As promised, HUD has released the names of the 10 finalists of its Rebuild by Design competition. There are high-profile firms on the list, including OMA, Sasaki and BIG. But it's “black Friday” for Elizabeth English, the lesser-known mouse that didn’t quite roar enough to get her more grass-roots team—pushing amphibious buildings that float through floods—on the list.

The English proposal focused on amphibious buildings. It looked at several types of solutions for different applications, rather than at a comprehensive solution for a particular location.  "Our plan was to look at at least two coastal situations—small towns—and at least one urban and one wetlands situation.  New and retrofit, not just houses," says English.

English has been literally fighting city hall and FEMA for nearly seven years, trying to get the idea across of inexpensive retrofits and new construction of houses that are buoyant. They sit on land unless there is a flood. In that case, they float like boats and are held in place by guideposts.

The biggest problem is that amphibious houses do not qualify for inexpensive National Flood Insurance, which is administered by FEMA. No inexpensive insurance means no mortgage and often no building permit.

FEMA requires homeowners to statically elevate their flood-prone buildings above the base flood elevation. Permanently elevating houses may be FEMA’s solution to the problem of flooding but it creates new problems, such as difficult access to living areas, loss of neighborhood character and streetscape and increased vulnerability of the structure to wind damage, says English, founder and director of the nonprofit Buoyant Foundation Project and a professor at the University of Waterloo school of architecture in Canada. “With permanent static elevation, even if a house is raised to the base flood elevation or higher, it can still flood in an extreme event,” she says. 

HUD’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force picked ten design teams—including high-profile names like the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (Rem Koolhaas’ shop), Sasaki and BIG— to proceed to stage two of competition. The effort, described by HUD as a multistage regional design competition, is aimed at  developing “innovative projects to protect and enhance Sandy-affected communities.”

Over 140 potential teams from more than 15 countries submitted proposals, representing the “top engineering, architecture, design, landscape architecture and planning firms as well as research institutes and universities worldwide,” says HUD. The sponsors include the Rockefeller Foundation and JPB Foundation, as well as the New Jersey Recovery Fund and the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation.

The ten initial winners will participate in an eight-month process of analysis and design.

The selection of the teams triggers the second of four phases of the competition, which will ultimately result in resilience projects that will be built or implemented in communities in the Sandy-impacted region, says HUD.

The projects that come out of the process will be evaluated by the Rebuild by Design jury – made up of experts in hazard mitigation, resilience, public health, landscape architecture, urbanism, real estate, design and other fields – to ensure that winning projects are implementable and have the maximum impact on the region’s resilience.

The ten teams are:

—Interboro Partners with the New Jersey Institute of Technology Infrastructure Planning Program; TU Delft; Project Projects; RFA Investments; IMG Rebel; Center for Urban Pedagogy; David Rusk; Apex; Deltares; Bosch Slabbers; H+N+S; and Palmbout Urban Landscapes.

—PennDesign/OLIN with PennPraxis, Buro Happold, HR&A Advisors, and E-Design Dynamics

 —WXY architecture + urban design / West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture with ARCADIS Engineering and the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rutgers University; Maxine Griffith; Parsons the New School for Design; Duke University; BJH Advisors; and Mary Edna Fraser.

—Office of Metropolitan Architecture with Royal Haskoning DHV; Balmori Associaties; R/GA; and HR&A Advisors.

—HR&A Advisors with Cooper, Robertson, & Partners; Grimshaw; Langan Engineering; W Architecture; Hargreaves Associates; Alamo Architects; Urban Green Council; Ironstate Development; Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation; New City America.

—SCAPE with Parsons Brinckerhoff; SeARC Ecological Consulting; Ocean and Coastal Consultants; The New York Harbor School; Phil Orton/Stevens Institute; Paul Greenberg; LOT-EK; and MTWTF.

—Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Urbanism and the Dutch Delta Collaborative with ZUS; De Urbanisten; Deltares; 75B; and Volker Infra Design.

—Sasaki Associates with Rutgers University and ARUP.

—Bjarke Ingels Group with One Architecture; Starr Whitehouse; James Lima Planning & Development; Green Shield Ecology; Buro Happold; AEA Consulting; and Project Projects.

—unabridged Architecture with Mississippi State University; Waggoner and Ball Architects; Gulf Coast Community Design; and the Center for Urban Pedagogy.