Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge proposes an innovative, new way to tackle the threat of sea-level rise brought on by climate change. The gist: meet one of our greatest challenges with a challenge. 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.  In May 2018, after almost a year of work, nine teams made up of engineers, architects, designers, local residents and community leaders unveiled their approaches for tackling resilience in the Bay Area.

Design Teams spent 10 months developing new solutions to tackling sea level rise and climate resiliency, working in partnership with students, local experts and more to harness our region’s creativity and chart a new path forward. The nine design proposals serve as a catalyst for the community work moving forward and set the Bay Area on a path to a more resilient future. 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.



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to survive, adapt, and grow as the challenges of climate change, natural disasters, and a growing population impact our outdated infrastructure and environment.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 local and global Design Teams were selected to participate in late August and 9 teams remain in the challenge. 

The Bay Area Challenge began with a research phase, as the teams explored the Bay Area, looking closely at places nominate by the community as especially  vulnerable to the threats of sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes. 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. In January 2018, each team was matched by our Research Advisory Committee with a site in our region. Over the next four months, the Design Teams and community partners developed their solutions for tackling sea level rise and creating resiliency. Finally in May 2018 the Teams each revealed their innovative designs at a two day event that both celebrated the exciting new work and created a lift off for the work that must happen in the future to make these designs a reality.



Modeled after the successful Rebuild by Design program that focused on rebuilding areas of New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, our Design Teams were asked to do the same thing — but this time, before disaster strikes, to help communities prepare rather than rebuild. We were 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. The Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge created a platform for communities to move forward and create their own resilient future by both creating innovative solutions but also a blueprint for the region — and the world — to come together to solve major problems rather than wait for disaster.



Resilient by Design is made up of nine 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.



Resilient by Design is a true regional collaboration, bringing together support from government, foundations, community members and advocates, students, scientists, 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?

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.

Funders include The Rockefeller Foundation, Bay Area Regional Collaborative, seedfund, Santa Clara Valley Water District, City and County of San Francisco, Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Marin Community Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, and Coastal Conservancy.



Community lies at the core of the Resilient by Design process because ultimately, resiliency is an issue that must involve all of us. While there is more to be done to make planning for the future grow from the bottom up, Resilient by Design has shown an unprecedented commitment to bridging the gap between design, people, and needs.

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.

A Collaborative Research Phase was conducted throughout the fall of 2017, in which Design Teams spent three months researching the Bay Area and relied heavily on community input through a series of community visits, conversations, and on-the-ground research including 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 draws 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.

As the Design Teams entered the Collaborative Design Phase, each was asked to work closely with local community groups to create designs that actually match community need. This process is never easy, but it is our firm belief that if resilience is to be realized, it must include multiple voices and perspectives. We cannot ignore those who are affected. Each Design Team approached this in a different way — and you can learn more HERE about their process and approaches.



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.

Resilient by Design aims to 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.



Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge was created to address the challenges of severe storms, flooding and sea level rise in our entire region. The Design Teams have been matched with sites that represent a range of the issues, terrain, and types of communities that face flood risk. 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 sites 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

·       Marin City, Permaculture+Social Equity Team

·       Alameda Creek, Alameda County, Public Sediment



Design Teams responded to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) outlining their approach to resilience, but not specific site locations. From this pool of applicants, 10 Design Teams were selected to participate in the Bay Area Challenge by a jury of local and international interdisciplinary experts. 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. Throughout the Collaborative Design Phase, Design Teams have been reimagining and expanding these impactful and implementable ideas in communities throughout the Bay Area.



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 nine new implementable projects that offer a creative and collaborative approach to resilience to climate related flood risk. By seizing the critical need to address climate change as an opportunity to bring about a stronger, safer Bay Area, we are protecting shoreline communities and preparing for the local challenges brought on by sea level rise. These designs offer a chance for cities and communities to take the next step and collaborate to bring these new solutions to life.



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, nine innovative approaches were revealed. The final designs were judged by an esteemed jury, and results were announced on May 18, 2018. The challenge looked towards 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.  The Jury deliberated and made a case for how each design makes an important contribution, as part of a constellation of approaches. Each team was recognized for the critical contribution their design could make — based on the Jury’s deliberation. The key considerations for assessing the strengths of the designs as they relate to  resilience include, but are not 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 how the teams are able to integrate ideas into existing sea level rise action plans. Each design concept was shared as part of a larger package of how communities can approach resiliency.

We know that a regional strategy, with a constellation of approaches, in concert rise is the only way we all win. Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge not only created tangible solutions for threatened communities in our regions — but a blueprint for how communities across multiple cities can tackle issues together moving forward.



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. On May 17, 2018 the designs were revealed at a two day summit designed to not only celebrate the work that has been done, but lay the groundwork for the work that needs doing moving forward to make resiliency a reality.