It looks as if HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan is going to be the closest thing to a "Resilient Building Coordination Czar" that the Sandy-affected regions and the nation will have. One of the 69 rebuilding recommendations of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Donovan, is the creation of a regional forum, coordinated by HUD, to track all activities from area to area and at all levels of government.

“There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle,” said Donovan, during a press conference today, after the release of the task force’s rebuilding strategy. A regional forum, coordinated by HUD, will facilitate inter-region communication to understand the interdependencies and interconnections regarding strategies for adapting communities to climate change, he added. This includes infrastructure and buildings.

There is no one other than the federal government that can bring all the parties to the table and try to get them to agree on a rebuilding strategy, says Rick Bell, executive director of AIA NY. Within the federal government, "if anyone can do it, Shaun can," he adds.

Among the recommendations that will have the greatest impact on federal funding, says the nearly 200-page report, is a process to prioritize all large-scale infrastructure projects and map the connections and interdependencies between them, as well as national guidelines to ensure all of those projects are built to withstand the impacts of climate change. The strategy also explores how to harden energy infrastructure to minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of future storms.

The rebuilding task force will disband over the next six weeks. Donovan has a strategy going forward for making sure the recommendations that involve federal agencies are implemented. This includes meeting with White House officials four times a year.  “Every recommendation has a detailed action plan” with ownership designated across government agencies,” said Donovan.  Many of the strategies are already under implementation, he added.

According to HUD, the goal of the recommendations in the report is to:  

•Align federal funding with local rebuilding visions;

•Cut red tape and get assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability;

•Coordinate efforts of federal, state and local government, with a region-wide approach to rebuilding;

•Ensure the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient and better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.

In addition to the recommendations that are directly linked to Sandy supplemental federal funding, the task force’s rebuilding strategy includes additional policy recommendations that will have a significant impact on how the Sandy-affected region rebuilds, says the report.

In recognition of the increased risk the region and the nation face from extreme weather events, the rebuilding strategy includes recommendations that, if implemented, would improve national resilience, said Donovan.