competition, which was pioneered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation. A bold program built on public-private collaboration, Rebuild by Design brought innovative solutions to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut following Hurricane Sandy’s devastating impact. Throughout the challenge, Resilient by Design will work in conjunction with The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, an organization and movement helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges of our time.



Starting with our launch, which was an open invitation to communities across the Bay Area to nominate their communities for consideration, join a team, or share input, the Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge has been rooted in community. Our philosophy centers around that idea that without real community involvement, we cannot build a truly resilient future. We’ve taken some important steps, but the real work begins now, which is why each team is actively working with us to build an outreach plan that engages real community perspective. Learn more about the 10 locations and Design Teams, and stay informed here. Key components:

  • A Collaborative Research Phase: Conducted throughout the fall of 2017, our 10 teams spent 3 months researching the Bay Area and relied heavily on community input through a series of community visits, conversations, and on-the-ground research.

  • Real community partnerships: Our project debuted with critical partnerships with the Watershed Project, Shore Up Marin, Greenbelt Alliance, South Bay Salt Ponds Project,and others. We also worked with CultureStrike to bring community voices and cultural perspectives through art into our innovative process from Day One, and cornerstone to our effort is our partnership with Y-Plan, a youth engagement group that brings real life civic planning into the classroom. Our collaboration with Y-Plan also pulls student voices and youth perspectives into the work being carried out by our Design Teams. We know that you can’t plan for the future, without considering the voices of the future.

  • Public comment at every turn: The Bay Area Challenge is designed around public input, and every step is planned with thoughtful consideration of how to engage public voices. Following the research period, each Design Team presented 3-5 early design ideas for public input during a 2-week period. This valuable feedback is what helped the Research Advisory Council narrow the regional focus into the 10 sites that the Design Teams are now focused on in the Collaborative Design Phase.

  • Events, events, events: We hold public events regularly — follow our calendar to join us at events to share your input and feedback.

  • Deeper involvement: As the Design Teams enter the Collaborative Design Phase, public input and community involvement are going even deeper than ever before. Each team is developing their own local approach for input. Learn about the 10 locations around the Bay Area and get involved in your local community here [link to the locations page].

We can do more: Real community involvement is what will make Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge successful. What else can we do? Share your ideas on how to engage your community by contacting us at — we answer this email address ourselves because we know how important it is to be open and accessible.


9. Why now?

The threat of climate change is real, and with the direction of the federal government shifting, our community must take action to protect ourselves against the effects of sea level rise. Rather than wait for a natural disaster, the San Francisco Bay Area can proactively reimagine a better future by creating a blueprint for resilience that harnesses Bay Area innovation and serves as a model for communities around the world. The Bay Area is acutely aware of the always-present risk of seismic activity that threatens our communities’ vitality, but like the rest of the world, we do not always know how local action can address the global issue of climate change.

At the end of the challenge, Resilient by Design will leave a legacy of a better, stronger, safer Bay Area for everyone to enjoy and will build our region’s much-needed resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes. Additionally, the need for resilient solutions is compounded in our region by housing and income disparity challenges that face an increasing number of Bay Area residents every year.


10. What types of places will be part of the challenge?

Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge was created to address our entire region. The 10 Design Teams have been matched with 10 sites that represent a range of the issues, terrain, and types of communities that face this threat to their resilience. The blueprints developed in each of these communities will contain both unique, community-driven solutions, but also approaches that can be adopted and adapted throughout the region and world — presenting an opportunity for our region to work together to solve this complex problem. The complex and diverse communities around the Bay are an asset — harnessing our innovative spirit to build a better future. The 10 sites selected are:


San Leandro Bay, Alameda County, The All Bay Collective

Islais Creek, San Francisco County, BIG + ONE + Sherwood

San Rafael, Marin County, BionicTeam

San Pablo Bay Commons, Sonoma, Napa, Solano Counties, Common Ground

Bay Towns: South Bay, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, The Field Operations Team

South San Francisco, San Mateo County, HASSELL+

North Richmond, Contra Costa County, The Home Team

Regional Resilience, multiple counties, Permaculture+Social Equity Team

Alameda Creek, Alameda County, Public Sediment

Vallejo, Solano County, Team UPLIFT


11. How do I share my ideas and suggestions with Resilient by Design?

Throughout the Challenge, both online and offline, community members will share their experiences, insights, priorities, and dreams for local sites, so that Design Teams can better determine community priorities and be inspired to develop responsive plans. Currently, the Design Teams are reaching out to groups  in each community to help build better understanding and ask for input and ideas. Interested in joining or sharing feedback? Please email with any ideas or suggestions.



Design Teams responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) outlining their approach to resilience, but not specific site locations. After participating in the Collaborative Research Phase, the Design Teams each presented 3-5 design opportunities they felt best qualified to address. Those ideas were presented at a public forum (watch the presentations here), and after a two-week public comment period, the Research Advisory Committee matched each Design Team with a site based on their expertise, regional need, and public input. Now, Design Teams are reimagining and expanding these impactful and implementable ideas in communities throughout the Bay Area in the Collaborative Design Phase.


13. Have other cities done something like this before?

This is a first! Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge is the first challenge to tackle disaster – before it strikes. However, Resilient by Design is grounded in success — modeled after the Rebuild by Design challenge that addressed infrastructure needs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut following Hurricane Sandy. You can learn more about those efforts at



The result of the Challenge will be 10 new implementable projects that offer a creative and collaborative approach to resilience. By seizing the critical need to address climate change as an opportunity to bring about a stronger, safer Bay, we are protecting shoreline communities and preparing for the local challenges brought on by sea level rise.



Climate change knows no borders. Resilient by Design is an opportunity for the Bay Area to reimagine how we connect with water, protect waterfront communities and wildlife habitat, and ensure a sustainable and healthy Bay. It is a chance for the Bay Area to reimagine the intersection of climate change and other regional challenges that vulnerable communities experience.



In the end, 10 innovative approaches will be revealed. The final designs will be judged by an esteemed jury, and results will be announced in May 2018. The challenge will look for every Design Team to show strong stakeholder support and be aligned with the resilience strategies adopted by the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley as part of the 100 Resilient Cities Program. These include, but are not be limited to: a focus on multi-stakeholder, multi-benefit problem-solving strategies; demonstration of feasibility from a technological and engineering perspective; a recognition of the need for a regional strategy; and, a focus on equitable and measurable community engagement and integration into existing sea level rise action plans.



Our work is not done. We’re committed to turning these ideas—invested in and created by communities—into real-world models and solutions for other cities to implement.



There are many ways to connect with Resilient by Design and our Design Teams, including:

Sign up for our email updates

Follow us on Instagram (our favorite!)

Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter